Vinegar on ice cream? Really? Absolutely if it’s the thick black gold of Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. Good vanilla ice cream with balsamic vinegar is a life-changing dessert. This sweet/sour elixir made from grape must is aged in a series of barrels of various woods (including cherry, chestnut and juniper). The extravecchio is aged for at least 25 years and that’s the one to drip onto good vanilla ice cream for a dessert you’ll never forget. I buy my traditional balsamic from Acetaia di Giorgio, the only producer left within the city of Modena, the rest being in the surrounding countryside. Whenever I’m in Modena, I visit to taste the vinegar from the precious barrels stored in the attic of the family’s historic home and I love taking my food and wine tour guests back there to experience it too. You can order online if you’re not visiting Modena anytime soon (which you should – see details of my tour here).
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Traditional Balsamic Vinegar is made in two neighbouring areas, Modena and Reggio Emilia, both in Emilia-Romagna.
Look for the distinctive squat bottles with a bulbous top and tapering base – these are only used for Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena and all certified traditional vinegar must use these bottles. It will be labelled Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale and have the D.O.P. (Denominazione di Origine Protetta) stamp of the a European Union on it.
All Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena must be aged for at least 12 years.
A white cap indicated the 12 year old and a gold cap the 25 year old.
The casks used to age traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena are various sizes made from many different woods including chestnut, cherry, oak, mulberry, ash and juniper. As the vinegar ages it is transferred into different barrels so the different woods can add their unique influence to it.
The easiest – and most delicious – way to use traditional balsamic vinegar is in a simple dessert of vanilla ice cream with balsamic vinegar. It’s great drizzled over strawberries too.