Balsamic Vinegar is one of my favorite ingredients, and probably one of yours too. Chances are if you like to cook, there is a bottle near your stove, but did you know that it isn't a Vinegar in the traditional sense? Balsamic Vinegar is not made from wine, but from the Trebbiano or Lambrusco grape that has been harvested and boiled down to a dense and tantalizing syrup.
The syrup, called Mosto Cotto, is aged in casks made from a variety of wood for at least 12 years. The Balsamic Vinegar is aged in seven wooden casks, each successively smaller in size, and imparting an essence of its own: Chestnut, Oak, Acacia, Cherry and Ash. A small portion of true Balsamic Vinegar is poured from the last cask, and new Mosto Cotto is added to the first, and the process continues even up to 25 years or more.
Here are a few interesting facts about Balsamic Vinegar:
So what's with all the aging? In a culture where we want to be forever young, and the slightest wrinkle sends us on a mission for the Fountain of Youth in a jar (which I wrote about here), what can we learn from Balsamic Vinegar's aging process?
Italians have come up with definitions based on the age of Balsamic Vinegar, and I think it will help us make a correlation:
As it turns out, Balsamic Vinegar teaches us that aging is a good thing. It should be highly respected, valued, and appreciated for its complexity. So whether you are young, middle-aged or very old, remember that each age contributes something to life's table. Enjoy!