Italian World’s Most Expensive Ingredients
Everywhere there is some local particular food, that for originality and workmanship, costs a lot, but that it is a quality ham or a good DOC wine, to buy one certainly won’t empty our pockets. But in the world there really are some very expensive ingredients, fortunately they are few, but their poor production and the processing time, causes their price go sky high. For better or for worse, in the list of those few rare and unique products two are of Italian origin. I refer to truffles and vinegar, although Italy is also a big producer of saffron, products which as mentioned, are among the most expensive ingredients in the world.
The truffle is the fruiting body of a subterranean mushroom (mostly in the genus Tuber) and around there are hundreds of species with some highly prized as a food. Among them, the most expensive and well-known is the “white truffle” or “Alba madonna” (Tuber magnatum). It is found almost exclusively, between the months of September and December, in the Langhe and Montferrat areas of the Piedmont region in northern Italy and, most famously, in the countryside around the cities of Alba and Asti; in Italy it can also be found in Molise and in the hills around San Miniato, in Tuscany. Because of their high price and their pungent taste, truffles are used sparingly. Its unique flavor-nutty, savory, and sweet-is commonly sampled in shavings atop dishes heavy on eggs, butter, and cheese, such as fresh pasta, fonduta (a mixture of melted cheese and wine), or a decadent scrambled-egg breakfast. White truffles retail for $7 to $11 per gram, or $3,000 to $5,000 per pound. Prices can be as high as $90 for a standard 8-gram portion, with an additional premium for a particularly large specimen.
The Traditional Balsamic Vinegar is an aromatic, aged type of vinegar traditionally crafted in the Modena and Reggio Emilia provinces of Italy from the concentrated juice, or must, of white grapes (typically of the Trebbiano variety). It is very dark brown in color, and its flavor is rich, sweet, and complex, with the finest grades being the product of years of aging in a successive number of cloth-covered barrels made of various types of wood (including oak, mulberry, chestnut, cherry, juniper, ash, and acacia). True balsamic vinegar (which has Protected Designation of Origin status) is aged for 12 to 25 years to get the extra-old vinegar. Balsamic vinegars that even have been aged for up to 100 years are available, though they are usually very, very expensive. The commercial balsamic sold in supermarkets is typically made with concentrated grape juice mixed with a strong vinegar, which is laced with caramel and sugar. It has a high acidity level, but the tart flavor is usually hidden by the sweetness of the other ingredients, making it very mellow. The product must be made in either the Modena or Reggio Emilia provinces of Italy in order to bear the name balsamico tradizionale, and each province has its own consortium of experts who approve the balsamic before sealing it in its official 100-milliliter bottle. The best balsamico typically costs $200 for 100 milliliters, or $60 per ounce.
Saffron is derived from a type of crocus (Crocus sativus) that grows most extensively in the Mediterranean area. In Italy the largest crops are in the Marche, Abruzzo and Sardinia regions. Its brightly hued threads are graded for quality by the Switzerland-based International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which ranks the product on a scale from 0 to 250 based on color, fragrance, and taste. Saffron, currently, is only used by the food industry as a spice or as a dye, and it is rich in carotenoids. One of its most typical use is in Italian cooking in the risotto alla Milanese, or “yellow rice”, so well-known fact that saffron to color gives the recipe. “Coupe” saffron, which carries an ISO grade of 190 or greater, retails for $10 to $15 per gram, and the highest-grade coupe saffrons can reach almost $30 per gram. However, saffron is pungent enough that a little bit goes a long way: The 15 to 20 threads used in a typical paella recipe weigh in at only a very small fraction of a gram.
What else adding… I wish you never will have to make a particular recipe that needs, at the same time, truffle, saffron and aromatic vinegar… unless you doing a mortgage bank.