Using balsamic vinegar in cooking is an easy way to give a dish some unique flavor, but it also provides a number of health benefits!
What is Balsamic Vinegar?
Balsamic vinegar is a type of vinegar that has been highly concentrated, leaving it with a dark and flavorful taste. To qualify as this type of vinegar, it must be completely or mostly derived from grape must. While this vinegar is often used in Italian cooking, it has become popular in many other cuisines and is commonly found around the world. In terms of taste, this vinegar is slightly sweet and astringent – a potent addition to any meal.
Balsamic vinegar comes in two forms, traditional and domestic. The traditional variety is made in only a few regions of Italy, while the domestic variety is produced on a much larger scale and sold for a much lower cost in other countries, such as the United States. This vinegar will not go bad, provided it is stored in a proper bottle with the cap kept on, to prevent further oxidation. For those who are worried about consuming gluten-containing products, this popular ingredient is perfectly safe.
In terms of nutrition, balsamic vinegar is a rich source of electrolytes, such as potassium, phosphorous, calcium, zinc, and magnesium. It is also very low in calories and contains no fat or protein. The most beneficial part of this vinegar is the high level of phytonutrients, which have antioxidant properties.
Benefits of Balsamic Vinegar
Despite being low in calories, this is a very flavorful addition to any dish, making it an ideal ingredient for those trying to watch their calories or shed some pounds.
The potassium found in this vinegar functions as a vasodilator and can reduce your risk of hypertension, which protects cardiovascular health as a whole.
Adding any form of vinegar to your diet can invigorate your immune system, much of which resides in the gut. This can also help to reduce inflammation in the stomach, which can consequently eliminate symptoms of constipation and stomach upset.
The phytonutrients found in this vinegar are able to neutralize free radicals and stop them from causing oxidative stress in the body, including the skin, thus helping to treat inflammatory conditions and prevent premature aging.
How to Make Balsamic Vinegar?
It is possible to make balsamic vinegar at home if you have the patience and the time!
- Step 1: Acquire the proper grape varieties from Italy (Trebbiano, Ancellotta or Lambrusco)
- Step 2: Crush the grapes and simmer the must in a pot for 1-2 days.
- Step 3: Allow the mixture to reduce by half its volume.
- Step 4: Let the mixture cool and then put it in a barrel for at least 1 year.
- Step 5: The result after 1 year will be vinegar, but you need to make balsamic vinegar.
- Step 6: Store the vinegar in increasingly smaller barrels for the next 10 years or so.
- Step 7: The vinegar will evaporate slowly and reduce in volume, but will also soak up the flavors of the barrels.
Uses of Balsamic Vinegar
Most common uses of balsamic vinegar include the following:
- Salad dressings
- Marinate meat
- Add extra flavor to soups
- Being reduced down into a sweet dessert syrup
- Add to certain cocktails
Selection & Storage
If you are buying balsamic vinegar, it is best to purchase a high-quality product, so look for a traditional variety that is imported from Italy. This will cost more, but will also be a superior product. In terms of storage, the vinegar will stay viable for years, but be sure to leave it capped, and out of direct sunlight.
When used in excess, as with any form of vinegar, there can be some side effects, such as:
- Throat inflammation
- Stomach pain
However, due to the potency of this flavor, only a small amount is needed, and when consumed in moderate quantities, this form of vinegar is completely safe.