EGG HARBOR CITY _ The hottest thing this week at the Egg Harbor City Historical Society might just be the organization’s newest cookbook that offers tasty recipes and honors the community’s wine industry heritage.
“The Wine City Cookbook” features 150 entries submitted by society members who live across the county, said Roy Weiler Sr., a local author, history buff and society member.
Most of the recipes involve the use of wine, he said.
“Everybody knows about Renault Winery, but few realize that Egg Harbor City had more than 30 wineries at one time,” he said
Egg Harbor City traces its roots to a time when German settlers believed its location in the middle of prime farmland would lead to the birth to a “city.” They hoped it would stretch from the Mullica River to the present-day railroad tracks on the city’s south side.
“It’s the sandy soil along with an ample water supply that made it perfect for farming,” he said.
But the sandy soil also gave root to a wine industry as well.
“The German settlers always made their own wine and their own beer,” he said. “But once they discovered how the sandy soil was perfect for growing wines, it was natural that wineries would spring up across the city.”
Most of the wineries were the size of the present-day Egg Harbor City Roundhouse Museum on a farm plot of five acres, he said.
“But that all changed when Prohibition took place,” he said.
Renault Winery survived Prohibition because it sold white and red tonic with labels that warned the tonic would turn to wine if refrigerated, Weiler said.
“That’s how they got around that,” he said.
Though the wineries are gone, wine as an ingredient to drink and use in cooking lives on in many households across the city.
Weiler hoped to capture the best of those recipes in a book to be used as a fundraiser for the society.
Recipe books make for great gifts, he said.
“You can give a bottle of wine or you can give a cookbook,” he said. “Which is better?”
Weiler recruited recipes and organized the Historical Society’s first cookbook that was published in 2004 and went to four printings.
He backed this year’s version as well, but wanted to pay homage to the city’s wine history as well as create a fundraiser.
Weiler spent a month knocking on doors, making phone calls and asking for submissions to included in the book earlier this spring. Then he typed them into a computer and sent them off to the printer. The first edition went on sale during the Historical Society’s August meeting.
Similar to most cookbooks, the “Wine City Cookbook” features recipes divided into categories that include appetizers and beverages, soups and salads, vegetables and side dishes, main dishes, breads and rolls, desserts, cookies and candy.
“There aren’t too many bread recipes that call for wine, so not every recipe involves wine,” he said.
But two local favorite recipes are among the many that do, he said.
“Renault Winery was kind enough to allow us to use two of their signature recipes,” he said.
You’ll find Renault Winery’s Blueberry Champagne Punch on Page 3 and Blueberry Champagne Pancakes on Page 63.
Cookbooks have long made for good fundraiser because of their universal appeal.
“I love recipe books,” Weiler said. “A lot of time I get them just to read the recipes but I always end up eating something.”
James Weisbecker of Egg Harbor City offers an easy Onion Sticks recipe that combines onion soup mix, wine and cheese on toasted bread. You’ll find it on Page 6.
Historical Society member Jeanette M. Ricci of Egg Harbor City submitted a tasty Beef and Vegetable Soup along with a Split Pea and Ham Soup recipe. They are found on Page 7. Ricci submitted many recipes sprinkled throughout the book.
City Councilwoman Hazel Mueller submitted an Easy Baked Acorn Squash recipe that is on Page 15.
There’s even an entry from the Peach Pilgrim, a Nutloaf/Vegetable Meatloaf on Page 25.
Weiler’s favorite is Naked Peas, a recipe he submitted and printed on Page 14. The instructions call for two pounds of fresh peas to be steamed, cooled and then pinched to remove the skin. Then the peas are sauteéd in butter and white wine and served as a side dish.
“The Wine City Cookbook” is available for $9 from the Egg Harbor City Historical Society’s Roundhouse Museum, 533 London Ave., Egg Harbor City; Almost Heaven, 215 Philadelphia Ave. or by calling (609) 965-0680.
The cookbook is also available at Renault Winery for $14.95.
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