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This fruity balsamic glaze is something I keep on hand all the time. It is rich, tangy, and sweet and pairs wonderfully with just about anything.
Here are a few of my favorite ways to use it:
- I sometimes use it as a dressing on spinach and tomato salads. Or spinach, strawberry, and pecan salads. That is my favorite!
- I use it as a glaze on grilled chicken. It’s excellent on grilled steak too.
- I’ve even used it on salmon and halibut for a delicious twist on a sometimes boring fish.
- If you’re feeling adventurous, try it as a glaze on vanilla ice cream!
Now, just like the olive oil industry, turns out there has been quite a bit of fraud happening in the balsamic vinegar industry as well.
There are many different types of balsamic vinegar out there, ranging from inexpensive to very expensive.
Balsamic vinegar originated in Italy and has become quite popular all over the world. It wasn’t until I created this recipe a year or so ago that I realized that what I had been enjoying as balsamic vinegar was not a true balsamic.
What is True Balsamic Vinegar?
Traditional (true) balsamic vinegar (Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale) is very expensive and not something the average household keeps on hand.
True balsamic vinegar is made from a reduction of cooked white Trebbiano grape juice.
It has been produced since the middle ages in the regions of Reggio Emilia and Modena with mention of it in a document from 1046.
This authentic balsamic is highly valued by modern chefs, but the price tag (think $100 to $800 a bottle!) often deters the average consumer from enjoying it. According to Wikipedia:
The names “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena” (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena) and “Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia” (Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Reggio Emilia) are protected by both the Italian Denominazione di origine protetta and the European Union‘s Protected Designation of Origin.
Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (Aceto Balsamico di Modena)is what most of us are familiar with and is widely available at almost any grocery store and even warehouse stores like Costco. This is an inexpensive imitation that is much more affordable for today’s consumer.
It can be rather confusing to know what is what once you start looking at the labels on different bottles of balsamic vinegar, but keep in mind there are three types of balsamic vinegar.
1. Authentic Traditional Artisan Balsamic Vinegar
This balsamic vinegar is only produced in Modena and Reggio Emilia, Italy.
This vinegar is made from a reduction of Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes and is aged for a minimum of 12 years in wooden barrels.
This true balsamic vinegar will have a glossy, rich dark brown color and a very complex set of flavors balancing between sweet and sour (source).
2. Condiment Grade Balsamic Vinegar
This variety is typically made in one of the following methods:
- Made and aged in the traditional way in Modena or Reggio Emilia, but without consortium supervision and approval until 2009, but now with Reg.CEE n. 583/2009 the product is IGP.
- Made by producers of tradizionale balsamic vinegars but aged less than the minimum 12 years, so no consortium approval is possible.
- Made by the same method as the tradizionale vinegars, but made by producers located outside of Modena and Reggio Emilia provinces and not made under consortium supervision.
- Made of ordinary balsamic vinegar (see below) with the addition of reduced grape juice (mosto cotto) in varying proportions, without any aging.
The condiment grade balsamics do not fall under consortium supervision and there are no official standards or labeling systems for this type of balsamic, so it can be hard to tell their quality based on labels. Look for vinegar labeled as: condimento balsamico, salsa balsamica, or salsa di mosto cotto.
3. Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
This vinegar is what most people are familiar with when we think of balsamic. This is a commercial-grade product that was created as an imitation of the real thing.
This variety is typically made with wine vinegar and sometimes have additional coloring and thickeners added. They are only aged for 2 months to 3 years and the process is highly industrialized.
What’s a Consumer to Do?
I know this is frustrating and confusing.
I hate that we live in a world where we cannot trust our food sources and that we have to consider fraud when selecting certain food products.
I know many of you are going to ask, “what should we do?” and my answer is simple:
Purchase what you can afford and don’t stress over it.
If you can afford (and find) TRUE balsamic, then buy it. It’s amazing and you will not be disappointed. A little goes a long way too, so even if it seems expensive upfront, one bottle will probably last you a long time.
If you can’t find or afford true balsamic, then look for the condiment grade balsamic. Keep in mind that it can be hard to distinguish what is what just by looking at the labels, so you may have to do a little research on the specific brand.
And, if you can’t find the condiment grade balsamic, then just buy the balsamic vinegar of Modena. Yes, there is a chance there are added colors and thickeners in there, but if you are concerned about that, then do some research on the specific brand. Call the company and ask questions. Not all of these varieties contain added thickeners and colors.
Frankly, I am not going to stress out about it. I will use what I can afford and I will savor the true balsamic anytime I can get my hands on some!
Fruity Balsamic Glaze
I’m not going to lie. The recipe below was made with the cheap stuff — the balsamic vinegar of Modena. It is what I had on hand and it’s what I can afford.
I have tried true balsamic vinegar before and it is amazing, but it’s not something I have access to regularly AND if I did, I would not be cooking it down to make a glaze. It’s perfect the way it is!
But, until I get that winning lotto ticket, this delicious fruity balsamic glaze will just have to work for me! I hope you enjoy! I drizzle this on fruit, chicken, fish, steak, and even ice cream! My passion for homemade ice cream and frozen treats is exactly why I wrote my eBook, The Splendid Scoop. You can learn more about that book here, or read on down to the bottom of this article.
In what ways would you use this balsamic glaze? Leave me a comment below! I’d love to hear from you!
- Pour your vinegar into a sauce pan and add the jam.
- Slowly heat over medium-low heat and whisk the jam in until combined.
- Bring the mixture to a very gentle simmer. Be patient while you are waiting for it to come to a gentle simmer. DO NOT HEAT TOO HIGH OR BOIL. This will burn the sugars in the jam and vinegar and it will taste awful.
- Lower the heat to low and let the mixture cook down until about 1/3 of the water is cooked off (about 30-45 minutes).
- Whisk it occasionally and keep a close eye on it so the heat doesn't get too high.
- Remove from heat and let cool. This mixture will be SUPER hot (like lava hot), so don't touch.
- Once it has cooled to room temp, pour into a glass jar.
- Store in fridge. Will keep for several months.
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