Well, I’m in love again with a nutritious easy-to-reach-for “flavoring” that adds strength, nutrition, and variety to any dish... or any beverage. You can drink it too? Yes! It can be enjoyed in a smoothie or in sparkling water.
So what are we talking about here? Balsamic vinegar!
Not the cheap stuff from a dusty store shelf but pure balsamic vinegar from a top-notch seller. For example, I recommend Evoolution in the city I live in.
History and Process
Balsamic vinegar surfaced in Modena, Italy almost 1000 years ago as a tonic. To make the vinegar, sweet, white Trebbiano grapes including the skins, seeds and stems are pressed into what is called “must.” It is important to note that it is not a wine vinegar at all since it is never permitted to ferment into wine.
There are two main types of balsamic vinegar:
- The “must” is simmered for many hours until thick and caramelized into syrup.
- It is aged in barrels made from different kinds of wood that give the vinegar character.
- Authentic balsamic vinegar is aged no less than 12 years and some over 100 years!
- Cheaper varieties are not aged long and are stored in larger barrels. They are typically mixed with wine vinegar with coloring added.
- Blend of white wine vinegar and “must” cooked at a low temperature to avoid any darkening.
- It is not allowed to caramelize.
- Some manufacturers age the vinegar in oak barrels, while other use stainless steel.
- Clean and lighter aftertaste.
So it takes great but is it good for you?
- Only 10 to 15 calories per tablespoon coming mostly from simple carbohydrates ~ grape (fruit) sugar.
- Loaded with several antioxidant compounds: balsamic vinegar that has been aged for 10 years or more has more antioxidant power than those that have been aged for only one year.
- All-natural food product that for some, can help to suppress appetite and cravings.
- Produces digestive enzymes which can help boost metabolism.
- Naturally occurring calcium, phosphorous, potassium and iron.
Tips & Hints
- Balsamic vinegars are not recommended for pickling or herb infusion purposes.
- A teaspoon or two of balsamic vinegar can wake up the flavor in a bland soup, stew, or sauce.
- Add a little balsamic vinegar to grilled chicken, or on a side salad to get the essential minerals.
- A sprinkle of balsamic vinegar on fresh sliced berries, or watermelon brings out the flavor of the fruit.
- Use white balsamic vinegar – 1 tbsp per 1 cup – in sparkling water for a clean, fresh drink!
- Use white in recipes where you don’t want discoloration (like dark would do).
- Use a tbsp or two in a smoothie to add some kick and nutrition.
Please consider using balsamic vinegar to come up with your own wonderful recipes. Here is one of mine. Enjoy!
- ½ large watermelon
- 2 cups strawberries
- 2 cups red grapes
- 2 to 4 tbsp pomegranate dark balsamic vinegar (or any dark balsamic)
- 2 to 4 tbsp bergamot extra virgin olive oil (or any EVOO)
- Hollow out a half of a watermelon, reserving the shell as the "bowl" for the salad. Place fruit in another large container after cutting into desired shapes (squares, circles, etc.)
- Wash strawberries, and red grapes. Dry well. Place into large container.
- Add vinegar, and EVOO, adjusting the measurements to taste.
- Carefully mix well.
- Pour as much as you can back into the hollowed out watermelon shell. You'll have some fruit salad left over since all will not be able to fit. Cover and chill. Serve with ice cream if you like.