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Cooking with Wine and Wine Vinegar

The differences between wine and wine vinegar are like night and day

It's a mistake many people make, believing that if a recipe calls for wine, vinegar can be used instead. In fact, one should never be substituted for the other. It will seriously affect the flavor of the dish.

After all, wine vinegar is the fermented - or soured - version of wine. You won't be doing a wine-infused recipe any favors by using vinegar instead. It will probably ruin the dish.

You don't need an expensive wine for cooking. Choose a "quality" wine - that is, one you can easily drink and enjoy. The cheapest wine, or one that makes you pucker in distaste, will only become more so after it has reduced a little.

Red wines benefit from a longer cooking time than whites. The longer they simmer, the better the flavors.

Use white wines with light-colored foods and red wines for beef, sauces, and other darker dishes.

It's also important to recognize the differences between sweet and dry wines and how they will affect the food. Most recipes will state specifically which you should use. Simply talk with your wine merchant to be sure you're getting the perfect match.

You can also purchase "cooking" wines. These are not recommended by professional chefs or many home cooks. They contained additives including a good dose of salt for preservation. They do have their uses, however. Convenience - especially if you choose not to make a trip to the liquor store. They will last a very long time, which means you don't have to worry about using up the entire bottle within a few days after opening.

With a cooking wine, the flavoring may not be as true as a wine. You should also reduce or eliminate the required salt in a recipe to compensate for the abundance of it in the cooking wine.

Red and white wine vinegars follow the same rules. Good quality and use with like-colored foods. If you purchase a cheap vinegar, that probably means the wine it came from was also cheap - that could mean a sacrifice in good taste.

Both wines and vinegars are good for deglazing. It's also fine to experiment with quantities, but always start small. Use just a little and let it simmer for a few minutes before taste-testing. This gives the sauce or other dish time to let the real flavors incorporate.

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