One Little Bottle, One Big Niche To Fill
Among the products that are conspicuously absent in the kosher market, the lack of traditionally-crafted balsamic vinegar is, at least for me, one of the most distressing. I'm not talking about the commercially-produced, relatively inexpensive bottles labeled Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, of which there are a few passable options. What I covet is one of the syrupy, barrel-aged elixirs meant for finishing dishes, and drizzling over cheese, fruit, or even gelato.
I dream of trekking through Italy to search one out, or else to somehow convince an artisanal producer to obtain hashgacha(kosher supervision), though I realize the odds of success on either count are slim.
In the meantime, I've settled for making balsamic reductions, a work-around that turns regular balsamic thick enough to use as a dish-finishing condiment.
My Kosher Product Wish List Just Got Shorter
My days of reduction making may be over, thanks to The Date Lady's Date Balsamic Vinegar. Crafted from a blend of fermented date concentrate made from organic California dates and organic balsamic vinegar, this has quickly become my go-to-condiment, and a remarkably good stand-in for that unobtainable Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale. (Note that Date Lady's intent wasn't necessarily to make a replacement for traditional balsamic; you can read more about the inspiration for the product below. But it works quite nicely for the same applications as an aged balsamic, and I'll take what I can get. )
Though the little bottle contains only about 6% balsamic, the rich flavor and umami quality of the vinegar shines through.
The date syrup tempers the blend -- there's none of the sharpness often found in supermarket balsamics -- while adding depth and notes of fruit and caramel. (In a side-by-side tasting off the spoon, the date balsamic absolutely blows the regular stuff out of the water.)
My only quibble is with the bottle, which has one of those plastic doohickeys you'll often find atop tamari or hot sauce bottles.
It's meant to make it easier to apply potent condiments sparingly, so seems a good idea. But in this case, the vinegar's viscosity makes it tough to dispense with precision -- and too easy to dribble down the side of the bottle instead of on the plate. (Of course, it is possible to remove the dispensing lid, but that would increase the likelihood of running through the little bottle far too quickly.) I'd happily pay a premium if the Date Lady started offering this in a larger size, though I recognize that production logistics -- such as cultivating the necessary supply of fermented date syrup -- might prevent this.
So How Do You Use This Stuff?
I'm not really joking when I say you can put this stuff on anything. As a fabulous bridge between sweet and savory, piquant and mellow, I've drizzled it on all sorts of foods. It's excellent on sauteed greens and salads, and on roasted vegetables -- especially cauliflower. I love it with cheeses both young and aged. I've whisked it into homemade vinaigrettes, used it to perk up pasta dishes and a vegetarian lentil Shepherd's Pie, even drizzled it on hazelnut gelato. My toddler is enamored, too -- if he see's the bottle, he demands some on his food, and will go after any drips with his little fingers so he doesn't miss a drop.
The Date Balsamic Backstory
So what was the inspiration behind this scrumptious product? Colleen Sundlie, aka the Date Lady, explained "I first remember hearing about date vinegar when reading about food in ancient Mesopotamia. It was quite common to make vinegar, wine and/or a 'strong drink' with dates. I always found that very intriguing and kind of held it there in the back of my head for future exploration."
"As we've worked with dates over the years, we've learned from our own experience that wet dates (or dates that haven't dried completely on the palm tree) can be naturally fermented by the sun, or a heat source. About two years ago, we took about 26 tons of naturally fermented organic dates and turned them into liquid. We have stored that in our facility and are now adding about 6% balsamic to 94% fermented date concentrate to create this absolutely lovely vinegar that is thicker than most, a bit like a reduction. It still has the same vinegar capabilities as far as being mixed with oil to make a great dressing or bread dip, but also stands alone well for drizzling on cheese or on fruits for a nice edge."
Where Can You Get It?
Order online at ilovedatelady.com. You'll also find organic dates, date syrup (aka silan or date honey), caramel sauce, chocolate spread, and date sugar. The entire line is kosher.
Original Article - About.com