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What Is Balsamic Vinegar?

Gourmet balsamic vinegar is typically aged in wooden barrels.
Balsamic vinegar is a simple and popular salad dressing.
A simple homemade balsamic dressing is an easy addition to any freshly prepared salad.
Balsamic vinaigrette can be added to flavor spinach.
Garlic may be used to season balsamic vinegar.
Article Details
  • Originally Written By: K. Waterman
  • Revised By: A. Joseph
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2014
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Balsamic vinegar is a thick, sweet-smelling vinegar that is made from pure and unfermented grape juice, which is known as must. Several varieties of grapes can be used to create balsamic vinegar, but the Trebbiano grape, which is native to Modena, Italy, is the most common. Another variety that is commonly used is Lambrusco. Ancellotta and Sauvignon are sometimes used as well. This type of vinegar is often used in cooking, as a salad dressing or as a topping for vegetables.

How it is Made

Vinegar is produced through the oxidation of a fermented liquid. This liquid can include fruit juice, cider, malt and other liquids. In most cases, an acetic acid bacteria — sometimes with cellulose in the form of a slime known as mother of vinegar — is added, which oxidizes the liquid, producing vinegar. Historically, balsamic vinegar was not oxidized but was instead a type of grape juice reduction. Modern versions, however, are most often produced like other types of vinegar.

The process of making balsamic vinegar begins by boiling the grape juice until it becomes a thick syrup. It is then transferred to the wooden barrels to start the aging process. The bacteria is added, which oxidizes the juice and turns it into vinegar. This can take from six months to several years.

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The Aging Process

Most gourmet balsamic vinegar is slowly aged in wooden barrels. Each manufacturer has its own process and formula for aging the vinegar, moving it from one type of wood barrel to another to create its own signature flavor. Some of the more commonly used types of wood from which the barrels are made include ash, cherry, oak, juniper and chestnut. The commercial balsamic vinegars that are sold in the average grocery store probably have been aged for only a few months in stainless steel tanks, and some have not been aged at all.

Uses

Balsamic vinegar can be used in cooking or as a tangy salad dressing. This fruity vinegar is often used as a replacement for cooking wines because it provides similar flavoring. It is commonly cooked with chicken or sautéed vegetables. Balsamic vinaigrette dressings might also contain olive oil and seasonings such as basil and garlic. This type of vinegar also can be added to food such as spinach after it has been cooked, thereby creating a unique seasoning.

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Discuss this Article

syl21385
Post 14

i have a couple of questions. what are the different levels of quality of balsamic vinegar? how is it made? where is it produced? also what is the governing agency that oversees the production?

anon78166
Post 12

from what i have read you would want to freeze the vinegar. the ice formed is the water in the product and you can make a hole and pour out the more intense (and i'm guessing, thicker) vinegar that is left.

anon41021
Post 10

I want to know if I can thicken purchased balsamic vinegar by heating it for a period of time?

bessettem
Post 9

In answer to the question regarding the meaning of the word "balsamic" (can also be "balsamical" too, but that term is never used when referring to the vinegar), the adjective means

1. having the quality of balsam

2. containing or resembling balsam

3. soft

4. mitigative

5. soothing

6. restorative

7. balmy

In medicine, the noun "balsamic" actually means "A healing or soothing application or medicine." Vinegars, and balsamic vinegar in particular, were used in the past for many ailments. Reading all of their properties makes you want to start drinking it! ... Well, sort of! Hope this helps! momo

anon5812
Post 8

I have found a type of balsamic vinegar called 'pomegranate sour'. As you may know, pomegranate juice has very good antioxidants to fight prostate cancer tumours. Do you know whether the pomegranate sour is likely to still contain antioxidants after it has been processed?

jphal
Post 7

Anonymous,

Your comment about copper being a "vector in ALL tumors" is incorrect and concerning. Comments such as yours reflect the deepening paranoia that affects our culture. Enjoy things in moderation and relax. There MAY be TRACE amounts of copper in balsamic vinegar; however, there should be no concern for alarm.

Respectfully,

jp

anon5261
Post 6

Hi, is it true that balsamic vinegar is made by boiling vinegar in copper, with added sugar? i read this somewhere and am aware that Copper is a vector in ALL tumors...

Thanks

dragonfly
Post 5

Adj.1.balsamic - of or relating on containing balsam."a balsamic fragrance"

anon2715
Post 3

What does the word "Balsamic" mean? I understand how Balsamic vinegar is made, but where does "Balsamic" come from and to what does it refer?

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