Quantity against Quality
Traditional balsamic vinegar (“aceto balsamico tradizionale”) is a special vinegar from the region of Modena (Italy) and is one of the most expensive vinegars. Some people say that this vinegar is the top class of vinegar processing. Traditional balsamic vinegar has been made for more than 100 years now using the same recipe. A balsamic vinegar must be at least 12 years old to be called a “traditional balsamic vinegar”.
The traditional way
Balsamic vinegar is made from grapes. The grapes should be fully ripened to bring the typical flavor and taste in the ready product. The fresh grapes are mashed and the alcoholic fermention is starting. After a fermenting time of 3 days the grapes are pressed. Now this fermenting juice is heated in an open pan and broiled until not more than half of the quantitiy has remained. While this procedure it is necessary to stir all the time. With this cooking the alcoholic fermention is stopped and the extract of the ready vinegar is higher.
One of the secrets of this vinegar is the long fermenting time, where sugar is fermented into alcohol and also sugar directly into acetic acid with the bacteria Gluconobacter. Another important thing is the wood of the barrels. Oak, mulberry, chestnut, cherry, juniper, ash and sometimes acacia barrels are used. All of these wood types bring a typical flavor into the balsamic vinegar as well as the dark colour. The sizes of the barrels are 100 litres, 70 litres, 50 litres, 30 litres and 10 litres. Year after year a new, smaller barrel is filled.
The quantity of balsamic vinegar is getting less and less – the wood barrels respire and the fluid evaporates. The texture of balsamic vinegar becomes viscious.
For all this it is always necessary to leave a little bit of vinegar in the barrel to conserve the same taste over the years. Some parts of the barrels have to be replaced from time to time to gain new arome. This could be done with changing 3 or 4 staves every year. By the way: It is not possible to ferment and oxidate all the natural sugar of the grape juice- that’s why balsamic vinegar is always very sweet.
A lot of balsamic vinegar is used around the world and therefore methods for faster balsamic vinegar production were found which are a lot cheaper to produce.
A lot of vinegar producers who like to make quality make it like this: They produce a mixture between wine vinegar and concentrate and give this together with sugar colour into barrels for a 3 or 4 year storage. The taste is not so intensive and the quality is not so good, but normally those vinegars are ok for daily use.
At the online shop you will find traditional and semi-traditional balsamic vinegar!
The easiest way to produce industrial balsamic vinegar is to mix ready products. This is the cheapest way. Ready vinegar with 8 % acetic acid, grape concentrate, sugar colour and wood flavor are mixed and the vinegar is ready. Some of the producers, especially industrial companies, mix sugar and caramel into the vinegar and then they call it “balsamic vinegar”.
This cheap industrial vinegar has nothing to do with traditional balsamic vinegar. A lot of chefs use this vinegar, because it is so cheap. No quality consumer should think about buying such a vinegar. Take a high quality vinegar and mix it with juice and it is a lot better than industrial balsamic vinegar.