Pregnancy is one of the most exciting times in the life of most women. But while it is such a joy to know that you will soon welcome the new addition to your family, pregnancy also means you must make a few compromises. For example, if you are a big fan of adding alcohol to your favorite dishes, it is important to know if it is even safe for you and your baby to do so.
Is mirin safe for pregnancy, then?
It seems that the alcohol content in mirin is somewhat negligible, which means that it can be enjoyed by pregnant women. The alcohol found in mirin is only there to serve as a preservative so that you can continue using it for several months even after opening.
Continue reading below to learn more about mirin and using alcohol in cooking in general during pregnancy.
What is Mirin?
Mirin is a special type of rice wine that lends a remarkable flavor to many Japanese dishes. Thanks to its high sugar content, it creates the ideal balance to the saltiness of soy sauce, which is another classic condiment in Japanese cooking. Meanwhile, the syrupy consistency makes it a primary ingredient in many Japanese glazes like teriyaki sauces.
Mirin contains around 14% alcohol, which is lower in comparison to the alcohol content of sake at 18% to 20%. True mirin, known as hon-mirin, is produced by mixing a distilled rice liquor, cultured rice or koji, and steamed glutinous rice. The mixture is then allowed to ferment anywhere from 2 months up to a few years. The color will be darker and the flavor more intense if it is allowed to age longer. Mirin produced through this method has a rich and complex flavor with tons of umami.
Can You Cook Alcohol Out of Food?
Different methods of cooking also result in varying amounts of leftover alcohol in the food when it is served. You need to remember that alcohol doesn’t get cooked out of food all the time. The truth is that it is rare to remove alcohol completely. Every method and the alcohol content that results from it is as follows:
- Flambé: 75% remaining alcohol with a cooking time of 2 to 3 minutes until the flames die down
- Simmering: 40% remaining alcohol with a cooking time of 15 minutes
- Simmering: 20% remaining alcohol with a cooking time of 1 hour
- Simmering: 10% remaining alcohol with a cooking time of 2 hours
- Rolling or vigorous boil: 10% remaining alcohol with a cooking time of 30 minutes
Now, before these numbers freak you out, don’t forget that you are not often starting with a high percentage of alcohol in the first place and the leftover alcohol gets dispersed all over the dish.
For instance, if you prepared a sauce with 12% ABV wine in it, it will be lessened to a concentration of not over 2 to 2.5% after an hour, with sauce portions that are often small.
Research also revealed that 100ml sauce with an alcohol volume of 2% is equivalent to a small amount of 2ml of alcohol per serving. Researchers also stated that this amount is very insignificant that even pregnant women can handle it.
They also discovered that alcohol evaporates faster if you leave a loose lid on a dish while cooking. Even if it is only a 14% bottle of red wine added to coq au vin, the resulting remaining alcohol in the food is very small to warrant staying away from the dish while pregnant.
Many people are not aware that certain foods have low alcohol levels in them to start with, particularly if they are fermented. Soy sauce, for example, is approximately 2% ABV while orange juice can have about 0.5% dependent on how long it has been open. The trace amounts are often no cause for worry for pregnant women.
It is only understandable and normal for expectant mothers to worry about accidental consumption of alcohol in the food they consume. After all, it is one of the major things they need to avoid. However, experts confirm that pregnant women don’t have to be alarmed if they consume alcohol added to cooked food.
They claim that the small alcohol content that remains in cooked foods, or the amount of alcohol added in certain deserts is never shown to cause Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or increase the risk for Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.
Are Mirin and Rice Vinegar the Same?
Rice vinegar and mirin are both fermented ingredients commonly used in Japanese cuisine. The key difference between rice vinegar and mirin is that mirin has alcohol content and tastes sweet while rice vinegar is acidic or sour without alcohol content or trace amounts of it.
As mentioned earlier, mirin is produced by fermenting shochu or sweet potato alcohol, koji or fermented rice, and steamed mochi rice for 40 to 60 days. On the other hand, rice vinegar is produced by fermenting water, koji, and steamed rice. The process of fermentation allows the sugars found in the rice to turn into alcohol.
Since the fermentation of rice vinegar is longer than that of mirin, it converts alcohol into acid, resulting in the tangy flavor profile of rice vinegar and its lack of alcohol content.
How Do You Use Mirin?
Mirin is mainly used in savory cooking in Japanese cuisine. Mirin and soy sauce are often paired to produce a braising liquid. Japanese also use mirin to remove meaty or fishy smells during the preparation stage of cooking. Using mirin when cooking fish helps the fish hold its shape. It also serves as a component to create various dipping sauces for different Japanese dishes such as tempura, tonkatsu, sashimi, and noodles.
The high sugar content of mirin makes it perfect for creating dressings, marinades, sauces, and glazes. Mirin in Japanese cuisine is used to give a teri, or glaze, to dishes, such as in the case of teriyaki. Mirin can also be mixed with soy sauce and rice vinegar to create a glossy flavorful sauce that can cling to Chinese-style noodles.