When Wine Just Won’t Do

Question: What can be used as a substitute for wine in cooking recipes?

Although I am a tried and true lover of wines, some of my good friends are not.  In fact, some are complete tea-totalers – no alcohol of any kind passes their lips.  I can appreciate that choice as long as they can appreciate mine to imbibe responsibly.  And they do.

This year several of us decided to go in together on an Xmas Eve dinner.  You know, divvy up the dishes and gather together to enjoy a holiday repast.  I won (some might say lost) the coin toss for main dish.  In addition I agreed to make a couple of sides.  After some discussion back and forth among our crew, my contributions turned into a rib roast, braised cabbage and pan roasted shallots.  I had never made any of those before, and I’m not really much of a cook.  Thus, I hit the cooking sites online and found recipes for my dishes that looked like they would be very tasty.  Only problem was that the cabbage recipe called for beer and the gravy for the rib roast called for red wine.

OK, I knew they make those non-alcoholic beers or malt beverages.  So I bought a six-pack of O’Doul’s.  One problem solved!  Now I needed to tackle replacing wine in the gravy ingredients.  And that gave me serious cause for concern till I consulted the internet once again.  As I browsed sites opining on the subject of replacing wine in recipes, I noticed that many sites suggested using juices – grape juice, cranberry juice, pomegranate juice, apple juice (for white wine).  While the sweetness of a juice might not be right for all recipes, I didn’t think it would harm the gravy.  Seeing that folks seemed to have varying opinions on what to use, I decided to go with a juice that would add flavors I enjoy finding in a wine.  Thus, I ended up with cranberry/cherry juice as my substitute for the red wine.

Using the juice definitely changed the prep time.  Given that the wine has alcohol which evaporates fairly quickly, it took my gravy quite a bit longer (about 30 minutes instead of 10) to cook down into an appropriate consistency.  Once it did, though, it was a perfectly good gravy.  In fact, everyone liked the gravy, and my tea-totaling friends in particular couldn’t stop praising it – how flavorful it was and how well it complemented the rib roast.  I know I was pleasantly surprised with the results!  But of course I simply smiled, thanked them, and took another sip from my glass of Petite Sirah.  And so, regarding the question that began this post….

My Answer:  It depends a great deal on what you’re making – everything from vinegar to juice and more

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2 thoughts on “When Wine Just Won’t Do

    • Well, yes, they are committed. As it’s a personal preference on their part, I don’t argue the point. Better to agree on the things we have in common and appreciate our differences. Precisely what made the dinner so much fun – after the fear of burnt rib roast or some other kitchen catastrophe was past. LOL

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