Just as wisdom is earned and increases with age, certain foods gain flavor and nutritional value with age. Let’s take a look at a number of aged foods that fall into this category.
When whiskey and other beverages are stored for extended periods of time in wooden casks, the liquid extracts flavor from the wood. This process is called extraction and adds the complexity and depth of flavor. Due to the amount of chemical changes seen, the longer the maturation period, the more complex and smooth the whiskey will be.
Wine is another type of alcohol that gets better with age. Typically, red wines age best due to the high levels of residual sugar combined with the grapes’ natural acidity. Cabernets are a great example of the creamy texture and complex taste gained through the aging process.
There are five important factors that affect the cheesemaking process: temperature, humidity, foreign mold, bacteria, and time. Cheese is aged for a variety of reasons, including to develop flavor, texture, or color. As cheese ages, it forms lactic acid, which destroys pathogenic bacteria. As a result, it increases the vitamin and probiotic content. Because cheese loses moisture as it ages, it is best used as a topping or garnish. Think of the texture of mozzarella versus Parmesan. Great examples of aged cheeses include cheddar, blue cheese, and gouda.
Traditional balsamic vinegar must be aged for a minimum of 12 years in one of six types of barrels: cherry, mulberry, juniper, oak, ash, or chestnut. The longer it is aged, the more complex and intense the flavor is. Just like how the flavor of whiskey is affected by the wood barrel it is aged in, the same is true for traditional balsamic vinegar. Real vinegar is actually very sweet and the type of wood it is aged in will alter the taste greatly. For example, vinegar aged in juniper wood is peppery, while vinegar aged in cherry wood tastes sweet. For this reason, juniper-aged vinegar pairs well with meats and cherry-aged vinegar is best with salads and sweets.
Food products that are fermented have been left to steep until a chemical breakdown of the sugars and carbs by bacteria, yeast, or other microorganisms occurs. Fermentation adds complex flavors, increases the probiotic content, and can even create new vitamins. It is also a great way to preserve items for a longer period of time. The most well-known examples of fermented products include: kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh, and kimchi. Certain teas can also be fermented and are believed to increase good cholesterol while decreasing bad cholesterol.Schedule a Nutrition Consultation
Written by Sarah Brunner, RDN, CD; Elite Sports Clubs Registered Dietitian
Sarah is certified in food allergies/intolerances and nutritional counseling, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; has a certificate in Dietetics from Mount Mary University; and a BA in Education and Mathematics from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.