We thought, briefly, about what would pair best with our succulent pomodoro tomatoes. There was only one solution, so we infused our soup with a splash of balsamic vinegar, and that’s amore.
But, before you take your first spoonful, read the fascinating history of this illustrious condiment.
Despite having been adored by the Italians for centuries - there are records of it being presented as a gift to the Holy Roman Emperor Henry III in 1046 - Balsamic vinegar has only been gracing our table-tops for over 2 decades.
Produced in only Modena or Reggio Emillia since the Middle Ages, this sumptuous, dark syrup can give a rich and complex sweetness that explodes in the mouth. It can enhance anything from a steak to a bowl of strawberries with notes of fig, molasses, cherry, chocolate and prune.
To create the “Vinegar of the Gods” there are a number of carefully crafted steps that must be maintained in order to secure its authenticity. .
Through a highly skilled process, Trebbiano grape juice is evaporated down to a concentrate, called the must (mosto cotto), that is passed between hand-crafted barrels of cherrywood, chestnut, ash, mulberry and juniper, each one lending a unique aroma and personality to the flavour. This process alone must take a minimum of 12 years in the traditional methods.
Once this process has been completed, the age of the completed product is graded by experts - who will have had years of experience with a range of different aged vinegars (suffice it to say, we’re jealous) - they will then give them a different coloured cap, depending upon the age.
The 2 competing towns display the ages differently, however in Modena:
- A white cap means that it has undergone the 12 year fermentation process
- The coveted gold cap shows that it has aged 25 years or more. These are known as extravecchio
With it's rich and intense flavour, a slight smokiness and a mellow tartness, balsamic vinegar has the ability to change, enhance or compliment other foods, whether it's mixed through a salad, drizzled over grilled fish or blended into soups and sauces; balsamic vinegar is a 'must' for any serious food lover.
So find your Dean Martin albums, toast a ciabatta and spread it with a light garlic butter. All the while, our Sicilian Tomato & Balsamic soup leads you to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea where you can feel the black, volcanic sand between your toes as the sun fades over the horizon.