You’ve heard of turning water into wine. But what can you turn wine into once the bottle is past its prime? Plenty, say chefs abroad who’ve been turning dregs into delicious vinegars, marinades, even sorbets. “Any good kitchen avoids wastage,” points out Clark Frasier, co-founder of Arrows Restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine.
Restaurants end up with wine leftovers for a number of reasons, particularly if they sell a lot of it by the glass, something that’s become more popular as consumers have become cautious about spending. But that trend can leave restaurants with plenty of wine at the bottom of the bottle. At the Camino restaurant in Oakland, chef-owner Russell Moore uses leftover wine to make his own red wine vinegar and recently started making a white wine vinegar, as well. He hasn’t bought vinegar since Camino opened three years ago, though demand has become so high, he’s planning on starting up a third barrel. Moore, who worked for 20 years for Alice Water’s famous Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, has been making his own vinegar for years. The process is fairly simple, he says.To start, you need "live" vinegar, the clear looking stuff that can form at the bottom of a bottle which actually is the "good" bacteria that turns alcohol into vinegar and is known as a mother. This can be purchased. Moore got his when he saw a bottle of vinegar on his counter one day and realised it had produced a mother.
He makes his vinegar in small oak barrels stashed on a shelf in the Camino kitchen. Holes bored in the barrels allow air to pass over the vinegar’s surface. He feeds it the leftover wine and a little water if necessary. And that’s it. The result is better than most of the commercially available vinegars, he says, and way less expensive, something that fits well into the aesthetics of Camino’s no-waste policy.
At Salumeria Rossi in the New York City, the rule is simple, says chef Cesare Casella. If there are two glasses left in a bottle of wine, it gets preserved for the next day. “If we have one glass left, it goes to the kitchen.” He uses the leftover wine to make marinades for dishes like pork loin or lamb shanks.
For Frasier, wine recycling takes an entirely different turn. He uses leftover Champagne and sweet wines to create granitas and sorbets. Arrows, which Frasier runs with co-owner and chef Mark Gaier, has had a by-the-glass wine program since it opened more than 20 years ago, so they’re used to dealing with leftovers.
How chefs utilise leftover wine
Wines do not lose their flavour even when they turn corky (the cork leaves its residue in it), or has sediments in it. A common use is that of deglazing meat and vegetables. Wine also comes handy as a marinade. Chef Tarun Khanna of The Metropolitan says, “Wine has a tenderising as well as flavouring quality. We use leftover wine to marinate lamb.”
Leftover red wine is also used for soaking dry fruits such as apricots and raisins. “When used in cakes and pastries, it lends a very good aroma and flavour. We also soak slices of pineapple and orange in red wine to be used as cake toppings,” says chef Devraj Halder of Surya. Chefs also use leftover white wine for barbecuing fish and meat. “We spray white wine on fish or meat while it's being grilled,” says chef Halder.
Wine also preps up cold soups. “We use red and white wine for flavouring a pineapple, strawberry, carrot or a tomato soup," says chef Mohinder Khariya of Kothi Mem. “Wines also work as a great salad dressing. We use leftover red wine to add some flavour and colour to fresh vegetable salads," says chef Khariya.
AP (With inputs from Shara Ashraf)