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Cooking for alcoholics: how do you substitute for wine-based vinegars?

Eminbklyn Jun 30, 2011 10:29 AM

If you're following a total avoidance of alcohol, how do you get around the need for red-wine vinegar, white-wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, etc.? I am planning to make a Spanish sopa de ajo blanco, and can't imagine what to use instead of the sherry vinegar. The only vinegars I can think of that are not derived from something alcoholic are rice vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and balsamic vinegar -- either too bland or too flavorful to substitute for wine vinegars.

Or do you think the vinegars are alcohol-free enough to not cause a problem for an alcoholic?

  1. c
    Chowrin Jun 30, 2011 05:21 PM

    ... never heard of white vinegar? Heinz makes the best. An' it's cheap too!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Chowrin
      sunshine842 Jul 1, 2011 01:41 AM

      but then you'd get a mouthful and harsh and completely miss all the flavors carried in wine-based vinegars.

      It really does make a difference.

      1. re: sunshine842
        Eminbklyn Jul 1, 2011 07:05 AM

        Sunshine, I agree. White vinegar is no substitute for a mellow flavorful wine-based vinegar, unless all you want is an acid edge.

    2. h
      Harters Jun 30, 2011 03:22 PM

      It's never crossed my mind that I'd find vinegar a problem.

      That said, I also cook with alcohol if the recipe calls for it. That's not a problem - it's not drinking what's left in the bottle that's the problem.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Harters
        LorenM Jun 30, 2011 04:47 PM

        The reason we couldn't use alcohol to cook with at the rehab center is that the flavor can be a strong trigger in many alcoholics - not the alcohol per say though there is residual alcohol even after it is cooked down than can trigger a severe reaction to those on Antibuse. It may not be a problem for some who have been dry for years but for someone who is recently sober and having withdrawls and BAD cravings- not a good idea. Come to think of it, we didn't use red wine vinegar either but there was pre-packaged Italian dressing available on the salad bar which may have contained it so it may have been happenstance and I don't recall any rule forbidding it.

        1. re: LorenM
          Eminbklyn Jun 30, 2011 04:55 PM

          Thanks, Loren. I'd never cook with alcohol itself (Coq au vin is definitely off the menu), but do you think the flavor of sherry vinegar would be a trigger?

          1. re: Eminbklyn
            sunshine842 Jun 30, 2011 05:08 PM

            I wouldn't think so -- try it yourself -- compare the flavor of sherry with sherry vinegar -- not much comparison.

            I'm trying hard to not make this sound funny, and I'm failing -- but if vinegar were a viable source of alcohol, there'd be people passed out at the bus stop with pickle juice down their shirts or bottles of vinegar at their side.

            1. re: Eminbklyn
              LorenM Jun 30, 2011 05:09 PM

              It's really an individual thing. I wouldn't think so especially if their drink of choice was something like beer and bourbon and if they are pretty strong in their recovery. Also if there are a bunch of herbs and stuff adding to the flavor but please use your own judgement since you know them as I would hate to see my advice leading to a relapse for someone who is trying to turn their life around. Every person is different but in listening to stories from hundreds of alcoholics, no one has ever mentioned vinegar leading to relapse (much of the time, there is no reason).

        2. s
          Steve Jun 30, 2011 01:08 PM

          I know some folks who are VERY strict when it comes to alcohol avoidance and they are completely unconcerned with consuming red wine vinegar.

          1. woodleyparkhound Jun 30, 2011 12:22 PM

            My brother was very involved in AA for 30 years and used vinegar for cooking. He never perceived it as a problem.

            1. Frosty Melon Jun 30, 2011 11:08 AM

              Don't worry about it. If vinegars were problematic for alcoholics in recovery then eating out at restaurants would basically be impossible. Cooking with wine itself is another matter.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Frosty Melon
                Karl S Jun 30, 2011 11:59 AM


                The best substitute for wine is verjus, but it's hard to find in the US.

                1. re: Frosty Melon
                  jumpingmonk Jun 30, 2011 04:59 PM

                  Actually it would probably mean recovering alcholics couldn't eat, period. Anyone so sensistive to alchol that the residual in a servings worth of vinegar would be a problem would also have to avoild pretty much every other food on earth. Yeast is all around us and when yeast hits a carbohydrate you get alcohol. fruit juice would be a nono (unless it had been boiled the moment it was squeezed and then sealed in a complelely sterile container. And even then, it's have to be a single serving one (unless you were prepared to re-steralize the leftovers every time.). Bread undoubtedly contains alcohol traces (after all, looked at one way, bread dough is just really, really, thick beer). Heck if you were that sensitive, youd probably be at risk from the small quantities of alcohol produced in your own body. It's not really something to worry about.

                2. The Professor Jun 30, 2011 10:37 AM

                  I really don't think that you need to worry about substituting. There may be residual left over from the process of making the vinegar (vinegar starts as a ferment, after all) , but I doubt very much that there is enough left in there (especially in commercially produced wine vinegar) to cause much concern. That, and the fact that you normally would be using comparatively small amounts of the vinegar for flavoring anyway.

                  I'm no expert, but that's my understanding of it.
                  Others are sure to weigh in.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: The Professor
                    LorenM Jun 30, 2011 10:59 AM

                    I cooked in a rehab center for a few months and we were allowed to use vinegar. The things we had to look out for were items that contained alcoholic products themselves, cooked or not and of course poppy seeds (but not for the alcoholics).

                  2. f
                    ferret Jun 30, 2011 10:34 AM

                    Most (all?) vinegars are the result of sugars fermenting to alcohol and then a conversion of the alcohol to acetic acid, so it's not just wine vinegar that has an alcohol phase. However, I'm pretty sure that there's nothing left of the alcohol in the process.

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