See how Balsamic vinegar is made
Have you ever tasted balsamic vinegar? I mean, the real stuff?!
I'm asking the question because I believe that most people haven't tasted the balsamic vinegar made the way that tradition has it in Modena; that is, aging over a minimum of 12 years and obtaining a dense and rich condiment.
Modena is a city in the food mecca of Italy; the region of Emilia-Romagna. Just north of Tuscany. I'm sure you already know of Balsamic vinegar, and Prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano Reggiano (Parmesan from Italy), Italy's best restaurant "Osteria Francescana" and so forth. And if not, you may know of other fine things that come from there such as Ferrari and Lamborghini...
The grapes grown around Modena are the red Lambruscos, also often made into delightful sparkling wines. And then there is the white Trebbiano Modenese that, on the contrary, is usually only utilized for the production of balsamic.
The tradition of making balsamic vinegar is exclusive to this area of Italy and has been a tradition for at least 500 years. First, the use was as a condiment to accompany the meat-rich local diet and the balsaming effect on the digestion was much appreciated. Today, the tradition still lives on with many families in Modena, who have their own "batterie" (lines of different-sized barrels - see the video), and often they are dedicated to a child, started in the birthyear and then given as a dowry decades later.
The real balsamic vinegar
So the real condiment is made with the local grapes that after harvesting and pressing will cook for around 3 days. It's quite extraordinary to see, so I recommend you watch the video to get a better idea (the audio is not great - small technical problem - so I put subtitles to help you out). The freshly cooked grape juice is introduced into the largest barrels, to fill the void of all the evaporation over the hot summer. The largest barrels have already been used to fill up the second-largest ones, as the heat of summer has taken its toll in terms of evaporation of the product in every barrel. And so forth until the smallest barrels that will contain the most aged, dense balsamic.
The end product is an extremely complex, sweet & creamy condiment that is so concentrated that only a few drops are needed. We use it not only on salads, but on fruit, aged cheeses, on meats, and even on vanilla ice-cream!
It takes at least 12 years to make a balsamic vinegar that has the characteristics of the traditional one. Unfortunately, unless you invest in a DOP, it's almost impossible to get this sort of balsamic at a reasonable price. The DOP is a state-guaranteed product that has high costs to make and to get certified. It usually goes for around 50 euro per 100 ml bottle, and around double for the "Extra Vecchio" which is guaranteed to be a minimum of 25 years old. The exclusiveness of the DOPs makes it quite challenging for the balsamic vinegar makers to actually sell them.
We work with Sabrina (picture & video) and her family that bottles the stuff as IGP (still certified but with fewer production costs) and we're getting practically the same thing for less than half the cost.
There are 3 different bottle sizes from small gift-size to larger family-size. We've given our own personalized logo for the label to Sabrina and she applies it by hand to every bottle. See the options on https://www.tuscanyinabottle.com/shop-ship