Old Town La Quinta
78-065 Main Street,
La Quinta CA, 92253
When you shop at La Quinta Olive Oil, you’ll find an array of authentic Italian Imports such as flavored olive oil and delicious balsamic vinegar.
BALSAMIC VINEGAR … WHAT THE HECK IS IT? Sometimes called the “Italian Ketchup”, balsamic vinegar is a staple in Italian kitchens. So, what is it and how is it made?
All balsamic vinegar is derived from a thousand-year-old process created in the areas of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy. There are two kinds of balsamic: traditional and commercial.
A traditional balsamic is made with one ingredient – grape must. Grape must is the sweet juice of freshly pressed Trebbiano or Lambrusco grapes (including the juice, skin, stems and seeds). This must is then boiled in huge cauldrons over open flame to reduce its volume and concentrate its sugars, then it ferments and acidifies over time in oak, cherry, mulberry or juniper barrels. They are then aged 12 to 150+ years. Once aged, these wonderful balsamic vinegars are thick enough to coat a spoon and have a delicate balance of sweet and sour.
Commercial balsamic vinegars are what you will likely find at your local grocery store These combine concentrated grape must with wine to speed up the acidification process. This vinegar is typically aged from two months to three years in oak barrels and is a thinner viscosity.
To conform with European Union standards, the grapes are required to be grown in the Modena and Reggio Emilia regions of Italy. Using strict rules for production, balsamic vinegars must be aged a minimum of 12 years to be certified.
Often used in vinaigrettes, balsamic is also a flavor enhancer for cheese, fruit, meats, fish, seafood, pasta and risotto. It is also great on desserts! Try it drizzled on strawberries, panna cotta, ice cream and pastries. To top off a meal, many people sip a small amount in a glass or add it to sparkling water as it acts as a digestive.
Tips: Add a wonderful depth to stews and soups (go for the flavored balsamic like Garlic Cilantro, Italian Herb Blend or Spicy mole in a southwestern stew).
Oops! Made a sauce or soup that is too spicy? Add some balsamic vinegar, it will take the heat down a notch!
Balsamic vinegars are fun to pair with flavored olive oils making wonderful vinaigrettes using a dark or a white balsamic.
That brings me to … what the heck is a white balsamic?
White balsamic is simply vinegar that is made with grape must that has been boiled at a low temperature so that the sugars in the grape juice are not allowed to caramelize and turn color.
While using many of the same painstaking production techniques, it is not a true “balsamic” at all because caramelization is a necessary part of the production of real balsamic.
White balsamic vinegars are most often used in vinaigrettes as they don’t add dark color to salads. They are also used to brighten up vegetable dishes, seafood or anything that could use a touch of sweettart flavor.
What are the health benefits of balsamic vinegar?
Balsamic vinegars serve as a digestive. The probiotics found in this acetic acid can help promote good gut health and digestion while supporting overall immune function.
Balsamic vinegar may help lower cholesterol. The antioxidants in this vinegar help block toxic cells in the body that can raise cholesterol levels. These same probiotics can help shed some extra pounds as it makes you feel full for longer! Also found to help improve skin health, reduce blood sugar and hypertension.
So go have fun creating new tastes … and remember to look for a good thick balsamic vinegar! It should indeed pour like ketchup!!!
Deb Degen Owner La Quinta Olive Oil Company