Here's what makes this Italian condiment so special

Here’s what makes this Italian condiment so special

The balsamic break-down: Here’s what makes this Italian condiment so special
Syrupy, sweet, and acidic — balsamic vinegar has a long history of kitchen versatility

Prosciutto di Parma or braseola may also sometimes find its way into these delectable mini-sandwiches. I’d argue that there may be no better snack to hastily consume whilst standing in the kitchen.

The confluence of Italian cured meats, Italian cheeses, good-quality bread, olives, and balsamic is like nothing else. 

Regardless of variety, the flavor is deep, rich, and complex, but the traditional balsamic is on another level entirely. Similar to the revered Parmigiano Reggiano, balsamic also carries a D.O.P — or Denominazione d’Origine Protetta — and its technical name is Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale.

The IGP variety is less flavorful and less thick. IGP Balsamic is certified for being from a particular region in Italy.

White balsamic, while delicious, is also not a true balsamic. Again, all of these condiments are wonderful, but from a technical perspective, only a few qualify as “real” balsamic.

Called Traditional Aceto Balsamico of Monticello, it has received high marks from many chefs, writers, and food personalities.

Simply Recipes notes that a balsamic that lists wine vinegar as its first ingredient will be tart, while a balsamic that lists grape must as its first ingredient will be sweet.

Of course, any balsamic makes a superb vinaigrette. Combine it with some olive oil, shallots, herbs, salt and pepper and a touch of mustard or honey — for emulsification, viscosity, and flavor — and you’re set. Simplicity at its finest. Some finely minced garlic also certainly wouldn’t hurt!

The aging barrels are often made of oak, chestnut, cherry, juniper, or mulberry, and these flavors permeate the aging vinegar, further helping to deepen its complex, hard-to-identify flavors. Traditional balsamic is also thicker than “cheaper” varieties and can be more of a syrupy consistency. There are also expert judges and special commissions that rate and regulate the quality of the vinegar.