It doesn’t sound good to me. Put a Y on the end and it spells musty. Webster says, “Smelling of damp and decay.” That doesn’t sound like anything appetizing, does it? Would you feel compelled to eat something like that? But if you feel compelled to run down to the nearest TJ’s to buy a bottle of this balsamic vinegar, that’s what you’ll be buying … must. In fact any balsamic vinegar must have must in it. That’s how it gets to be balsamic. Without the must, it must be something else.
Must is what’s left over from the first step in wine making. Planting the grapes doesn’t count. The first step is exactly that, stepping. That’s stepping on the grapes to extract the sweet juice which is later turned into sweet wine. What’s left is the must which is the wet moist musty smelling skins, stems and whatever else was picked during the grape picking and an occasional spider or other tasty insect, that’s left in the grape press.
The must is added to red wine vinegar to produce Aceto Balsamico di Modena PGI, or Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. Naturally Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is not the really good Balsamic Vinegar, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale. What did you expect for $2.29? You must be joking. For a full differentiation of the three types of balsamic vinegar (yes there is another one) try this Wiki link.
Now that we know what this is and is not, what about it? Wiki further says that commercial grade balsamic vinegar, we’re certainly demystifying the lore of balsamic vinegar when the word commercial is placed in front, is used for salad dressings. dips, marinades, reductions and sauces. That’s exactly how it was tested here, an oil and vinegar salad dressing. Alright, if you look here there’s also a balsamic pork recipe. Or, as I also did for testing, you can put some in a shot glass and sip away. Not recommended.
For the oil and vinegar dressing, I sort of reversed the traditional proportions of oil and vinegar and thought I had a fairly good dressing. With a ration of about 2/3 TJ’s balsamic vinegar and about 1/3 oil (TJ’s of course) I was able to shave off a few calories from the dressing and still have a dressing that didn’t taste so acidic that I could feel the tartar being cleaned from my teeth (and no, I don’t know the tartar thing actually works – just a very strange figure of speech).
Being able to use that ratio in the dressing is the telling difference between this balsamic and other non-balsamic vinegars. Even though the acid content of the balsamic is slightly higher (6%) than a regular vinegar (typically 5%), it doesn’t seem as “tangy”. There’s a hint of sweetness in the balsamic and a much more complex flavor than any of the three comparison non-balsamic vinegars; a name brand red wine vinegar, a store brand apple cider vinegar and a store brand plain old white vinegar, when all were passed through the shot glass test.
The down side to using balsamic in a dressing is the color. Because the must is dark to start with and caramel coloring is added, all those pretty fresh plant colors in the salad are going to be somewhat covered by this dark stuff. If that bothers you, try turning off the lights in the room.
In summary, TJ’s Balsamic Vinegar of Modena is a step up from non-balsamic vinegars. It’s competitively priced with other balsamic vinegars. Must I mention, it’s a must for your shopping list?
Calories 10 per tablespoon (15 ml) Price $2.29 – 17 ounce bottle (500 ml)