Category Archives: Modena

Lock, stock and balsamic barrel

Breckyn Crocker
MODENA, Italy—The increasingly popular condiment of balsamic vinegar can be found in most grocery stores, but there is only one place in the world that makes the original, authentic “good stuff:” the city of Modena in Italy.

Luckily for you, the MU study abroad group had the chance not only to visit the production facility of one of 30 families who make this authentic condiment, but we also tasted every flavor and type they produce. The Acetaia of the Malpighi consider themselves artisans of their balsamic vinegar, and have been perfecting their craft since the 1850s, even though the traditional process of producing their authentic balsamic vinegar leaves little room for improvement.

The process involves harvesting the best grapes to make a liquid mustocato , or cooked grape must, simmered to make a concentrate, allowed to ferment for 12+ years, and matured in barrels and transferred into different size and kinds of wood for flavor. The wood barrels, a family secret rotation of cherry, chestnut, mulberry, oak, and juniper woods, seep their flavors into the vinegar to bring out full aroma and flavor.

The longer the vinegar matures in the barrel, the richer and more expensive the vinegar will be. The older the barrel, too, the more it is valued. One small barrel in the Malpighi loft from 1730 is worth 40,000 euros alone for its properties that improve with age and are imparted into the balsamic.

Patience is definitely a virtue here. For this reason, the Malpighi’s, along with the other 29 families certified to produce authentic balsamic, have held the golden standard for balsamic vinegars. Because of this reputation, many vinegars are sent to Modena for bottling, but be sure to look for the terms tradizionale/DOC or aceto balsamico di Modena seal on your next bottle for the real deal.

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Filed under balsamic, Modena, MU Journalism Abroad, Science ad Agricultual Journalism

Balsamic: miracle medicine?

Traditional Modena balsamic vinegar are sealed and ready for purchase at Acetaia Malpighi.

Traditional Modena balsamic vinegar are sealed and ready for purchase at Acetaia Malpighi.

Kaitlynn Martin

MODENA, Italy- A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine goes down, or so that’s what Mary Poppins cheerfully sang to young Michael and Jane Banks. The catchy melody danced through my mind as I held a small, plastic spoonful of black balsamic vinegar close to my lips while in Modena, Italy’s balsamic capital.

A quick tilt of the utensil sent a velvety stream of 12-year-old aged wonderment down my throat. I allowed the thick balsamic to coat my mouth and intensify in flavor before it hesitantly faded away. There was no need for a follow-up of sugar, this was the best medicine I’d ever tasted.

Balsamic vinegar throughout history has been known for its powers of relieving sore throats and even–believe it or not– combating labor pains. Romans used to drink balsamic by the glassful to maintain their health. With its a fantastic taste, I don’t blame them. I would gladly give up artificial cherry-flavored cough syrup for this.

These days balsamic is commonly used for flavor more than for its medicinal purposes. A couple drops of traditional Modena balsamic with ice cream and strawberries can create a vinegary sweetness that sends food lovers’ palates on an adventure. My first encounter with authentic, high quality balsamic was at a tasting held at Acetaia Malpighi, where the Malpighi family has been producing balsamic since 1850.

A traditional bottle of Modena balsamic is only made with the juices of Lambrusco red grapes and Trebbiano white grapes from the Modena region. After two days of cooking, the vinegar is put in barrels at room temperature to ferment. To be deemed traditional the balsamic must be aged in the barrels for at least 12 years and also tasted and certified by the Denominazione di Origine Protetta (DOP).

It’s a long journey for a grape to turn into Modena’s sweet nectar. But there is an old saying that things get better with age, and balsamic is no exception. Whether soaked up in bread, dressed over a salad, dripped over desserts, or poured in a glass, balsamic offers a variety of ways to be enjoyed, even if just by the spoonful.

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Filed under balsamic, medical properties, Modena, regional food