Romans cooked with wine, but you don’t have to
The majority of recipes in Apicius use wine in some form. Don’t let that keep you from trying to cook like a Roman! Wine serves a number of purposes in a recipe, and there are nonalcoholic substitutes that will accomplish the same thing.
Wine can add flavor, sugar, color, or acidity to a dish. It might be used to add moisture or tenderize meat. It will also “deglaze” a pan by releasing those yummy little bits of whatever you sauté that stick to the pan and caramelize. The following recommendations come from “The Best Non-Alcoholic Substitutes for Red & White Wine” at thekitchn.com.
Substitutes for red wine:
Red wine vinegar: This is handy for increasing the acidity of the dish and for deglazing a pan.
Grape, pomegranate, or cranberry juice: These juices add flavor to the dish. They are also slightly acidic, so they will help deglaze the pan. For a stronger effect, add a tablespoon of vinegar per cup of juice as well.
Beef, chicken, or vegetable stock: These will add moisture and flavor. Many Roman recipes call for both wine and stock. Adding a tablespoon of vinegar per cup of stock will boost the flavor.
Substitutes for white wine:
White wine vinegar: This is an excellent substitute because it has many of the same flavor components as white wine. It works well to deglaze the pan, too.
Lemon juice: This produces the tangy flavor that white wine give a dish. Its acidity will deglaze the pan, too. Dilute the lemon juice half and half with water to keep it from being too strong.
White grape juice: This gives both the sweetness that comes from white wine and deglazes the pan. If you want a stronger effect, add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice per cup of grape juice.
Chicken or vegetable stock: These add flavor. You can boost the flavor by adding a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice per cup of stock.
The longer a dish cooks or the higher the temperature, the more alcohol is evaporated since the boiling point of ethanol (regular drinking alcohol) is 78.4 °C or 173 °F at sea level. (It’s even lower at higher altitudes.) For comparison, water boils at 100 °C and 212 °F at sea level. Table wines that are used for cooking usually have between 8 and 14% alcohol with 10-11% being most common, so very little alcohol remains when cooking is completed.