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Dear Dr. Vinny,
If salami is cooked or cured in red wine, will it retain alcohol content?
—Tammy H., Neb.
That's a difficult question to answer. Previously, I addressed a question about whether or not a red wine sauce would show up on a Breathalyzer test. In that case, the answer was probably not, as Breathalyzers measure deep lung alcohol. But there’s always a chance that some alcohol will remain in the food, depending on the preparation method, how long it’s cooked and how much heat it is exposed to.
In the case of salami, that’s tough to measure because salami is fermented and then cured, but not necessarily exposed to any heat, which would help the alcohol dissipate. While the USDA has guidelines on alcohol retention in food preparation, these don’t address curing, which typically takes weeks or months. There is some evidence from the agency's research that the alcohol will start to evaporate, but again, it depends on the preparation: how long the curing lasts, how much alcohol is present to begin with, how much of the surface area of the salami is exposed, how humid the storage facility is, and other factors. My USDA contact told me they are simply unable to estimate how much alcohol might be retained in red wine salami.
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