But what is 香醋, really? How is it made? 什么’s the difference between white balsamic and regular 香醋? 什么 makes some 香醋 so 昂贵?
Earlier this year I spent a week in Italy on an intensive educational trip to learn about 香醋. I visited several commercial operations as a guest of the Consortium of 摩德纳的香醋, as well as smaller traditional balsamic producers, and even an above-the-garage attic where a family has been making balsamic for their personal use for 60 years.
In this 文章 I’ll cover where the tradition of 香醋 comes from, and explain the different types of 香醋, the current modern practices of producing 香醋 for broad consumption, and how to choose which 香醋 to buy.
什么 is 香醋?
Traditional 香醋 仅由一种成分制成-“grape 必须” (in Italian, “mosto”），即新鲜压榨的葡萄的甜汁-将其煮沸成浓缩液，然后进行发酵和酸化，然后在木桶中陈化12至25年或更长时间。
A highly crafted product, traditional 香醋 is produced in small batches. It is sweet, tart, dark, syrupy, and 昂贵。您只会在专卖店或网上找到这种价格昂贵的醋。
Modern commercial 香醋s (what you will likely find at your local grocery store) combine concentrated 葡萄必须 with wine vinegar to speed up the acidification process. This vinegar is typically aged from 2 months to 3 years in large oak barrels.
Mixing 葡萄必须 with wine vinegar allows producers to make a high volume of 香醋 much more efficiently than using the traditional method. Depending on the mix of sweet 葡萄必须 and tart wine vinegar, 香醋 can vary in its sweetness. It can range in consistency from thin to syrupy.
When you shop for 香醋, whether in grocery stores 要么 online, you will find a variety of products:
- 摩德纳的香醋 PGI —从意大利摩德纳地区进口的香醋，可用于日常消费。如果它具有IGP或PGI标签（受保护的地理标志），则符合欧盟（EU）的生产法规。价格从每瓶4美元到20美元不等。
- 香醋 （标签上未提及摩德纳） —日常使用的香醋，可能来自意大利也可能不来自意大利。如果没有’没有PGI标签，它可能仍来自意大利并且可能带有标签“Balsamic Condiment”。它可能是优质的，也可能是仿香醋，它只是醋（不需要葡萄），并添加了增稠剂和甜味剂。
- 白香脂 — Similar to regular 香醋 but with a light golden color
- 香脂釉 — Syrupy version of regular 香醋 that has added sweeteners and/or thickeners
- Traditional 香醋 — Small batch, highly crafted 香醋 that can cost anywhere from $50 to $200 and more for a small bottle, available online and at specialty stores. If it has the DOP 要么 PDO label (Protected Designation of Origin), it is from either Modena 要么 Reggio Emilia and conforms to strict EU production regulations.
- 调味品巴尔萨米科 — Made in the style of traditional 香醋, but doesn’正式符合欧盟标准。一些传统的香醋生产商提供“Condimento Balsamico” products that are 葡萄必须 香醋s that are aged fewer than the 12 years required for official certification.
All 香醋 is derived from a thousand year old process developed around the area of Modena and Reggio Emilia in Italy, which is why we will start our deep dive into balsamic here.
As mentioned, traditional 香醋 (a.k.a. “乙酰香脂”) is made from “grape 必须”这是新鲜压榨的葡萄汁。
Grape 必须 is the 只要 ingredient in traditional 香醋.
To conform with European Union standards, the grapes are required to be grown in the Modena and Reggio Emilia regions and are usually white Trebbiano and Lambrusco varieties. The 葡萄必须 is boiled in huge cauldrons outdoors 在明火中燃烧以减少其体积并浓缩其糖分，然后随着时间的推移在木桶中发酵并酸化。
Traditional 香醋 is aged for a minimum of 12 years in a series of successively smaller wooden barrels, each made from a different type of wood — oak, juniper, mulberry, ash, cherry, and chestnut.
Given the effort it takes to make traditional 香醋, it’s no wonder that the production volume is low and the prices are high!
意大利是世界上产量最大的国家’s traditional balsamic, there are other companies making 香醋 using traditional methods that rival the quality of the best traditional balsamic from Italy.
特别值得一提的是 Monitcello的传统Aceto Balsamico，这是在美国新墨西哥州制造的。他们用当地种植的意大利品种香脂葡萄的有机葡萄汁制成醋，然后在意大利木桶中陈酿醋。醋获得了露丝·赖克（Ruth Reichl），厨师保罗·贝托利（Paul Bertolli）和萨维尔杂志（Saveur Magazine）的高度评价。
How to use traditional 香醋
你不’t cook with traditional 香醋. 热量会破坏微妙的味道，并浪费这种宝贵的液体。但是，您可以在添加主菜之前在盘子上细雨，或者在盘子上撒一些，例如猪肉，鸡肉或玉米粥。
Now we will shift gears and move on to the 香醋s you would normally see in your local grocery store. As you shop for 香醋 you will likely see many brands with the words “摩德纳的香醋” on the label.
For centuries it has been a farmhouse practice to mix concentrated 葡萄必须 with wine vinegar and some aged vinegar to make a vinegar for everyday cooking.
这是什么“摩德纳的香醋” is, a vinegar made from a mix of 葡萄必须 and wine vinegar, produced at an industrial scale, to meet global demand for 香醋.
The culture and tradition of 香醋 is so important that the Italian government applied for and received a Protected Geographic Indication from the European Union. This means that if a bottle has the words 摩德纳的香醋 PGI (or IPG) on the label, and a special seal from the EU, the vinegar 必须 conform to a strict set of production guidelines.
配料 of 摩德纳的香醋
To qualify for official recognition, 摩德纳的香醋 can 只要 be made with the following ingredients:
- Boiled 要么 concentrated 葡萄必须 (at least 20% by volume)
- Natural 焦糖 (made by cooking sugar) for color (up to 2%)
- Aged 香醋 (aged at least 10 years), an unspecified amount, usually negligible
葡萄“must” 必须 also come from grapes grown in the Emilio Romana Region in Italy, and the vinegar 必须 be produced and bottled by qualified producers in the Modena region.
什么’s the “caramel” for? Caramel (cooked sugar) is added not as a sweetener, but to darken the vinegar to make it have a look more consistent with what we think of as 香醋. There is plenty enough sugar in the 葡萄必须. Think of the 焦糖 in the ingredient list as a natural coloring agent.
Grape 必须 is Sweet, Wine Vinegar is Acidic
Note the minimum levels of 葡萄必须 (20%) and wine vinegar (10%) in the specifications.
If you have a balsamic that has a greater percentage of 葡萄必须 to wine vinegar, it will taste rather sweet. If the reverse is true, it will taste more acidic.
Depending on the mix of 葡萄必须 and vinegar, the amount of aging, and other factors, producers can even make a product whose flavor and consistency mimic traditional balsamic.
The EU governing body that sets the standards for 摩德纳的香醋 found that too many producers were misleading consumers who associated the number of years aged with quality.
How to use 摩德纳的香醋 PGI
While the tradition of making 香醋 comes from Modena, all you really need to make 香醋 is the juice from crushed grapes with the possible addition of wine vinegar. You can find many perfectly fine balsamic-style vinegars for every day use that aren’t来自摩德纳和阿雷恩’t意大利语。 （想想纳帕！）
也就是说，有些产品的名称为“balsamic vinegar” may be cheap imitations that are made with just vinegar (wine, white, 要么 cider vinegar) and added sweeteners and thickeners. Real 香醋 is either made entirely with 葡萄必须 (like traditional balsamic), 要么 is a combination of 葡萄必须 and wine vinegar (like 摩德纳的香醋 PGI).
How to evaluate 香醋
除非您熟悉特定的品牌产品，否则’s difficult to tell what you are getting with 香醋. The label alone will not tell you what the vinegar is like. As with wine, you need to explore, taste, and pick which particular brands and bottles of balsamic you enjoy.
- PGI印章 – A PGI (or IGP) seal on the label certifies the vinegar as official 摩德纳的香醋, meaning it conforms to regulated production and marketing standards.
- 配料 – Good quality 香醋 should 只要 have these ingredients – 葡萄必须 and wine vinegar, and possibly 焦糖 and aged vinegar.
- 哪种成分先出现？ – If the first ingredient is wine vinegar, the balsamic will be on the tart side. If the first ingredient is 葡萄必须, the balsamic should be more mellow and sweet.
- 黏度 –举起瓶子点燃，四处移动，里面是液体糖浆吗？如果在旋转时在瓶子的侧面留下涂层，则它会更厚，并且质量可能会更高。
- 价钱 – In general, the higher the price, the better the quality when it comes to 香醋.
什么 is 白香脂?
由于白香醋没有’t have the flavor that comes with the 焦糖ization of the grape sugars, its flavor is less complex than regular 香醋.
什么 is 香脂釉?
Balsamic glaze (or balsamic syrup) is reduced 香醋, often with added sugar and thickeners such as guar gum and xantham gum. It’s meant to mimic traditional 香醋, but at fraction of the cost.
You can make your own homemade balsamic glaze by adding a sweetener like sugar 要么 honey to 香醋 and simmering it until it is syrupy.
Does 香醋 go bad? You’re in luck! Unlike almost any other food item in your pantry, 香醋 doesn’不会变坏。像任何醋一样，您应将其保存在阴凉干燥的橱柜中，远离光线，并应盖上盖子存放。醋储存正确，将可持续数年。
一千谢谢’s to the Consortium of 摩德纳的香醋, for hosting me for a grand tour of Modena Italy to learn about how 香醋 is made. Thank you’也对...的客气的东主 韦尔尼亚诺城堡 让我们深入了解了他们的古代和传统的乙炔音乐，向Ivo Piombini及其家人 Ca’del Rio restaurant 在摩德纳（Modena）向我们展示了他们的家庭阁楼醋香糖，并给了我一瓶我在出生前就开始使用的香醋，最后送给了意大利的达雷尔·科蒂（Darrell Corti） 科尔蒂兄弟 in Sacramento, California, for spending hours with me sharing his knowledge of 香醋.