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This giveaway is now closed.

What do you think of when you hear the word “balsamic”? Vinegar right?  I always did.  That is until I was invited to the House of Balsamic for a vinegar tasting.  Little did I know I was in for a lot more than just vinegar.  

Did you know that balsamic actually comes from the word balsam? And that balsam means “an agency that heals, soothes and restores”?  Neither did I.  But it turns out that soothing and restoring is the House of Balsamic’s specialty.  

Not only do they sell a variety of delicious vinegars, jams and oils that restore your faith in good food, they also have a gallery, vacation packages, and cooking classes; all designed to achieve their mission of providing “a warm and approachable space where members can engage in rare experiences, taste incredible food and wine, and take part in cultural activities.”  While all of these opportunities aren’t available yet, they should be by the time House of Balsamic officially opens on March 26th. In the mean time, they gave me a serious schooling in balsamic vinegar. 

The barrels in which the vinegar is aged.

I discovered that most of the balsamic vinegars I see on the shelf at the grocery store aren’t traditional.  Only 100 families in Italy are actually licensed to make traditional balsamic vinegar. What makes it traditional you ask?  The vinegar has to be aged at least 12 years before it’s tested and approved for bottling.  So, in order to provide the best balsamic Italy has to offer, House of Balsamic has teamed up with one such family – the Malpighi family.  

For five generations the Malpighis have been passing down their secret family recipe for the perfect balsamic vinegar.  Like all balsamic makers, they start with Saba, a grape juice that has been aged 72 hours.  Then they place the saba and their own special ingredients in barrels much like those in the photo above.  Over time the family moves the liquid into smaller and smaller barrels until it’s ready to be tasted by a consortium.  The vinegar is then decanted straight from the oldest and smallest barrel, and if the vinegar meets all of the consortium’s criteria, the seal of the consorzio is placed on the bottle with the Italian government designation of D.O.C. (Denominazione di Origine Controllata).  This is how the Malpighis create not only a 12 year-old balsamic, but also a 25, 50, 80, and even 100 year-old vinegar. 

The vinegars I tasted.

I was lucky enough to taste the 12, 25, and 50 year-old balsamics along with some of their condiment balsamic vinegars. These are the vinegars that have only been aged a few years.  They’re just as delicious, but can be mixed into marinades or added to sauces without feeling guilty. After all when a 3.5 ounce bottle of vinegar costs $159, I really don’t want to use it as a marinade for my flank steak.  

My favorites were the Prelibato, a white balsamic vinegar that goes perfectly with seafood, the Balsamo di Arancia, an orange balsamic which is great on pancakes and makes one hell of a shortbread cookie (that recipe will appear here in the coming weeks), and the Prelibato Jelly which is also made from the white balsamic vinegar and is scrumptious thickly spread on an english muffin. 

When I asked Maria Marking, the academy director, what her recommendations for cooking with the traditional balsamics were, she told me considering the cost, most people sip them, like a really good wine.  After tasting them I can see why, they were amazing.

Don’t they look luscious?  Aren’t you just dying to try each and every one of them?  Well, there’s good news.  House of Balsamic was nice enough to send me home with a bottle of their Saporoso Riserva – a balsamic that has been aged in barrels for eight years – just for you, my fine, balsamic-loving fans. Which brings me to…

The Giveaway!

How do I win?  This GIVEAWAY is now CLOSED. 

Head over to the House of Balsamic website and browse their store, then come back to this post and tell me which of their delicious products you’d love to have. 

Want extra entries? Each of these will get you one chance to win.  And if you already do any of these, they count! So make sure you let me know and leave a separate comment for each one for a total of 5 extra entries

  1. Follow @kitchycooker and @houseofbalsamic on Twitter.
  2. Tweet the following statement: I just entered to win a bottle of balsamic vinegar from @kitchycooker. Have you? http://bit.ly/fPzxj0 #Giveaway
  3. Like Kitchycooking on Facebook.
  4. Like House of Balsamic on Facebook.
  5. Sign up for my RSS Feed/Email Subscription

This giveaway is open to US residents, 18 years or older and will end on March 9th, 2011 at 6 pm PST. One winner with a valid entry will be selected at random using random.org. I will email the winner and they will have 48 hours to claim their prize.

29 Responses to “A Lesson in Balsamic and a Giveaway”

  1. Dale Fish

    I would love the Balsamic Chocolate!

  2. Dale Fish

    I Like Kitchycooking on facebook

  3. Dale Fish

    I Like House of Balsamic on Facebook.

  4. Brittny M Malloy

    I am sure that the “aged 100 years vinegar” tastes incredible, but I just don’t have that kind of extra money!! However, their Saporolio is also to die for!!

    I am already a fan of House of Balsamic on Facebook, and now I’m also a fan of Kitchy Cooking!

    :-)

  5. Debra Fish

    The Balsamic Chocolates…my hubby would love that!

  6. Debra Fish

    Like House of Balsamic on FB

  7. Debra Fish

    Folllow Kitchycooker of Twitter
    @Debra_Fish

  8. Lisa

    I follow in my Reader.

  9. Lisa

    I follow on you Twitter as fink_girl.

  10. Lisa

    I follow on HOB Twitter as fink_girl.

  11. Lisa

    Balsamic Chocolates sound so good!

  12. Steve Rae

    I am interested in the SAPOROSO RISERVA. This looks like a balsamic that would have the taste and feel of one of the aged vinegars, without the cost of the sipping variety.

    I am dying to try a good balsamic vinegar!

  13. emma

    I LOVE balsamic vinegar :)

    Of course I’m intrigued by the 100 year old Modena, but the orange balsamic is alluring as well. Actually, they all are…

    YUM.

  14. Kezia

    I tweeted: (moonbeamsinajar)

    I just entered to win a bottle of balsamic vinegar from @kitchycooker. Have you? http://bit.ly/fPzxj0 #Giveaway

  15. Kezia

    I am following on twitter too…

  16. Kezia

    I could not live without Balsamic. I have at least three different types in my pantry at the moment.

    The hundred year balsamic intrigues me. I wonder what that would taste like. Of course I dont think I could ever use it without feeling guilty. At that price I would savor every last drop!

    The Saporoso Riserva and the Prelibato are both ones that I would love to try out. They both sound unique and very tempting.

    Love your giveaway, and very jealous that you got to try all those fabulous Balsamics!

  17. Anna H

    Following @kitchycooker and @houseofbalsamic Yeah!!

  18. Anna H

    I would love to try their Balsamo di Arancia- Orange Balsamic. I’ve never had an orange balsamic before. It sounds delicious!!

  19. Anna H

    I just tweeted!

  20. Anna H

    Following on Facebook

  21. Anna H

    I already ‘like’ House of Balsamic. That’s how I found out about this fantastic giveaway! Oh, I hope I win! Best wishes to everyone though :)

  22. Anna H

    I’ve got you in my Google reader!!

  23. Lesa Faris

    I would be honoured to try any of their products! My interest peaked at the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena aged 80 years. I imagine that is the same vinegar my Grandfather used at his dinner table, surrounded by family (my father as a little boy), on a sunny Sunday afternoon with platters of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and cheese! I wish I could be surrounded by the family at that table…but since I cannot…I could replicate their feast and serve it to my loving family and friends!!!! Maybe serve Balsamic Chocolates with espresso at the end of the evening.

  24. Lisa

    Um… 100 year old balsamic vinegar? Sign me up! Also balsamic chocolates…and the orange vinegar… omg.

  25. Lisa

    Following you and @hosueofbalsamic on Twitter

  26. Lisa

    tweeted!

  27. Lisa

    I like you on FB!

  28. Lisa

    My bottle came today! The packaging was so beautiful – I can’t wait to try the balsamic. Thanks so much!

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