Emilian Dowry Tradition in the 21st Century: The International Kitchen Blog
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Emilian Dowry Tradition in the 21st Century

Next December 01, 2014 Previous

We all know dating can be complicated, and for Carlotta it may be harder because her parents want her and her future husband to carry on the family balsamic vinegar business. But imagine a dowry of seven barrels of balsamic vinegar waiting on it too! Surprisingly, Carlotta of Modena did not seem stressed by this aspect, as she has been raised the last 28 years with this practice and the last five generations of women in her family have as well.

Carlotta's mother showcasing the dowry barrelsHowever, as a 24-year-old single woman from Colorado, this balsamic vinegar visit left a strong impression with me beyond the amazing balsamic vinegar tastings.

During a tradeshow in the Emilia Romagna region last September, I visited a family that has been producing balsamic vinegar the traditional way for five generations.  Located on the third floor of their house as well as in the shed just outside are various types of wooden barrels holding balsamic vinegar waiting 12 to 25 years to be bottled into 4-ounce locally blown glass bottles.

One of the prized dowry barrels of balsamic vinegarFrom the moment we walked into their balsamically sweet smelling house, it was clear that the husband and wife were extremely passionate and knowledgeable about this traditional trade proudly produced in Emilia Romagna. We were offered tastings of their product that had been stored in barrels made of cherry wood, juniper wood, and mixed woods, and each was exquisite and eye opening to what traditional balsamic vinegar can really taste like, versus what someone like me is used to buying in typical U.S. grocery stores. We were each given a complimentary bottle of balsamic vinegar from Modena, and I am cherishing mine and using it sparingly with my cooking.

Bottles of Modena's balsamic vinegar Toward the end of our visit, we were shown Carlotta’s dowry of 7 barrels that was started when she was born and has been aging for 28 years now.  We were allowed to smell each barrel and it was clear why this is a cherished dowry tradition of the family. Fortunately for Carlotta, her parents spoke very fondly of her current boyfriend who works part time in the business and passionately orchestrates tastings just like ours. It was a lovely, personal experience, and just one example of the many type of artisanal visits you can experience on our culinary vacations or cooking classes.

By Cory Smith

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