What Is Balsamic Vinegar?
Balsamic vinegar has been produced in and around its birthplace, the city of Modena, in the northern region of Emilia-Romagna, Italy, for nearly a thousand years. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, balsam refers to “an aromatic and usually oily and resinous substance” from plants that can be used to make a balm, and the first written reference of this term to vinegar appeared in 1747 in a register in the winery of the Duke of Este in Modena.
Over the past decade or so, balsamic vinegar has exploded onto the culinary scene, becoming the darling of master chefs and a ubiquitous item in gourmet food shops, supermarkets, fancy restaurants, pizza joints, and even fast-food chains. But what is it? What distinguishes balsamic vinegar from other wine vinegars? Indeed, what distinguishes one type of balsamic vinegar from another? And what role does balsamic vinegar play in our cherished activities of eating and cooking? There is much more to balsamic than you might think..
Traditional Balsamic VinegarIn 1046, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry III was given a silver bottle containing a celebrated vinegar while passing through a town on his way to his coronation. The record of this visit is thought to be the first written reference to balsamic vinegar, a condiment once known only to those in the Emilia-Romagna region of what is now modern Italy, and produced only in the provinces of Reggio Emilia —where Henry III was visiting —and neighboring Modena.
The first balsamic vinegars sold in the US arrived courtesy of one Chuck WilliamsTraditional balsamic vinegar is the granddaddy of balsamic vinegars. To this day it is only made in Reggio Emilia and Modena, Italy, using traditional methods, and production is overseen from beginning to end by a special certification agency.