how to: save wine for cooking

Over the past year I have shied away from using wine in my cooking simply because I didn’t want to incorporate the cost into the meal. Well after last week’s Spinach Artichoke Pasta and Goulash, I don’t think I can ever make a white or red sauce without wine again. Just a little bit of wine goes a long way toward adding depth and flavor to sauces. The end result is not a “wine” flavor but rather an indescribable richness and tang.

I first heard about freezing wine during an interview with a wine expert on NPR years ago. The idea is certainly controversial and doesn’t sound appealing at first. Although I don’t think I’d freeze leftover wine in plastic bottles for later drinking, as the expert had suggested, I have no qualms about using frozen wine for cooking purposes.

Most methods I read about suggested filling an ice cube tray and then transferring the frozen cubes to a freezer bag or wrapping tightly with plastic. This method just seems like it would invite freezer burn or other miscellaneous flavors because of all of the air exposure. Plus, as some have mentioned, depending on the alcohol content the cubes may not fully freeze. So, I poured the liquid wine straight into plastic freezer bags. This way, only a small air bubble will remain in the top bag, greatly reducing air contact.

freeze wine

I froze my wine in 1/2 cup portions so I only need to thaw as much as needed when making sauces. Generally a sauce will need 1/2 cup to one full cup of wine.

bagging staion

Make sure to clearly label and date the bags before filling them… it’s really hard to write on a bag full of liquid. To help fill the bags without it spilling all over, place the bag inside of a wide mouthed cup or jar and fold the opening over top. Then just pour the wine in, lift it out of the cup, squeeze out as much air as possible and seal.

freeze wine

To keep the wine from leaking out the zipper top, just fold the bag over with all of the wine in the bottom half. The fold in the bag usually keeps the wine far from the other end where the zipper is. Occasionally you’ll find a bag that leaks but I have had great success with freezing liquids in zipper bags. And again, it is the most air tight way to freeze liquids which will help prevent freezer burn and other flavors from messing things up.

If you’ve had experience with freezing wine (good, bad or ugly) feel free to share them in the comments section!

14 Comments

  1. Gila says:

    Getting the air out of freezer bags is really easy: fill your sink with water. Fill your bags with the goods; then, when you’re ready to close them, dip them in the water (slowly, carefully) just to the zipline. Carefully zip them closed, voila: no air! The water outside the bag pushed it all out. Works with everything: steak, soup, wine, rice, fragile items you don’t want to squeeze, veggies….what have you. It’s as good as those vacuum sealers, but cheaper.

  2. Crystal says:

    It’s my first time cooking with wine and – not being a wine drinker myself – I immediately panicked at the thought of my remaining bottle going to .. but then you saved my life with this post – thanks!

  3. Mmmmm…winesicles!

  4. great

  5. IMPRESSIVE!!

  6. Good tip and probably better than the ice cube thing. I too used to avoid cooking with wine but now add it to everything since I make my own win ($2-$6 per bottle). This gives me a) nearly unlimited wine (I have two hundred bottles in my cellar) and b) various size bottles and the equipment to cork up any leftovers.

  7. No point for me to freeze leftover wine, as there never is any! If a recipe calls for 1c. of wine, then oh darn… I guess bf and I are going to have to finish the rest! :D

    Nice to know it can be done IF the need ever arises though. :)

  8. Funny you say that about bags of blood… I’m about to be certified as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist which means I *could* be working in a blood bank with real bags of blood! :P My life is full of irony.

  9. freezing wine makes a lot of sense! i didnt really think about it before but im really intrigued. haha looks like bags of blood tho, kinda halloween-ish huh! :)

  10. What a great idea. Right now I am stuck with a huge bottle of shiraz that no one drank at my Saturday get-together. I’ll definitely give this a try.

    I also just want to say that I LOVE your blog, and it’s been a help and inspiration to me as a Poor Grad Student. I’m posting about you today on my own blog :-)

  11. I don’t generally freeze wine for cooking, but I subscribe to the bottle of dry white vermouth on the counter method of having a splash of wine at the ready. It can fill in for up to half a cup of dry white wine in a risotto, for instance, and makes a handy deglazer any time. Plus, mushrooms really, really like vermouth!

  12. Suzann says:

    To avoid freezer burn, you could use the disposable plastic ice cube tray/bags that you can find in camping stores.

  13. This is a Julia Child’s trick. I keep a bottle of vermouth, different flavor then red wine of course, in my fridge. It will be good for about a year. I use it in most of my soups, braises, roasted vegetables, and more.

  14. I’ve never had to freeze wine. For me cooking with wine is a way to use wine that I’ve been drinking that I’m afraid is going to turn soon. I’m also a big believer in only cooking with wine I want to drink because of how concentrated the flavors get. I love adding some good merlot to pasta sauce to add depth when I’m near the end of a bottle. There are really good bottles coming out now with screw tops because more and more wineries are realizing it’s better for the wine than a traditional cork and a screw top will last several days after being opened. If it’ll be open more than 3 days I use a little wine preserver that replaces the air in a bottle with an inert gas so it stays good for weeks without tasting odd. The preserver is under $10 at my local wine shop and a bottle lasts a long while.

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