Balsamic vinegar is the aristocrat of vinegars. Unlike other vinegars made from sour wine balsamic vinegar is produced from must, freshly pressed grape juice, which is boiled and reduced concentrating the sugars before aging in barrels. The barrels also play an important role in the flavour profile of balsamic vinegar as different woods – oak, chestnut, juniper or cherry, ash and finally mulberry are used during the aging process. The most famous and authentic balsamic vinegars are produced from Trebbiano grapes in the Modena region of Italy and can be aged up to 25 years which makes them an expensive pantry item. So exquisite are these vinegars that they once formed part of a bride’s dowry.
There are several balsamic vinegars available on the New Zealand market at various price points. Often specialty stores and delis will allow you to taste before purchase. Look for dark fragrant balsamic vinegars that are smooth and syrupy in texture and taste of delicate sweet and sour flavours. Avoid those that are heavy and musky, smelling and tasting of acetic acid. The better the quality of balsamic vinegar the less you need to use.
Balsamic vinegar transforms simply roasted vegetables into stand-alone dishes.
Tomatoes roasted with olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar served alongside slow roasted stringy lamb with White Bean Puree would have to be one of my favourite food combinations.
Roast Carrots in olive oil until soft. Drain on absorbent paper then combine with 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar, or to taste, and 1/3 cup of chopped mint. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Serve warm.
Slice Potatoes and Red Onions into quarters. Sautee in butter, tossing frequently until lightly browned. Transfer to an ovenproof and add 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar and fresh thyme. Season. Cover and bake 200° for approx 20minutes. Remove the cover and add a further 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar and continue to bake until the thyme is crisp and the potatoes take on the colour of the vinegar.
Roast Beetroot cut into chunks or whole Baby Beets in olive oil until tender. Heat a small frying pan with 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and reduce until sticky. Toss the beets until coated and serve with your favourite goat cheese or vine-ash camembert and crusty bread.
Strawberries macerated in balsamic vinegar is a classic dish but be warned unless your vinegar is of good quality this dish can be a disaster! Serve with a crisp biscuit, such as cat tongues or biscotti, and a good quality vanilla bean ice-cream or mascarpone.
Balsamic vinegared Dried Figs in red wine are a perfect accompaniment to blue cheese and chunks of ciabatta. Add 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar to the Foodlovers recipe Dried Figs In Red Wine Syrup. The affinity between fruit and balsamic vinegar is not just limited to red or dried fruits.
Balsamic provides the perfect foil to enhance Pears and Nectarines. Simply slice nectarines and arrange on a platter with crispy prosciutto and thyme. Drizzle with balsamic glaze and serve.
Pear, Parmigiano, Prosciutto And Walnut Salad
90ml balsamic vinegar
Over a medium heat combine the water and sugar and cook until syrupy. Add the Balsamic vinegar and reduce by half. Reserve until required.