As with all great things in life (namely, wine and women) vinegar just keeps getting better with age.
We’ve been cooking lots of traditional Italian recipes using vinegar of late, after being recently given a mother of red wine vinegar, to be used to create our very own red wine vinegar at home.
Once you have the mother, you just need to add in a dash of great-quality wine on a semi-regular basis, seal the bottle and let it ferment.
The best news of all is that as with all recipes with wine, the greater the wine used, the better the results – meaning we are practically forced to open up great wine on a semi-regular basis to keep our vinegar mother happy (along with several other members of the household too!).
Vinegar is an ever-present essential pantry ingredient in Tuscany.
Red wine vinegar can be used to sprinkle over just-picked lettuce leaves that have grown in terracotta pots on our balcony, or drizzled over cooked vegetables, and over slices of tomato just-picked from the garden (or bought at the local market at least) is just amazing.
(The cheaper stuff is even added to hot water to clean the pavement, bathroom, and even drinking glasses for a great eco-friendly household cleaner! Note, it is best to use white wine vinegar so as not to stain porous surfaces, lovely as red wine colouring can be.)
Vinegars are also made exclusively with Chianti wines for a great flavour.
However, it is Traditional Balsamic Vinegar or, aceto balsamico tradizionale, which is arguably the best-known vinegar around.
Balsamic vinegar hails from Modena, and is classified as an I.G.P. product. There is a minimum ageing period of 12 years for traditional balsamic vinegar but the most precious varieties can be decades old.
One of Italy’s much-loved and much-used ‘vinegars’, it is produced cooking down liquid from the Trebbiano grapes rather than in the traditional vinegar production method. This causes a must to form and fermentation follows. The vinegar is then stored in large wooden barrels for ageing, just like wine.
It is then used in a range of dishes from starters, mains, side and right through even to dessert.
Crema all Aceto Balsamico d’Modena IGP is a thick, syrupy vinegar product that is simple to use, and gives delicious results. We don’t suggest this list as a menu for one single meal, because you really can have too much of even a really great thing! Below we’ve listed some wonderful traditional recipes with balsamic vinegar and balsamic vinegar cream, often found on Tuscan menus.
For the most simple starter on the planet, and possibly even in the entire universe, take some great Parmesan cheese (which should be broken into bite-sized pieces and never cut or it is said you will ‘bruise’ it), then sprinkle with the vinegar cream and serve.
To make a delicious cream of balsamic vinegar risotto, melt 70 grams of butter into a heavy-bottomed pan. Throw in a finely-chopped onion and let it cook (careful it doesn’t burn) until soft. You’ll also need to add in one or two bay leaves (in Italian, ‘Alloro’ – it is often used as a hedge plant so very easy to find in when out walking Tuscany or traipsing through Tuscan villa estates as we are lucky to do on a regular basis!). While you’re at it, throw in a pinch of freshly-chopped rosemary.
Next, you’ll need 400 grams of risotto rice (such as alborio). Stir, letting the rice toast a little in the pan before ladling in about 2 cups of hot vegetable stock (homemade is always best!). Let the stock start to simmer before you add in about half a litre of strong red wine such as Cabernet or Barolo. Let the wine evaporate, careful the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Once the rice is nearly cooked, add in a generous amount of grated parmesan cheese, mix through and let it cook a moment. Lastly, stir in some Crema all Aceto Balsamico d’Modena and serve!
For a simple but delicious main meal, take top-quality beef fillets, lightly sear on each side so it is still quite rare in the centre. Finely slice and serve with a scattering of grated parmesan and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar cream atop.
As a side dish, drizzle traditional balsamic vinegar or the cream over steamed or grilled vegetables, and finally for dessert, strawberries lightly dotted with balsamic vinegar cream would be worth dying for if you weren’t so desperate to live on to eat them again another time!
To learn about food and have fun learning discovering tasty ways to use seasonal Italian ingredients to make delicious, typical dishes before indulging in a delicious meal made by you, we have hands-on cooking classes in Florence and Cooking Classes in a Tuscan Villa.
If you would like to immerse yourself in the Tuscan culture, we have a small-group Best of Tuscany tour visiting Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni too, as well as stopping for lunch and wine tasting at an award-winning wine estate. See the highlights of Tuscany in one spectacular day tour from Florence – Best of Tuscany small-group tour.
Join us to have fun on an exhilarating bike ride from Florence to the Tuscan countryside, whizzing up and down the rolling Tuscan hills that form the stunning Tuscany countryside as you tour to a great Tuscan villa wine estate to visit their wine cellar for a Tuscan wine tasting, and dine at an award-winning Tuscan restaurant. During the warmer months, you may want to add a splash of extra fun to your Tuscany bike tour with our unique Tuscany Bike Ride with a Villa Swim. Should you wish to skip the Tuscan bike riding altogether and head straight pool-side, we have our Wine Tour and Villa Swim with lunch or simply enjoy a Villa Swim and Lunch in Tuscany.
Visit a Tuscan villa on the Taste of Tuscany at the Villa wine tour. Explore historic wine estates before undertaking a wine tasting. Tread through the terrain, enjoying spectacular views of the Tuscan countryside up-close and personal.
Stroll through the Tuscan countryside, join us for a Perfect Morning in Tuscany small-group walking tour. Leaving from Florence’s city centre and heading to the surrounding countryside, this small-group walking tour includes, well, walking in Tuscany, as well as lunch with wine at a stunning Renaissance Villa Estate, accompanied by an expert tour guide.
If you would like to have a private guide accompanying you, we have private tours that cater to your every desire. From Florence (and Tuscany) to Rome, Venice to the Cinque Terre and beyond, we are at your beck and call.
To explore other areas of Italy, can check out our Artviva Walking Tours website to read more about the tours we have to offer in Florence, Rome, Venice, Cinque Terre, Umbria, Naples, Pompeii and more.