Enjoy A New Dimension Of Flavor With Fig Balsamic Vinegar

There are an astonishing number of vinegars for the aspiring gourmet to sample, from mild to assertively acidic. Most shoppers recognize the common cider varieties found on supermarket shelves, but this multi-talented liquid is also made from rice, wine, beer, malt, or any other material with enough sugar to ferment. Fig balsamic vinegar is a marriage of traditional, regional flavors and fruit.

For the literal minded, this product is the sour result of the acetic fermentation of alcohol-containing liquids. Rather than being used as a beverage, the production process allows micro-organisms the chance to go a step further, turning the drinkable alcohol into an acid. This event is not haphazard or casual, but rather a traditional, time-honored process requiring the same diligence as wine-making.

Balsam is not actually an ingredient, but a literal description of the health benefits originally attributed to the product. First manufactured in Italian region known as Emilia Romagna, the mixture is most often derived from a pressed mash called grape must, which contains not only juice, but also skin, stems, and seeds. After a period of processing, it can be aged in wooden casks as long as twenty five years.

The end result is a complex and aromatic mixture of acids and sugars. While large-scale production cannot duplicate the subtleties of the original and somewhat expensive product, there are definitely acceptable substitutes. Far from simply being a sort of tangy but watery salad dressing, this concoction is a thick substance more resembling syrup, bursting with layers of flavor highlighted during the aging cycle.

Even when the source is not actually Italian, this tart flavor base is a perfect beginning for that special salad dressing, custom-made dips, specialized marinades, or any sauce that can benefit from a touch of tangy goodness. Although it may cost a bit more, the authentic regional varieties are perfect for drizzling over antipasto made with goat cheese, in savory meat dishes, and even with some desserts.

When these products are described as being infused with other flavors, this usually means the addition of herbs such as basil, tarragon, garlic or rosemary. Vintages infused with fruit flavors are gaining in popularity with many adventurous home chefs. These products are more likely to come from other noted agricultural areas that also grow wine, especially northern California.

Flavored products may be found in specialty gourmet shops, but they are not difficult to produce at home. The safest and most delicious results begin with the highest quality organic herbs and fruits. These must be carefully cleaned to steer clear of any possible bacterial contamination. Homemade batches are acidic but vary greatly in actual content, and care must be taken to avoid spoilage.

Once processed, the bottle is allowed some shelf time for three or four weeks, then strained. The addition of figs is an unusual taste experience, and the mixture adds a subtle organic character that will always enhance salad dressings and other sauces, or bring a new flavor to that special marinade. In summer, nothing tastes better on sliced heirloom tomatoes fresh from the garden.

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