From a Michigan Kitchen

From a Michigan Kitchen
Black Star Farm’s Goats. Photo courtesy of Molly Clauhs.

I’m still in a Thanksgiving food coma. Of course I am, Thanksgiving was just last weekend. My timber-framer Uncle procured a turkey from Amish country – about an hour north of his Rockford home. His frequent visits to commission canned goods and purchase of timbers have created friendships with some Amish folks who raise gorgeous (and inexpensive) turkeys. The bird was the centerpiece of a lovely meal that we washed down with Manhattans (my father’s specialty), Pinot Noir and Black Star maple dessert wine.

My parents were visiting the east coast, so we headed up north for a weekend of wine tasting and exploring. This was my second weekend in a row setting cruise control on 131 and arriving in northern paradise just a couple hours later (I should admit that I’m always a passenger). The first weekend was a surprise trip and I came home with an engagement ring and a couple cases of surprisingly delicious white wines. This past weekend was a family affair and I took a closer look at the food and wine Up North, and was pleasantly surprised at the presence of locally sourced fare, even as the snow was falling.

Michigan is second only to California in diversity of products. For locavores, it can be depressing this time of year as we don’t have California’s year-round  mild and vaired climate that produces a steady supply of homegrown food. I cut back my tomatoes months ago and keep kicking myself that my pantry isn’t stocked with preserved fruits and vegetables. Look a little deeper, however, and you’ll see that the good stuff is still there for your enjoyment and good health.

it’s easy to overload on Michigan’s homegrown and handcrafted food and beverages – even in late fall. The leaves have fallen, storm windows are put up and Christmas lights are twinkling, but good, local food is still readily available. The Fulton Street Farmers Market in Grand Rapids is open year round. A band of dedicated vendors brave the weather week in, week out. Stop by the market or a beverage store (Art of the Table is my favorite) and you’ll find:

Tandem Ciders on Leelanau Peninsula. Photo courtesy of Molly Clauhs.

Wine, Cider, Beer & Spirits
I love living in a state that has such a focus on producing a wide spectrum of alcoholic beverages. Don’t take this for granted! (I hail from PA where Yuengling is our local brew, beer has to be purchased at bars or beverage shops, and all wine stores are state-owned.) I currently have a growler of Tandem Ciders Smackintosh cider in my fridge that is world-class.

A local cheese on fresh baked bread will make you feel centered again, especially if you put away a batch of jam this summer. Local milk, eggs and cheese are generally readily available. I currently have Leelanau Raclette, Dancing Goat Chevre and MOO-ville cheddar on hand.

Poultry & Meat
Local meat has a significantly higher price tag than what we buy at the grocery store, but it is simply a higher quality, tastier product. Learn to break down a chicken and use every bit. Eat smaller portions. Purchasing local protein is a fantastic way to keep a large part of your food dollar local.

Storage Vegetables & Greens
Fill a basket with potatoes, hardy greens like kale and bok choy, carrots, beets, onions and garlic and you might just feel energized at the possibilities.

Roadside stand selling Michigan maple syrup. Photo courtesy of Molly Clauhs.

I am a regular at Nantucket Baking Co. in Grand Rapids, where I indulge on breads and sweets year round. It’s a comfort to have bread without preservatives and additives, plus I’m supporting a local business. I purchased a still-warm loaf of wheat bread at Pleasanton Bakery in Traverse City that was consumed within 24 hours.

Coffee & Tea
Yes, yes I know coffee isn’t grown in Michigan. BUT, as we all know, there are fantastic sources for procuring locally roasted coffees (I’m subscribed to a monthly delivery from Rowster Coffee in GR) plus Global Infusion, which is another excellent place to purchase responsibly-sourced teas.

The truth is, when we aren’t sourcing locally and characterizing our food choices with awareness and pride, it’s all too easy to open the floodgates and return to a diet flush with commodity, processed products. Don’t let seasonality get you down. Wait for strawberries, asparagus and peas, they will taste amazing and it will feel like Christmas in June when they appear at farmers markets. In the meantime, enjoy hearty winter foods that stick to the bones and rely on products available year-round.

Traveling around Michigan the past couple weeks reminded me of the abundance that we can still access. I saw it on restaurant menus, drank it in tasting rooms, smelled it in a toasty bakery and tasted it again and again from the Thanksgiving turkey to salad greens.

Enjoy the holiday season and take time to see the blessings and pleasure in each meal.

Molly Clauhs, Contributing Writer