Is there a rule for replacing alcohol in recipes? Can I leave it out completely?
It's generally best to keep the ratio of liquid and the level of acidity the same or similar to those originally required in the recipe. Use the following suggestions as a guide. In savoury dishes, replace each cup (250 ml) of wine called for with 7/8 cup (220 ml) beef, vegetable or chicken broth or apple or grape juice and, 2 tablespoons (30 ml) fresh lemon or vinegar. In desserts, substitute fruit juice plus a couple tablespoons (30 ml) lime juice for wine.
Extracts and essences can be used to simulate liqueurs, but since they're concentrated, use less and make up the remaining liquid with water. For instance, instead of 2 tablespoons (30 ml) orange liqueur, begin with 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) orange extract and add orange juice or water to make 2 tablespoons (30 ml). Or use 1 teaspoon (5 ml) frozen orange juice concentrate and add water. Try substituting vanilla extract for small amounts of brandy; the syrup from bottled cherries for kirsch; strong coffee for Kahlua; brandy, rum or vanilla extracts for cognac or rum. Flavouring extracts are about 35 per cent alcohol and part of this is lost during cooking. Keep this in mind if you must avoid alcohol. You have lots of alternatives.
Reprinted with permission, Food Q & A, Chatelaine Magazine, March 2003.