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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Balsamic Vinegar: What you probaby don't know

      After having such a difficult last week with the school killings and the gun control debate I wanted to get back to something a little lighter for the holiday season.
    Up until a year ago, like most people, I knew very little about balsamic vinegar other than it was vinegar that was aged in wooden casks like wine.   Its taste was stronger and more complex than regular red vinegar.  But then I tasted some balsamic vinegar at my daughter's that was unlike any other balsamic vinegar that I had tasted.
     The picture above is the balsamic vinegar my daughter had which she purchased at Williams-Sonoma's in the Columbia Mall.  Instead of the tartness and bitterness of the normal balsamic vinegar this vinegar had a slightly sweet flavor.  Nothing had been added to this vinegar but the taste was the result of longer aging for 25 years.  Most balsamic vinegar is aged only a few years.  This extra long aging does come with a cost.  The bottle above is $29.  However you only have to add a little to any recipe or mixing with olive oil in making a great salad dressing.  I probably have used 3/4 of the bottle in the last 10 months.  Given that I now use balsamic vinegar in more recipes than I used to this is not an extravagant purchase.  This past summer my favorite use was to mix the vinegar with some olive oil on the tomatoes I grew.  Sometimes I would add some fresh basil and mozzarella or goat cheese.
  The picture above is a balsamic vinegar that I have found at Wegman's that is an above average balsamic vinegar.  Not nearly as good as the Oliver balsamic but at only $11 a bottle it works well for using as a marinade or to add to tomato sauce for a richer flavor.  I usually a teaspoon of this balsamic vinegar and two tablespoons of beef broth to my homemade spaghetti or pizza sauces. #hocofood

     I had heard long ago that in Italy a popular wedding gift to give to the bride is a well aged balsamic vinegar.  We aren't talking about the kind most of us know but vinegar that has been aged for 30 to 50 years and can cost hundreds of dollars.   It shows how much Italian cooks value balsamic vinegar in their cooking.

   Balsamic vinegar reduction is a great glaze on a variety of meats.  Reduce balsamic vinegar in a pan by heating it.  Add either honey or maple syrup to the reduction just before taking it off the stove and use it to brush on grilled chicken or fish (especially good with salmon).  Makes even hamburgers great after grilling.

P.S. 2
Taking a break from blogging until the next year.  Leaving you with my favorite Christmas music.

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