[NAFEX] balsamic vinegar

Stephen Sadler Docshiva at Docshiva.org
Fri Sep 9 15:00:52 EDT 2005

I recalled that Paul Bertolli, a California chef, makes his own Balsamic
Vinegar.  I tracked down this article from 'Fine Cooking':


In the third section of the article there's a link to an article called
'making balsamic vinegar'.

I would not try this with wood chips.  Balsamic vinegar gains its flavor
from very long aging in casks of various woods.  The wood adds very little
flawor, but contributes to the complexity.  Wines using wood chips can taste
oaky - but wines aged in wood barrels get these nice esters which help
create - over time - round, fruity, buttery, flavors.  The shortcut of using
wood chips in wine can still make a nice product, but not exquisite (maybe
under the guidance of one of those million-dollar-a-year-salary UC Davis
vinologists, but not generally).  You expose too much surface area of the
wood to the wine, and extract more compounds early - not the slow release of
compounds inhibited by the penetration of the grape juice itself providing a
chemical and physical filter over time. The flavor problems that result are
worsened with concentration and aging.

There are inexpensive - and bad - 'balsamic' vinegars that are made using
wood chips, caramel, and other tricks.  

The trick chefs use to re-create an approximation of aged balsamic is to buy
some insalata (younger and more acidic - for salads) balsamic vinegar and
reduce it.  You can also add a bit grape concentrate to sweeten up the
flavor, and it picks up some depth.  This can be nice for sauces, but is
still far from the aged stuff.  

Grow Trebbiano or Labrusca grapes for the real stuff.  It's such a
commitment of time, I'd be hesitant to try other grapes, though they would
probably yield very good, maybe outstanding, product.

Sherry vinegar and Chinese black rice vinegar are two which are in a class
with aged balsamic, and are much less expensive.  

Start off, I think, making 'regular' vinegar.  Homemade vinegars are
delicious - the quality of the base juice or wine makes a big difference in
the final product.  A homemade vinegar made with quality wine (or must) will
be much better than a shortcut balsamic.  And a one-year-old traditionally
made balsamic will much better than a short-cut two-year-old or older.  It
would probably be better than a shortcut one-year-old.  

PS - you don't begin by boiling to a 'thick' syrup - rather you simmer to a
reduction by one-third.  


Stephen Sadler, Ph.D.
USDA 9, AHS heat zone 8, 
Sacramento CA - Mediterranean climate

-----Original Message-----
From: nafex-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:nafex-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Thomas Olenio
Sent: Friday, September 09, 2005 5:06 AM
To: North American Fruit Explorers
Subject: [NAFEX] balsamic vinegar

Hi All,

I am looking for a means to use some of my grape crop.  Does anyone have  
the instructions for making balsamic vinager?

I know making balsamic vinegar differ from regular vinegar in that regular  
vinegar starts with fermented fruit juice, while balsmic starts with  
unfermented grape juice (must), that has been boiled down to a thick syrup.

"Mother of vinegar" is added to the syrup and then it is months and years  
of aging in various wood casks (different types of wood).

I wonder if there is process thatt could be altered to use roasted, wood  
chips (sticks, cubes), available for winemaking (replacing wooden casks).

I realize that North American balsamic vinegar will be different from  
other countries, but I am sure it can be done.

Does anybody have more specific steps for balsamic vinegar making?

Finding a use for the crop is well within the guidelines of NAFEX and  


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