I asked my husband the other day…I said, “Husband, I think I may be a food snob. And you know why?”
Husband replied, “Because you will only drink raw milk?”
“Because you primarily only buy organic food?”
“Because you won’t by eggs from the store?”
“Because you are hell-bent on making everything yourself?”
“Because you insist on ordering 60 pounds of rapadura?”
“Because you won’t eat fast food?”
Ahem. “No…that’s not what I was thinking…” I replied, gently.
“Oh.” He chuckled.
“I think I am a food snob because I will never, and I repeat, never go back to eating regular balsamic vinegar again.”
You see my friends, I’ve discovered something…magnificent. Delicious. Decadent. Truly, out of this world.
Aged Balsamic Vinegar. ‘Grand Reserve’ Balsamic Vinegar, to be exact, that has been aged for 18 years in a cherry wood barrel. It'sNapa Valley Naturals Balsamic Vinegar Grand Reserve. Whew, that's a mouthful.
On my monthly Azure Standard order, I picked out a regular bottle of balsamic to add to my cart. Then, I noticed this unpretentious bottle… only a few dollars more… staring into my soul. It promised a sweet, syrupy vinegar… free of additives, naturally fermented, aged, and utterly divine. So I got it…
…and you’ll have to pry it from my cold, dead fingers if you ever want to try and take it from me.
It's soft. Dimensional. Rich. Not bitter, or “vinegary” tasting at all.
Let’s look at the ‘ol Balsamic Vinegar – shall we?
There are three types of Balsamic Vinegar available:
1. Artisan, traditional authentic balsamic, aka: Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale– created from a reduction of Trebbiano and Lambrusco grapes. It is aged for a minimum of 12 years in a variety of different sized casks (of varying woods). This balsamic is super syrupy, sweet, acidic, and flavorful.
2. Condiment (or condimento) Grade Balsamic Vinegar – May be made in a variety of traditional or modern ways, or may have just been aged for less than 12 years. There are no standards for producing “condiment” grade balsamic – so you’ll have to do some research to end up with a good one!
3. Balsamic Vinegar ofModena – Essentially, this is a commercial grade product that imitates the real stuff by mixing grape juice, a thickening agent (ie: cornflour), caramel color, and Lord only knows what else.
As with wine making, or any artisan created product really, it can become very complicated after this. However, in layman’s terms, there is good balsamic. And there is bad balsamic.
There is real balsamic. And there is fake balsamic.
And oh. Oh my. Oh me oh my. I've tasted the real stuff. And I like it.
So in a week, I've used nearly half a bottle of it. From drizzling it on my vegetables to smearing it on my roasted chicken to sprinkling it on my strawberries (don't knock it till you try it!), I've been thoroughly enjoying the simple deliciousness that can be found in a good product. Seriously, people dribble this balsamic vinegar on their ice cream. It's that good.
Why am I tell you this? You ask.
Well, for a few reasons. If you are into embracing a whole foods approach to cooking, then chances are, you will be pairing your cupboards down to the basics. Long gone will be conveniences of the past, like salad dressings, marinade mixtures, canned soup and boxed pasta. You will be making things from scratch! And thus, you will be using the most basic of ingredients. Instead of grabbing for that bottle of dressing, you will instead be mixing up your own with staples kept on hand at all times: olive oil, vinegar, and herbs. And thus, these few basic ingredients that one keeps on hand should be…well…quality.
You see, with the money that I can save by making my own salad dressings, I can easily purchase a high quality olive oil. Or vinegar. And when you strip your recipes down to these basic ingredients, their quality really does make a difference. If you make a homemade dressing with a low-grade olive oil, while it can be done, you will taste a difference.
And so I have found with my vinegar.
If I could somehow smear this vinegar on your computer screen so that you could take a lick of it as it dribbled down, trust me, I would. Literally. Heck, I'm just tryin' to help you out here people. I've used many-a-bad bottle of balsamic vinegar before I found this prince.
And I'm not sayin' that you gotta go buy the best of the best. But what I am saying is always keep your eyes and ears peeled for those additives in your food. Even your vinegar! Having a product that is free of the poo-poo that they put in foods these days makes a difference. Plus, at roughly $8-$10 a bottle, this stuff is super-affordable. If you don't trust me, try it for yourself here. Or check your local grocery store!
Now, that doesn't make me a food snob does it?
Please tell my husband it doesn't. If you do, I'll sneak you a bottle of this. No questions asked.