Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, strawberries and cream gelato
I don’t know about you, but when Spring arrives, I become lazy (well ..let’s put it this way…I am lazy but I become even lazier!). And yet, I am still that food snob (not foodie please!) who’s willing to travel all the way down
from Rome to Modena to get the real deal: Balsamic Vinegar of Modena Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena -TBVM-, the right name for this luscious, fascinating potion.
When we arrived to Acetaia Opera 02 (Acetaia is the Italian word for vinegar manufacturer), we were kindly greeted by Mr. Enrico Montanari who gave us a tour around the Acetaia and explained us the manufacturing process of the TBVM. From his explanation, we learned the following lessons :
- Official name: Known as Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, this product must have the word “Traditional” on the label, otherwise it is not authentic. It is produced by cooking the grape must, which is aged for at least 12 years in different types of wood barrels.
- Grape variety : Trebbiano Modenese.
- Production zone: Province of Modena or Reggio Emilia.
- Production method: If you are interested, this link gives you a thorough explanation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_Balsamic_Vinegar
- Properties: a thick syrup with a sweet flavor, and contrary to popular thinking, it is low in acidity. Its color ranges from yellow/brown to brown/black.
- Usage: According to producers, the best parings are with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, beef and strawberries.
While Mr. Montanari was talking about food pairings, I was debating on asking him regarding the use of Balsamic Vinegar on salads, and thus I did not want to sound as the typical ignorant person (I was before a connoisseur!!). However, I took courage and threw the question out: “I beg your pardon if I ask you this but, what’s your opinion concerning the use of Balsamic Vinegar as a salad dressing?” He replied: “You wouldn’t waist your Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena on salad, would you? (Consider that 100 ml of goodness starts at 40 euro!!). To my joy (and not only mine), he then added: “However, we do sell what we call “condimento” or condiment/seasoning (dressing a salad in Italian means condire l’insalata); the difference lies in the fact that the condiment is not aged and the production process may include the addition of other ingredients to add thickness such as, starch, fructose syrup, pectins, guar gum, etc.
So, whatever concoction that you have probably purchased before is prepared with watery, acidic ingredients- and who knows what else – and is certainly not Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena.
Since I think that using strawberries with Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is the most intriguing of all the pairings proposed while in Modena, I came up with this easy recipe:
- cream gelato
- Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena
- Cut strawberries lengthwise into 4 to 5 pieces.
- In a crystal glass or transparent glass (you can even use a wine or martini glass) place strawberries in the bottom and gently pour some Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena on top.
- Add cream gelato and gently pour Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena on top.
- Continue layering the glass until full.
- To finish, fan the strawberry slices out in a circle to form a flower and gently pour Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena on top
Note: Because of the high concentration of grape must in Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, be careful when pouring it over strawberries and gelato; that said, it should not overpower the final taste of this dessert – it should upgrade it!!