The wine was good, but dinner’s over and there’s just a little left in the bottle. What can you do with it?
Keep it. Even a little wine does magic things to your cooking.
1. Make your own wine vinegar. It’s easy. You’ll need a clean glass jar and a bottle of commercial vinegar with the “mother of vinegar” – wisps of original vinegar-making material in it. Organic vinegars work best.
- Pour the bottle of vinegar into your jar. Add any leftover wine to it. You can mix wines if you want, but the vinegar does taste better if you keep separate jars for white and red.
- Cover the jar with cheesecloth or a paper towel. Secure it with a rubber band.
- Store at room temperature, away from any open bottles of wine. You don’t want vinegar bacteria getting into your drink.
- Stir once daily and start tasting after a week. Some vinegar will evaporate, so keep adding leftover wine.
Don’t be startled if a new “mother” starts forming at the bottom of the jar. This is a sign of good health. Once it’s firm, you can pick it out of the jar with tongs and give it away, compost it, or use it to start a fresh supply of vinegar.
- Start using the vinegar when it’s gotten sour enough to suit you.
2. Blend up a wine vinaigrette. Leftover white wine makes an elegant, fresh-tasting salad dressing or sauce for fish, chicken, or vegetables. You’ll need:
1/3 cup white wine
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 2 to 3 lemons)
1 teaspoon honey – if the wine is dry. If using a sweet wine, omit the honey.
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
- Blend the wine, lemon juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Still blending (either with a fork, whisk, or the blender), add the oil, slowly.
- Mix again just before serving.
That’s it. The vinaigrette will keep up to a week refrigerated.
3. Poach pears in wine. This dessert makes a welcome light ending to a rich meal. Use red or rosé wine. Follow this link for the recipe.
4. Marinate beef, chicken, fish, or tofu in wine. Use your judgment; red wine for red meat, white or rosé for chicken, white for fish or tofu. Keep in mind how the color of the wine will affect the look of the finished dish: will you mind if your chicken looks purple?
A simple marinade:
1 cup leftover wine, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 thinly-sliced onion, 1 crushed garlic clove, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, ½ teaspoon ground or freshly-grated ginger, a strip of orange peel as long as your forefinger, 1 bay leaf.
- Lay the raw meat (or fish, or tofu) in the marinade. Refrigerate immediately till you’re ready to cook the dish. Note: Meat, chicken, and tofu may be marinated ½-hour to overnight in the fridge. Fish will “cook” and fall apart if left longer than ½-hour in the marinade.
- Turn the ingredients over half-way into the marinating time so that they will absorb the flavors evenly.
- Remove the marinaded ingredient from the liquid. Now grill, sauté, or roast your dish.
- Don’t throw the marinade liquid out either. You can cook it down in a saucepan till it’s thick and spoon it over the finished dish for yet more flavor.
5. Use leftover wine as part of the liquid in tomato sauce or gravy. The perceptible “winey” flavor will cook out, but the sauce will take on a richness and depth that wasn’t there before. On the other hand, if you stir the wine in just a few minutes before you intend to serve, the the sauce will have a delicious winey top note to harmonize with the deeper, rich notes of cooked vegetables.
6. Freeze your leftover wine.Use sealable bags to store your leftover wine, even quarter-cupfuls, in the freezer. You can then break off however much you think you’ll need, as you need it.
Use up or freeze your leftover wine within a day if it’s been left out, or a week if it’s been re-corked and kept in the fridge. Wine that’s old and tastes unpleasant is only fit to be poured down the drain.
I love the taste of roast-lamb gravy enriched with a last-minute dollop of red wine. My grandmother, who studied the art of sauces at the Cordon Bleu (back in the 1950s), used to make roast lamb with wine gravy – and when I cook it like she did, vivid memories of summertime dinners at Grandma and Grandpa’s house come back to me.