Don’t Hate Me: Chit Chat #22

The beloved ingredient I just don't like.

Unpopular opinions. Everyone has them and I don’t want to yuck on anyone’s yum, but… I don’t like Balsamic vinegar. 

What food/ingredient do you perceive as popular, but you just can’t get behind?

Please enjoy the video above. And if you want to learn more, including my own shortcoming, I attached some more specific info you might find interesting.

I have to admit that I wasn’t exactly precise enough in that video.

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Let me be clear: I immensely dislike Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. 

That’s because they are mostly commercial-grade products that imitate the artisanal, traditional product. The BVM has different rules for labeling, and the stuff can be comprised of as little as 20% grape must, and legally it doesn’t even have to come from Modena.

Typically, it is supplemented with commercial wine vinegar, artificial coloring, caramel, and thickeners to replicate the sweetness and thickness of the true, real aged Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. BVM is the result of an industrialized process. The factories that make it, churning it out by the boat load. THAT’S what I don’t like. I am resentful that most people are being fooled … and I don’t like the taste or texture of the ‘fakier’ stuff. And 99% of what’s out there is the fakier stuff. And I don’t think people know that the vast majority of BV, and I mean VAST, is not true BV.

Real balsamic vinegar is more of a process than anything else.

It’s dark, concentrated and intensely earthy, made either 100 % or a bit less from freshly crushed grape juice with all the skins, seeds and stems. That’s called grape must. The term balsamic vinegar is not a regulated product. I could make homemade mushroom soup and call it balsamic vinegar if I wanted to.

I love vinegars, and have a huge collection. A few favorites:

La Guinelle Banyuls Vinegar

Saba Vinegar (sweet, better than Balsamic)

BLiS 9 Year Old Maple Sherry Vinegar

Jiangsu HengShun 6-Year Zhenjiang Black Vinegar

Arvum Sherry Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar from Pineapple Collective

There are 3 ‘protected’ varieties Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena DOPAceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Reggio Emilia DOP, and Aceto Balsamico di Modena IGP.  The two first ones are traditional balsamic vinegars made from reduced grape must that has been aged for many years in a series of increasingly smaller barrels. They are protected by the formal designation of origin. The less expensive Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is blended with cheaper vinegar, and while made in Reggio Emilia or Modena, doesn’t need to include local ingredients. 

True balsamic vinegar is made from a reduction of pressed Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes that creates a syrup called mosto cotto. That syrup is aged for no less than 12 years. As it reduces and ages, the natural wood barrels are changed, from large to small. Some of these two true balsamic vinegars are aged for 18 or even 25 years… or more!

To make matters even more confusing, the producers of true balsamic vinegars also make condimenti, these are syrupy dressings some of which are good, like the mosto cotto in my video, but that’s rare.

So, why do I have two condimenti and one very expensive bottle of real 25 year old balsamic vinegar in my vinegar collection? Because drizzled over berries, or vanilla ice cream, or dripped on to ripe melon or strawberry granita or vanilla custard…it’s delicious. Thick sweet, syrupy, tart and very earthy. The good condiment is hard to find but delicious. The real balsamic vinegar is really expensive. Absurdly so in fact. But used sparingly in the right way, its super groovy stuff. All the over BVs and BVM that isn’t DOP isn’t worth the bottle it comes in.

So I gotta ask: What food/ingredient can not get behind?

Thanks for reading Spilled Milk.

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