New Midwest cookbooks with wassail, apple, locavore recipes

RITTENHOUSE INN PHOTO

RITTENHOUSE INN PHOTO

With colder weather comes the inclination to cook more, if for no other reason than to add warmth to the kitchen. This new trio of cookbooks, each associated with a destination to visit, just might add ideas for holiday gift lists or inspiration to your own recipe repertoire.

Lake Superior Port Cities Inc. recently published “The Old Rittenhouse Inn Cookbook: Meals and Memories from the Historic Bayfield B&B” ($24.95), which shares dozens of recipes from the Queen Anne Victorian estate that has been open to overnight guests since 1975.

The Rittenhouse was the state’s first bed and breakfast inn. The Bayfield mansion in 1892 became a summer home for Allen and Mary Fuller; he was a Civil War adjutant general.

Much of the property’s splendor remains today, and as a B&B the Rittenhouse is unusual because it also houses a restaurant and is a food-forward destination all year.

Today, in addition to 12 guest rooms and suites in the Rittenhouse building, innkeepers rent overnight accommodations at Le Chateau (seven guest rooms in a former lumber baron’s home) and the two-bedroom Rittenhouse Cottage.

Besides recipes, the new book is a personable documentation of family history. Author Mark Phillips, son of the original innkeepers (Jerry and Mary Phillips), grew up with the business and provides glimpses of what that was like.

One example: His third-floor boyhood bedroom also was the rehearsal room for the Rittenhouse Singers, local residents whose enthusiastic choral music is an important part of annual Wassail dinner concerts.

These elaborate, pre-Christmas meals are Dec. 3-21 this year, and they reach capacity quickly. One- and two-night lodging packages remain available for most dates. rittenhouseinn.com, 715-779-5111

Here is the recipe for the spiced and spiked punch that is served at these festive dinners. Use a good quality of bourbon, the innkeeper advises. He prefers Knob Creek.

Rittenhouse Wassail Punch
(Serves 10-12)

12 whole cloves
6 whole allspice
12 whole white peppercorns
3 sticks cinnamon
1/2 inch fresh gingerroot, peeled and sliced
1 gallon fresh apple cider
6 ounces cranberry juice
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 ounce (per serving) bourbon
1 whole nutmeg, grated for garnish
Additional cinnamon sticks, for garnish

Wrap the cloves, allspice, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks and gingerroot in cheesecloth and tie with kitchen string. In a large pot, heat the apple cider, cranberry juice, brown sugar and spice bag. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.

For serving, add bourbon to a mug and fill with the punch. Grate fresh nutmeg on the top and add a cinnamon stick. The punch can be refrigerated for several days in a covered container. If you like lots of spice flavors, make this the day before and leave the spice bag in the container overnight in the refrigerator. When you’re ready, just heat and serve.

Order the cookbook at lakesuperior.com or 888-244-5253.

Just across the state line is Royal Oak Farm Orchard, near Harvard, Ill., a 120-acre farm with 16,000 apple trees and a proud Christian attitude. Although the 150-seat, cafeteria-style café has closed for the season, “The Royal Oak Family Cookbook” shares about 200 recipes for comfort foods that are typical of what is served to orchard visitors.

Here’s a recipe that combines two winning flavors into one. Serve it with applesauce, whipped cream and pecans.

Apple Gingerbread Cake
(Serves 8-10)

3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup shortening, margarine or butter
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 cup water
2 eggs
1 cup light molasses
1 cup peeled, diced tart apples

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch fluted tube pan or Bundt pan and set aside. Combine flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, baking soda and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, with an electric mixer on medium, beat shortening for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs and molasses and beat one minute. Add flour mixture and water alternately, beating on low speed until combined. Fold in diced apples.

Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted near center comes out clear. Cool for 30 minutes in pan on wire rack. Remove from pan.

Order the book through the orchard. royaloakfarmorchard.com, 815-648-4141

The bountiful Green City Market in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood is open all year. As of this month, vendors moved indoors to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Center (naturemuseum.org, 773-755-5100) from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. greencitymarket.org, 773-880-1266

This market routinely woos vendors from the Upper Midwest. That includes Potter’s Organic Artisan Crackers, based in Madison, which provides this recipe in “The Green City Market Cookbook” (Agate Publishing, $25). The book is sold through the market; fans include celebrity chefs Rick Bayless and Alice Waters.

Wisconsin Blue Cheese Dip

2/3 cup marscarpone cheese
1/3 cup crumbled blue or Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
Honey, as needed, for drizzling
Organic crackers, any flavor, for serving

In a small bowl, combine the mascarpone and blue cheeses. Mix well.

Spread the cheese mixture into a shallow serving bowl. Top with the pecans. Drizzle lightly with the honey. Refrigerate until reader to serve with the crackers.