Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena
Omar is an Italian guy who comments now and then on my Italian blog and knows everything about Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena (ABTM). I had never tried the real ABTM before and I now understand that what I usually buy as Aceto Balsamico is just little more than brown water compared to the real one. He kindly volunteered to send to me a sample of the ABTM that he and his family make in
As he suggested we tried it with Parmigiano Reggiano, although the 12 years old that he was suggesting couldn't be found in
The ABTM is very thick, full-bodied and dark. It tastes completely different from the "standard" version. It has a fantastic flavour which is so unique that it's even difficult to explain. So, I leave space to Omar to explain how his family makes the ABTM and the differences with the standard Aceto Balsamico.
The Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena is made by acetificaition of boiled grape 'must' (unfermented juice). Cold winters and hot summers, typical of the
The boiled must is then filtered and put to rest in barrel batteries. A barrel battery is made by 6 barrels of different woods: 1. Mulberry 20 lt - 2. Ash tree 30lt - 3. Cherry tree 40 lt - 4. Chestnut tree 50 lt - 6. Oak tree 60lt. The biggest barrel contains the youngest vinegar. The oldest is kept into the smallest barrels. Each barrel has an inspection hole covered with a cotton patch kept in position by a river stone which is corroded with time by the vinegar vapours. With time vinegar concentrate even more and each barrel is topped with younger vinegar from the next bigger barrel. This is usually done in springtime whereas during the rest of the year the vinegar rests and is inspected regularly. It is experience and time which brings this product to the right equilibrium and flavour. The ABTM must be aged for at least 12 years to be called Balsamico Tradizione di Modean. Before it can only be called semi-balsamico. Because of the long time it takes to make the ABTM it is traditional to start a new battery for every new born in the family. After 25 years ageing the ABTM is called "Extra-Vecchio" (extra old). The 12 years old ABTM is perfect with cooked vegetables and the Extra-Vecchio for cheese and cooked meat.
For all these reasons ABTM experts often say that the Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena can be made but can't be produced. Just like Parmigiano Reggiano.