India is in the middle of a culinary and gastronomical explosion. The cosmopolitan lifestyle, globetrotting careers, and social media have resulted in a never before variety in our palates. Ingredients, dishes, and even expectations. Shows like Masterchef, youtube have often emphasized the use of a dash of cooking wine. Weather in marination, toppings, cakes, etc. However, it is almost next to impossible to get an affordable cooking wine in India. The net result is that our tastebuds are deprived of the unique gastronomical experiences. Things that the tv shows and cookbooks talk about. Some people experiment with cider vinegar, rum/vodka, fruit juices but they are second-best substitutes as well. A good cooking wine should not only have the ability to give complex flavors. It should enhance the mouthfeel that your dish needs but is also light on your pocket.

In this series, we will talk about the types of cooking wines. An inexpensive way to DIY your cooking wine. You don’t need to be a cooking from scratch geek to follow this simple recipe for your most elusive ingredients.

Internet will confuse you with more than a dozen cooking wines. In the end you cannot tell the style from the brand name.

There are three major types of cooking wines:

  1.  Rice wine: Which pair well with Asian recipes and marination of those hard chicken & mutton pieces into succulent delights. Try using them with cottage cheese as well.
  2. Sweet wines are best paired with cakes (white wines), icecreams (nutty sweet wines), chocolates (port/fortified wines). Tarts, and other rich creamy fruit-based recipes.
  3. Dry wines: great for fish, sauce, soups, European cooking.

My personal favorite is a Pre spiced dry wines (onion, garlic, ginger, cinnamon). I add 15gm of salt in a bottle of cooking wine and some potassium sorbate. This prevents oxidation of the wine and improves its shelf life once I opened it. It can be used across most sauces and marination. However, if you want to stick to your culinary books then aim for Asian Cuisine. Adding some Saki Koji to steamed rice can produce Rice wine in a week. Sweet wines recipe can be made in 2-3 days. Dry cooking wines take a week to make. Essentially you regulate the sugar to be added and allow the fermentation to finish.

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21 years of experience in Home Brewing and author of Arishtam (India's first homebrew Guide Book).

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