Friend Patte kindly shared some olive oil and balsamic vinegar samples from Lucero California Olive Oil, headquartered in Corning.
The olive oil was a first cold-pressed Mission extra virgin, and the balsamic vinegar was an 18-year-old traditional style. I tried both on some crusty bread and they were delicious.
Patte got the samples when she recently traveled to Lucero’s in Corning (she called first, just to make sure someone was there).
She bought, among other things, the Lucero sampler gift box. (Pictured above.) The collection contains one dozen 1.75-ounce bottles; each filled with Lucero’s different balsamic vinegar and olive oil products. (The set regularly sells for $60.)
As an aside, I found some interesting recipes on the Lucero website, like this one for Seared Scallops With Garden Green Beans.
But back to the vinegars. What really impressed me was the range of Lucero’s balsamic vinegar flavors, vastly beyond the traditional style. I’m talking about Lucero’s Red Apple, Wild Cherry, Fig, Blueberry and Peach Balsamic Vinegars, far removed from the usual fruit vinegars, like raspberry — not that we should criticize raspberry vinegars.
By the way, you do know you can make your own fruit vinegars, right? (See recipe, below.)
The thing is, other than drizzling fruit vinegars over fruit or salad, or adding to a marinade, what else can we do with them?
Well, Patte made her own vinaigrettes, such as a wonderful peach dressing that she brought to me in a little jar of golden goodness.
I spooned it over sliced pears, and I poured it over a shrimp, mango and avocado arugula salad I made that really tasted more like dessert. Exactly my kind of salad.
Patte’s peach vinaigrette dressing was thick, and had a nice sherbety viscous quality to it; not separated, as some dressings are wont to do.
How did she do it? It was all in the emulsifying, meaning she used a food processor (or a blender will do, too), to slowly — sloooowly — drizzle canola oil in the thinnest of streams into the whirring mixture. Eventually, the fruit and vinegar molecules will plump and fatten with those force-fed oil molecules. Magic!
Patte said we could use any fruit and any fruit vinegars to make a fruit vinaigrette, and, of course, we could experiment and cross-pollinate flavors, such as a cherry vinegar with raspberries or strawberries, or visa versa. Personally, I’d stay within the same color family, but hey, it’s your dressing. Go for it.
Patte’s Fruit Vinaigrette1 part fruit 1 part fruit vinegar 2 parts canola oil
Puree fruit until smooth in a blender or food processor.
Add the vinegar and pulse until blended.
With machine running, add the canola oil in the thinnest, slowest stream possible so the fruit and vinegar are forced to accept it. The mixture should be thick and translucent.
Doni’s Fruit Vinegar3 cups fruit 2 1/2 cups white vinegar 2 cups granulated sugar
(Prepare this recipe at least two weeks before you need it.)
Puree fruit and pour into a large, clean jar. (I like the big canning jars, because they come with lids. If you’re making double or triple batches, you may want to divide the mixture into multiple jars.)
Boil the vinegar in a non-reactive (no aluminum) pot for about 1 to 2 minutes. As the vinegar continues to simmer, add the sugar to the hot vinegar, stirring well. Boil for about another minute, making sure the sugar is completely dissolved.
Carefully pour the hot vinegar/sugar mixture over the pureed fruit, then cover the jar. Let the jar cool down a bit, then place in the refrigerator. Shake the jar every couple of days to combine the mixture, returning it to the refrigerator.
After two weeks, drain the mixture through a sieve. Now strain that liquid through cheesecloth. Finally, place a coffee filter in a funnel and strain it again. (If needed, strain again until no residue remains.)
Pour the fruit vinegar into clean, sterilized jars and use within 12 months. (Or keep refrigerated.)
Independent online journalist Doni Greenberg founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Greenberg was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Northern California in the tiny town of Igo.