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Buying Local for Your Thanksgiving Feast

by Lisa Diggs

If you’re going to find yourself in a grocery store buying food to entertain family and friends this month, you are certainly not alone. Most of us tend to eat more during the holiday season, so it stands to reason more money will be spent on food and beverages. An upside to all of that indulgence is that we can give our local economy a boost if we make a conscientious effort to buy Michigan products.

At this time of year, with less fresh produce available, there may be a temptation to stop reading labels or revert to national brands to fill our tables, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Everything from turkey to potatoes, cranberries, onions, beans, pumpkins, squash, milk, cheese, beer, wine and so much more can be found from Michigan companies.

Our Grocery Guide is a great resource to save time identifying local options. The categories are designed to replicate common grocery aisles. Another helpful hint is that many stores are now using shelf tags or stickers to identify Michigan-made products. Keep an eye out for those in your favorite market or ask an employee how they identify those products for customers if it isn’t obvious. Fortunately some products themselves now ship with Made in Michigan on their packaging to make them easier to spot. 

Let’s talk turkey. Michigan has quite a few turkey farms where consumers can purchase fresh turkey. Sometimes those orders have to be placed well in advance, so you can also look for turkey products from the Michigan Turkey Producers, a co-op of family-owned turkey farms throughout the state.

Ham is another popular alternative as a main course. You can find many local brands of ham including Winter's, Dearborn, and Kowalski. Those companies, along with Koegel's and Alexander and Hornung also produce a variety of meats popular as entrees, cold cuts, or as appetizers.

You can't go wrong complementing your main course with locally grown potatoes. This state produces more than 700,000 tons of potatoes annually. The most common varieties to find in your local market are white, russet, and yellow. Actually, the majority of Michigan's  potato crop becomes tasty chips, so serving up some local favorites like Better Made, Great Lakes, or Downey is another way of supporting local farmers.

Homegrown cranberries are becoming surprisingly easy to find in the Great Lakes State. The Michigan Cranberry Company, formed on an abandoned peat mining operation near Lake Huron in Cheboygan County, is the largest cranberry marsh in Michigan, accounting for three-fourths of the state’s crop. They harvest over 3 million pounds of cranberries!

This time of year, also means the availability of several winter squash like acorn, butternut, buttercup, hubbard, and spaghetti. On the other hand, if you prefer to opt for canned goods, Eden Foods is an excellent resource. The company offers nearly every bean imaginable, as well as tomatoes, pasta, sauerkraut, fruit juice concentrate, spices, and much more.

Topping off a holiday feast is a joy in and of itself. If you like to bake, there are awesome ingredients readily available. Fresh apples and pumpkins make spectacular pies. You can also make use of local brands like Big Chief and Pioneer sugars, Jiffy mixes, and fresh dairy products from companies such as Calder or Guernsey.

If you'd rather make a call than bake a pie, order up amazing desserts from Achatz or Grand Traverse pie companies. You also can’t go wrong with anything baked by the talented folks at Zingerman's,  or a good old fashioned Sanders Bumpy Cake.

Sanders is of course known for their candy too, which is always great to have on hand, or to bring to someone else’s home if you’re the guest. Fudge and chocolate delights from Kilwins are sure to be a hit, or amuse and delight your family with some Michi-gummies from Shurm's Candy.

Sometimes it’s all about serving snacks instead of a full meal. Country Home Creations makes tremendous lots of dip mixes that can make you look like a whiz in the kitchen just be adding cream cheese or sour cream. La Fiesta tortilla chips pair beautifully with Little Diablo Salsa. A nice big bowl of pistachios from Germack is always a hit too.

No matter what you’re serving, your guests will want to wash it down with a tasty beverage. Before you reach for a national soda brand, consider pop from Faygo or keep some Absopure or Boxed Water on hand.

When it comes to stocking the bar, you can find numerous outstanding beer choices. Some of the more widely available brands include Short's, Bell's, Founders, Arcadia, and Atwater. If brunch is more your holiday style, check out McClure’s or Brewt's bloody mary mix with a splash of vodka from Valentine or Grand Traverse Distillery. Ugly Dog even makes a bacon-infused vodka, which could really bring a Bloody Mary to a whole new level.

Last, but not, least, how about a delicious Michigan wine to pair with your bevy of fine foods? There are so many wineries from which to choose, I can't possibly name them all, but here again are a few of the more commonly found brands in local markets: St. Julian, Tabor Hill, Chateau Grand Traverse, L. Mawby, Black Star Farms, and Leelanau Cellars.

Have a great time with your family and friends this season and treat them to some of Michigan’s finest. It’s a spectacular opportunity to revisit old traditions and to start some new ones.


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