Posts Tagged ‘balsamic’

Despite what many of the labels on the bottles say, there are really only two kinds of balsamic vinegar: the highly prized, DOP-regulated, aceto balsamico tradizionale (or traditional balsamic vinegar)—and everything else.

 

balsamic1

 

Much like the olive oil market, the world of balsamic vinegar has been so messed up and confused that what most of us consider to be balsamic vinegar really has nothing to do with the genuine article.

Aceto balsamico tradizionale is the pinnacle of all vinegars: produced by hand in small quantities using methods that are hundreds of years old, it has the consistency of maple syrup, and costs anywhere from $150 to $400 for a 3.4 ounce bottle.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any good (even excellent) non-DOP balsamic vinegars out there. It just means you have to do a lot of label reading to make sure you’re getting a good thing. DOP stands for Denominazione de Origine Protetta, meaning food products whose origins are identifiable in the taste, texture or “perfume” of the product and produced in a specific region with all the ingredients coming from that region. This is all carefully overseen by the Italian government and it is a big deal when it comes to quality.

In order to bear the name aceto balsamico tradizionale, every aspect of its creation, from grape to bottle, is carefully regulated by DOP standards. The vinegar undergoes a lengthy transformation that takes a minimum of 12 years. To keep competition fair, each producer is allotted a specific number of bottles he can sell, which is indicated by a numbered tag on the bottle’s neck. Bottles from Modena are usually bulb-shaped, while bottles from Reggio nell’Emilia are bell-shaped. A red cap means the vinegar is at least 12 years old, while a vinegar that is 25 years of age or more has a gold cap.

Back in the 1980’s, when the balsamic vinegar craze hit the United States, many chefs looking for exotic ingredients in their dishes, started using balsamic vinegar. It became an overnight sensation, and the demand was too great for these small handmade batch producers to handle. And so the market for inexpensive balsamic vinegars was born: vinegars that bear little resemblance to the real thing, using ingredients like cider or red wine vinegar, sugar and artificial coloring.

So can you buy a good vinegar if you don’t have wads of money to spend?

Well, the next step down from the good stuff is called aceto balsamico condimento—what we see in the stores as Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (although some are produced outside of Modena) and they average in price from $20 to $60 a bottle. They’re kept in less expensive wood barrels, and are aged less than 12 years.

And then there’s everything else.

Some simple tips on what to look for on the ingredients label: Since the really good stuff is very expensive and should never be cooked or reduced, look for high quality non-DOP balsamic vinegars. Look for those from Modena and Reggio nell’Emilia with Consorzio di Balsamico Condimento on the label to guarantee the age. Even if this stuff is too expensive for you, at the very least, make sure that “grape must” is the first ingredient on the label and that its acidity is not above 7 percent.

I recently found a bottle of balsamic vinegar under the brand name Rozzano. A 34 oz bottle goes for about 9 bucks. Is it the good stuff? Not really. But does it work in a salad dressing or a marinade? Absolutely. The only ingredient listed is balsamic vinegar of Modena, and its acidity is 6%.

 

balsamic2

Here’s a really good and simple recipe you can make with this inexpensive vinegar…

 

PORT WINE/BALSAMIC VINEGAR STEAK SAUCE

½ cup port wine
½ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup red grapes, sliced lengthwise (optional)

Place the ingredients in a small sauce pan over medium-high heat and reduce by half. Use this sauce on steaks, burgers, etc.

Sometimes the best ideas come from out of nowhere.

I had 5 lbs. of beautiful St. Louis-style heritage Berkshire (also known as Kurobuta) pork ribs thawing in the fridge, and I knew I wanted to create a new sauce or glaze with them, but I was feeling less than inspired. Our food-loving friends, Don and Johanna, showed up at our door with a gift they bought in Maine, at a shop called LeRoux Kitchen. It was a bottle of maple balsamic vinegar. It smelled wonderful…and tasted even better! I knew I had what I was looking for.

 

By the way, if Don (a talented local artist: http://www.doncadoret.net) and Johanna (a talented teacher) aren’t your friends, you can easily make your own maple balsamic vinegar by combining a 1/2 cup of balsamic (not the super-expensive kind, but the $9-a-bottle kind) with 2 teaspoons of maple syrup. Add more or less maple to taste. (That’s what I’ll be doing when this bottle runs out!)

 

Yup…my smoker…she’s been used a few times!

 

I use an electric digital smoker made by Masterbuilt. I like the fact that I can set the temperature and time, and not have to constantly watch it. It has a side chute where I can add smoking chips when I want, and the results are consistent. I suppose some grilling fanatics might say I’m cheating, but a digital smoker allows me to live a life, hang out with my family, do some yard work. I don’t have time to babysit.

I chose to smoke my ribs for about 4 hours in the smoker, lightly seasoning them first with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, adding hickory chips to the smoker only once to give them a “light smoke.”

 

Brushing with glaze, then wrapping in foil.

 

Although I always use a water bath in my smoker, the ribs still come out visibly dry, so I like to brush them with a glaze, wrap them in foil and finish the cooking process in the oven. The glaze flavors the meat and also adds a little steam that tenderizes it.

5 lbs. pork ribs (I get St. Louis-style Berkshire pork)
Lawry’s Seasoned Salt

1 cup water
1/2 cup maple balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon granulated onion
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper sauce (I like Franks’ Red Hot)

 

Prepare the ribs by removing the inedible skin on the back of the rack. The easiest way to do this is to cut a little “tab” of skin, then pull it with your fingers. Holding the skin with a dry paper towel will help your grip. I cut the racks in half to fit my smoker.

Season the ribs lightly with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt on both sides and place them into a 240-degree smoker for 4 hours, smoking lightly with hickory wood.

In a saucepan over high heat, combine the water, maple balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, onion, garlic, and cayenne pepper sauce. Stir well, and let it come to a boil. Let it reduce by half, leaving it still watery. Set aside.

After 4 hours, remove the ribs from the smoker, placing them on a sheet of aluminum foil. (I use Reynold’s Non-Stick Foil, since the glaze will be sticky.) Brush both sides of the ribs with half of the glaze, and place the ribs meat-side-down on the foil before sealing the it around the ribs. Place the aluminum foil packets on a baking sheet, then into a pre-heated 250-degree oven.

While the ribs are cooking in the oven, turn the heat up on the remaining half of the balsamic glaze in the sauce pan and reduce it until it starts to thicken. Once you reach that stage, turn the heat off and set it aside.

 

Remove the ribs from the oven after 2 hours. Open the foil packets so that the ribs are now exposed. Brush the bottom of the ribs (which should be facing up), then flip the ribs over and brush the meaty side. The ribs should be falling off the bone at this point, which means they’re ready to serve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have chicken at least twice a week…can’t get enough of it! So I’m always looking for new recipes. I especially love marinades, because it’s easy to prepare ahead of time, and the flavor goes right through the meat.

The balsamic used in this recipe is the basic, $9-buck-a-bottle stuff. don ‘t use your 25-year-old aged fancy balsamic!

 

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4 lbs. chicken parts, or 1 whole chicken cut up
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoon mustard (I use Gulden’s)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons garlic salt
1 teaspoon pepper
extra virgin olive oil

 

If the breast of the chicken is really large, you’ll want to cut it in half so that it cooks as quickly as the other parts. Put all the chicken pieces in a large Ziploc bag.

In a bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, honey, mustard, rosemary, salt and pepper. Whisk to mix thoroughly.

Pour the contents of the bowl into the Ziploc bag, seal tightly, and squish it around to make sure the marinade reaches all surfaces of the chicken.

Marinate the chicken for about an hour at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350.

Using an oven-proof pan, heat some olive oil and then place the chicken pieces in the pan. Sear for 2 minutes on one side, then sear for 2 more minutes on the other. Place the pan in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, making sure the chicken has cooked all the way through.

 

 

 

 

Despite what many of the labels on the bottles say, there are really only two kinds of balsamic vinegar: the highly prized, DOP-regulated, aceto balsamico tradizionale (or traditional balsamic vinegar)—and everything else.

balsamic1

Much like the olive oil market, the world of balsamic vinegar has been so messed up and confused that what most of us consider to be balsamic vinegar really has nothing to do with the genuine article.

Aceto balsamico tradizionale is the pinnacle of all vinegars: produced by hand in small quantities using methods that are hundreds of years old, it has the consistency of maple syrup, and costs anywhere from $150 to $400 for a 3.4 ounce bottle.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any good (even excellent) non-DOP balsamic vinegars out there. It just means you have to do a lot of label reading to make sure you’re getting a good thing. DOP stands for Denominazione de Origine Protetta, meaning food products whose origins are identifiable in the taste, texture or “perfume” of the product and produced in a specific region with all the ingredients coming from that region. This is all carefully overseen by the Italian government and it is a big deal when it comes to quality.

In order to bear the name aceto balsamico tradizionale, every aspect of its creation, from grape to bottle, is carefully regulated by DOP standards. The vinegar undergoes a lengthy transformation that takes a minimum of 12 years. To keep competition fair, each producer is allotted a specific number of bottles he can sell, which is indicated by a numbered tag on the bottle’s neck. Bottles from Modena are usually bulb-shaped, while bottles from Reggio nell’Emilia are bell-shaped. A red cap means the vinegar is at least 12 years old, while a vinegar that is 25 years of age or more has a gold cap.

Back in the 1980’s, when the balsamic vinegar craze hit the United States, many chefs looking for exotic ingredients in their dishes, started using balsamic vinegar. It became an overnight sensation, and the demand was too great for these small handmade batch producers to handle. And so the market for inexpensive balsamic vinegars was born: vinegars that bear little resemblance to the real thing, using ingredients like cider or red wine vinegar, sugar and artificial coloring.

So can you buy a good vinegar if you don’t have wads of money to spend?

Well, the next step down from the good stuff is called aceto balsamico condimento—what we see in the stores as Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (although some are produced outside of Modena) and they average in price from $20 to $60 a bottle. They’re kept in less expensive wood barrels, and are aged less than 12 years.

And then there’s everything else.

Some simple tips on what to look for on the ingredients label: Since the really good stuff is very expensive and should never be cooked or reduced, look for high quality non-DOP balsamic vinegars. Look for those from Modena and Reggio nell’Emilia with Consorzio di Balsamico Condimento on the label to guarantee the age. Even if this stuff is too expensive for you, at the very least, make sure that “grape must” is the first ingredient on the label and that its acidity is not above 7 percent.

I recently found a bottle of balsamic vinegar under the brand name Rozzano. A 34 oz bottle goes for about 9 bucks. Is it the good stuff? Not really. But does it work in a salad dressing or a marinade? Absolutely. The only ingredient listed is balsamic vinegar of Modena, and its acidity is 6%.

balsamic2

Here’s a really simple recipe you can make with this inexpensive vinegar…

PORT WINE/BALSAMIC VINEGAR STEAK SAUCE

Ingredients:

 

½ cup port wine

½ cup balsamic vinegar

¼ cup red grapes, sliced lengthwise (optional)

Place ingredients in a small sauce pan and reduce by half. Use this sauce on steaks, burgers, etc.