Not all balsamic vinegars are created equal. True aceto balsamic vinegar comes in 3.4 ounce bottles and sells from $50 (£25) to $500 (£250) per bottle. It must be aged a minimum of 10 year. The better balsamic vinegars are aged 25 to 50 years (considering the price these are not to be poured, but used by the drop!).
Balsamic vinegar can only be produced in the regions of Modena and Reggio in Italy. The first historical reference to balsamic vinegar dates back to 1046, when a bottle of balsamic vinegar was reportedly given to Emperor Enrico III of Franconia as a gift.
The only approved woods for aging balsamic vinegar are oak, cherry, chestnut, mulberry, a cacia, juniper, and ash. The age of the vinegar is divided into young – from 3 to 5 years maturation; middle aged 6 to 12 years and the highly prized very old which is at least 12 years and up to 150 years old.
I love balsamic vinegar drizzled over Parmigiano Reggiano or with olive oil for dipping fresh bread. But one of my all time favorite recipes is balsamic vinegar and strawberries.
Place slices strawberries in a bowl. Drizzle vinegar over strawberries, and sprinkle with sugar. Stir gently to combine. Cover, and let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour but not more than 4 hours. Just before serving, grind just a bit of black pepper over berries.
I know it sounds strange, but it really is delicious!