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Balsamic Strawberries topped with raw Mascarpone Cheese …. doesn’t the title just lure you in? This combination is what I like to refer to as an orgasmic explosion on the taste buds. The sweet of the strawberries, the sour of the balsamic vinegar, and the sharp bite from the black pepper, are enough to get the mouth-watering! My husband and I have always loved a fine aged balsamic vinegar. In fact, so much we sometimes sip it like fine wine! To me it is a gastronomical delight! A good balsamic should be gentle, temperate, tranquil, and calm. Never abrasive. I have sipped a many vinegar that are caustic and harsh on the throat. Most store-bought balsamic vinegar are just red wine vinegar with caramel flavoring mixed in.
Balsamic vinegar was invented around 1046 in Modena, Italy where today there are about 100 producers. Great balsamic vinegar are aged, for a minimum of 12 years in a succession of wood casks (each cask is also made with a different wood). As the vinegar ages, it begins acquiring the flavors of the woods. A great deal of evaporation also occurs over the years, and the vinegar becomes slightly syrupy, or thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. The last change is the most miraculous: the vinegar actually changes from being vinegary to being slightly sweet. The balsamic vinegar reverts back to its original form, that of grape juice. It’s that sweet-tartness and the minimum 12 years of wood-aging that make it, in my mind, a nectar of the gods. Wine tasting? That is so yesterday, haven’t you heard? Balsamic vinegar tasting is all the rage! :) How does one explain the taste of balsamic vinegar? Well, before I attempt that task, I should explain that there are many different flavors and qualities of this mighty tasty “nectar”. Balsamic is much, much smoother and sweeter than the plain white vinegar. The expensive ones should be great on their own and as a last touch to anoint a dish. Yes, anoint. :)
Purchasing a fine aged balsamic vinegar can be somewhat of an investment. To make peace with your pocketbook you can use a less expensive vinegar and make a reduction from it. Now, I do realize that this will not be raw but we can all indulgent every once in a while.
Balsamic reduction sauce
Take a cheap bottle of balsamic vinegar and pour desired amount into a wide saucepan or skillet on medium high heat. Once the liquid has been reduced by about half, let vinegar cool. You should see that the vinegar has thickened a bit, similar to the consistency of maple syrup. One trick is to check if it coats a spoon. Store in a glass bottle at room temperature.
Make 30-60 minutes before you want to serve