Balsamic vinegar is one of those products that is currently in vogue in both fashionable restaurants and at home. Its sweet yet distinctive acidic taste adds an unexpected depth to most dishes, but many chefs – both home and professional – don’t fully appreciate the usefulness of balsamic vinegar or are able to distinguish between truly exceptional vinegars.
With hundreds of choices and inconsistent labelling, it is next to impossible to determine the quality of balsamic vinegar. Many reach for the cheapest bottle which often contains more wine vinegar than the authentic grape must or mosto cotto in Italian. High quality balsamic pours like a thick syrup and very little is needed to bring out its distinctive taste. Knowing this, many chefs will often reduce under heat less expensive grades of balsamic vinegar to mimic the syrup produced by more traditional and elegant blends.
Personally, I adore dribbling a dab of consortium certified vinegar (I.G.P. gold label or four leafs from Modena, or the far more expensive traditional balsamic vinegar with a DOP certification) over parmesan cheese. From my perspective, this is as close to culinary heaven as one is likely to get. In fact, pairing Parmigiano-Regiano cheese with anything less than a high quality balsamic vinegar is simply a sin.
The next time you are out shopping, do a little research and search out authentic vinegars and cheeses which bring pleasure to your palette.