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How to Add More Local Flavor to Your Thanksgiving Table

by Lisa Diggs

Few holidays place as much emphasis on food as Thanksgiving. Perhaps it’s because the very first gathering upon which the holiday is based was celebrated by people with vast differences sharing in a single feast to acknowledge a good harvest.

Today, while the side dishes vary drastically, most families tend to agree that it’s not Thanksgiving without a turkey, save for vegetarians of course. In fact, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, Americans consume approximately 51 million turkeys for Thanksgiving. Even more remarkable is that collectively we spend $2,375,000,000 on Thanksgiving food!  

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.

The Buy Michigan Now Grocery Guide is a great resource to save time identifying local options.  You can also find it as part of our app in Google Play or iTunes. The categories are designed to replicate common grocery aisles. 

Since the bird seems to be the key ingredient in the feast, let’s talk turkey.  Michigan has quite a few turkey farms where consumers can purchase fresh turkey. Most tend to sell out quickly so place your order early.

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, Uncle Rays, Great Lakes or Downey is another way of supporting local farmers. Besides they'll go great with that late night turkey sandwich.

Homegrown cranberries are a relatively new opportunity in the Great Lakes State. While a little bit harder to find, some markets have begun to carry them. 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. (Check out our previous article for tips on buying, storing and preparing) If winter squash doesn’t make your family’s taste buds tingle, they also make for great holiday décor.  

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 tasty 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, Bareman's, and Guernsey.

If you'd rather make a call than bake a pie, order up amazing desserts from Achatz or Grand Traverse pie companies, or nearly anything baked by the fine folks at Zingerman's. As for my family, it wouldn’t be a holiday without 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.  Kilwin’s, Truan’s, and Kelly’s Karamels make for delicious options as well.

Sometimes it’s all about serving snacks instead of a full meal.  Spice things up with salsa from Little Diablo or munch on some pita chips and hommous from Steve’s Backroom. A nice big bowl of pistachios from Germack is always a hit.

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 water on hand.

If your family prefers a little wine with their meal, Michigan has abundant resources. Sparkling wines have become an increasingly popular addition to the holiday, and L. Mawby offers a delightful selection. Experts say Riesling is an excellent complement to most Thanksgiving menus, and luckily it’s a style produced by most local wineries. Pinot Grigio, and for red fans Pinot Noir, are other excellent options. Try Chateau Grand Traverse, Bowers Harbor, 2 Lads, or Verterra for fine examples of each.

If football is on the menu then brews may well be too. Our state has so many excellent options for beer lovers, even some with pumpkin for this time of year. In nearly every community you can find some from Atwater, Bells, Founders, Frankenmuth, or Shorts.

If every Michigan household shifted just ten more dollars of our Thanksgiving spending to Michigan brands, collectively we would give our state’s economy a boost of approximately $38 million! That’s a Thanksgiving bounty for which we could all be grateful.

What's on your shopping list?

User Comments (2)

Glad to see L.Mawby and Bowers on here for the wine selection. My husband and I really enjoy the flavors of Good Harbor Vineyards and Pentamore Winery too. And of course...can't go wrong with Shorts beers. Highly recommend stopping by the cool brewery in Bellaire!
My wife and I can speak to plenty of first-hand experience with pies from the Grand Traverse Pie Company -- nothing short of delicious.

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