Cooking with Byproducts of Wine
It's Snickerdoodle week! This week I baked a bunch of these pillowy cinnamony treats to share with Allegro folks. While I had to borrow cinnamon from our neighbor Brenda halfway through the project, there was one ingredient which I never have in short supply, thanks to our proximity to the winery: cream of tartar. Since cream of tartar is a byproduct of winemaking, I always have on hand way more than I'd ever need.
Cream of tartar is potassium bitartrate, a powdered form of tartaric acid. When used in cooking, it can be added to whipped cream and egg whites to add structure to the whip (as in meringues). Since I don't tend to make meringues very often, the time when I most often use cream of tartar is in the Snickerdoodles. (I like the Bon Appétit recipe.) Cream of tartar contributes both to the tang in the cookie flavor and to the softer texture, keeping the cookies from getting too crispy while baking.
A winemaking byproduct which I use even more often than cream of tartar is grapeseed oil, made from pressed winegrape seeds. This oil is fairly new to my pantry; I first got it because it was suggested as a good stir-fry oil in a recipe with tofu. It has a very light flavor and a relatively high smoke point. (Here's a short article about the merits of different cooking oils, including grapeseed oil.) Since it's neutral tasting, I also sometimes like to use it in vinaigrettes, as a change from the usual extra virgin olive oil.
My other wine-related pantry staples are, of course, all of the vinegars related to wines: white and red wine vinegars made from fermented and oxidized wine stock, and my favorite balsamics, made in Italy from grape must. White wine vinegar is my go-to for light citrus vinaigrettes, and balsamic reductions make so many things, from vegetables to summer's glorious Caprese salads, simply sing.
So while cooking and dining with wine are wonderful experiences, I've also come to appreciate the little extra ways that wine's influence sneaks its way into the kitchen.