By Catherine Kenwell
When We Say Balsamic, What Do We Mean?
At a recent private tasting, one gentleman asked, “What IS the balsamic in balsamic vinegar? Why is it called balsamic?”
We admit we were stumped. At Barrie Olive Oil Co, we certainly know our balsamic vinegar; we can tell you it’s made from the must of Trebbiano grapes and to be considered authentic balsamic it must be made from start to finish in Modena, Italy.
(Now, on a side note, I bet you’re wondering what ‘must’ is! Grape must is freshly pressed juice including the skins, seeds and stems. It’s been used in cooking since the Greeks and Romans first realized its rich and sweet properties.)
But I digress…
Our balsamic vinegars have been aged in wooden casks (perhaps oak, juniper, chestnut or cherry) for six to 18 years, and we can tell you exactly (to the minute!) when each of them was produced. From rich, dark Traditional to delicate, fruity Sicilian Lemon, there is a multitude of flavours to tempt your palate. But hmmm, there’s no mention of balsam in any of that info.
So that doesn’t answer the question: “What IS the balsamic in balsamic vinegar?”
Well, we couldn’t let this question remain unanswered.
Is there balsam in balsamic vinegar? We might think so, given the wooden casks that are used in the aging process. But we’d be wrong. The ‘balsam’ in balsamic vinegar comes from the Latin balsamico, which means ‘balsam-like’ in the sense of being restorative or curative.
Balsam was used by the ancient Romans and in later centuries for its healing properties; in fact, the word ‘balm’ comes from ‘balsam’!
Mmmm…so while balsamic vinegar doesn’t have balsam in it, it is indeed restorative and curative. Just like red wine, a rich, dark balsamic is full of antioxidants. Good, right? And some studies show that balsamic vinegars can help to reduce cholesterol and control blood sugar. You can also cut down on your salt intake by using our natural, flavour-packed balsamic vinegars for that pinch of ‘je ne sais quoi’ in your favourite recipes.
So thanks for the question—and keep them coming. At BOO, our customers think we’re super knowledgeable, but truth be told, we learn the most when we work with you folks!