Michigan Grown

Harvesting Michigan Beechnuts

Absolute Michigan is excited to share this article about a tasty treat you can find in the woods right now courtesy of the new eatdrinkTC website from Traverse City, Michigan. The site is dedicated to Traverse City’s exploding culinary scene and has a lot of great features including business listings, cooking classes, specials and great features like this one!

by Laura Herd, eatdrinkTC

Beechnut-in-shellI’ve been eating beechnuts off of the forest floor for as long as I can remember. I like to roast them and eat them on their own as a treat, so this season I collected a few extra beechnuts to bring back to my kitchen. Read on for lots of beech nut facts, videos and a photo gallery and how to prepare a tasty snack!

From the Hiker’s Notebook:

Beechnuts are encased in a woody husk that is covered with spines, each containing  two irregularly triangular shiny brown edible nuts. They are only produced after the beech has reached the age of about 40 years; annual beechnut production ramps up at this point to reach maximum yields after at about the 60 year point. 

Michigan Walleye & Walleye Season

Walleye season opens today in Michigan (May 15 – March 15), so here’s a little bit about this tasty sport fish. The Michigan DNR page on walleye (Sander vitreus) explains that they are the largest member of the perch family:

Walleye Glory Days by UpNorth Memories
Walleye Glory Days by UpNorth Memories

They lack the distinctive vertical bar makings of the yellow perch and have fan-like canine teeth. These battling fish are exciting to catch, delicious to eat and because they feed actively all winter, they provide a fine year-round sport fishery.

…Walleyes are greedy predators. They eat small bass, trout, pike, perch and sunfishes. Prime feeding times are early morning and evening. Although in turbid waters walleyes are active throughout the day. Walleyes often associate with yellow perch, smallmouth bass, northern pike and muskellunge.

In April and May, walleyes spawn over rock shoals. Males mature at age two to four years, females at three to six years. The average walleye caught by anglers is three years old and weighs from one to three pounds. Northern pike and muskellunge prey heavily on walleyes, while yellow perch, smallmouth bass and lake whitefish compete with walleyes for food.

We found a nice list of the top 10 walleye lakes in Michigan. They say that experts believe Holloway Reservoir in Genessee County holds the most walleyes per surface acre of any lake in Michigan. One reason – something you can use when fishing for walleye – is that the movement of the water attracts baitfish which in turn attracts walleye.

If you’re in the Saginaw area this weekend, you can check out the Michigan Walleye Tour tourney on Saginaw Bay. There’s also the Marbleye Classic on the St. Clair River (May 18-20).

If you manage to land any of these tasty fish, you’ll want to cook them up. MyNorth.com has a great recipe for Roasted Lake Michigan Walleye with Fennel – a perfect way to appreciate the delicious flavor of walleye! In closing, here’s a video of fish at the Port Huron Water Intake that opens with a nice walleye!

April is Michigan Wine Month!

Future wine.. by Daylily18
Future wine.. by Daylily18

Governor Rick Snyder has declared April as “Michigan Wine Month” to honor Michigan’s wide selection of quality wines and the wine industry’s significant contribution to the economy. Sales of Michigan wine in the state rose more than 6 percent in 2012, while total wine sales increased just 1 percent. Michigan wine sales have outpaced total wine sales over the past 10 years, doubling Michigan wineries’ market share to 6.5 percent.

The Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council has added 11 new wineries to its roster over the last year — for a total of 101 wineries that support Michigan agriculture by using primarily Michigan grapes and other fruit for their wines. Michigan’s wineries welcome more than 1 million visitors to their tasting rooms each year, and Michigan’s wine and grape industries contribute more than $800 million to the state’s economy annually.

A Very Michigan Thanksgiving

Turkey by Vaughan

Thanksgiving is just around the corner and over a million Michiganians will soon be hitting the road to attend family get-togethers and enjoying annual traditions. To help get ready for the upcoming holiday we have compiled a bunch of informative and entertaining Thanksgiving related links for you to enjoy.

Michigan Cranberries & Cranberry Farming

Thanksgiving is just a week away, so we’re rolling out a classic feature on cranberries! 

Cranberries by argusmaniac
Cranberries by argusmaniac

Although Michigan only has a small number of cranberry farms in the northeast, Upper Peninsula, and the southwestern corner of the state along Lake Michigan totaling about 250 acres – compared to more than 18,000 acres in nation-leading Wisconsin – the state does have all the requirements to grow a cranberry industry. 

Michigan Wine Grape Acreage Growth and the Grand Rapids Wine Festival!

Pour-Over by TerryJohnston
Pour-Over by TerryJohnston

Our winner is Kimberly W. who writes she’s excited to check out Six-One-Six restaurant. Their festival menu looks delicious: Braised Devries Pork Shoulder with Butternut-Chipotle Crema, Salsa Verde, Micro Cilantro and Lime! Six-One-Six is a special favorite of of Absolute Michigan as in addition to their delicious offerings, they have a focus on locally sourcing food & drink!

Before we get to the great news on Michigan’s wine industry, we’d like to give you a chance to meet a lot of the industry leaders with a pair of tickets to the Grand Rapids Wine, Beer & Food Festival good for either Friday or Saturday!

The festival takes place November 8-10 at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids and is not to be missed! It brings together dozens of Michigan wineries, breweries, cideries and restaurants along with wine & food distributors from around the nation and world and a host of acclaimed food & wine experts offering tasting & seminars to create one of Michigan’s best culinary experiences. Click the link or watch the video below for more!

To enter, all you have to do is send an email to giveaway@absolutemichigan.com with your name, a contact phone number and either your favorite Michigan wine, beer or cider OR a restaurant, winery or brewery that you are excited to check out. We’ll draw a winner from the emails we receive tomorrow (Friday) at 11 AM!

Michigan’s wine grape acreage doubled over the past decade, according to a report recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service. While acreage of juice & jelly grapes have remained steady at about 12,000 acres over the past decade, acreage of wine grapes has doubles from 1,300 to 2,650 acres, making Michigan the 5th largest grower of wine grapes in the US. According to the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council, there are 101 commercial wineries producing more than 1.3 million gallons of Michigan wine annually. That number has increased from 32 wineries in 2002 producing 400,000 gallons. For more information about the Michigan wine grape industry, visit the council’s website, www.michiganwines.com.

“This data confirms the steady growth of the wine industry,” said Gordon Wenk, Deputy Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, who also chairs the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council. “Michigan’s wineries are committed to the concept of regional identity by utilizing a high percentage of Michigan-grown fruit in their wines.”

grapes after sunset rain by aimeeern
grapes after sunset rain by aimeeern

Riesling is the most widely planted wine grape, with acreage nearly tripling in the past decade, and Michigan Rieslings and earned more than 20 top awards in 2012 for Riesling wines from bone dry to sweet late harvest & ice wine. It’s more than Riesling though. Cabernet Franc, a hearty, cooler climate red grape akin to the better known Cabernet Sauvignon also tripled in the past decade. Pinot Gris nearly quadrupled and Pinot Noir moved past Chardonnay as the state’s second most planted variety, with acreage increasing 150 percent in the last 10 years.

All in all, more than 40 varieties of wine grapes with at least two acres of production were reported. Traditional European varieties (vinifera) account for two-thirds of Michigan’s wine grape acreage. The balance is mainly comprised of hybrid varieties (crosses between European and native North American varieties). Get the complete results at michiganwines.com/fastfacts!

Here’s a video from last year courtesy our friends at Michigan by the Bottle:

Pumpkinpalooza – All About Michigan Pumpkins

Sincere pumpkin patch by Larry the BikerAbout this photo, Larry the Biker writes “Linus may have found his spot in Bruce Township, Michigan. A farmer told me once that Macomb County, Michigan is one of the largest producers of pumpkins in the United States.”

Kathy Siler of the Michigan Ag Council has a great article entitled In Search of the Great Michigan Pumpkin that notes that US Department of Agriculture’s statistics for 2010 ranked Michigan second in the nation with 7,400 acres of pumpkins planted. She also tells the centuries old legend of Stingy Jack, the Irish cheapskate who gave the name to the Jack-o-lantern and shares a lot information, including a recipe for Pilgrim Pumpkin Pie. While we are a big producer, the Kalamazoo News says that the 2011 pumpkin crop is a little smaller than usual, so today might be a good day to head to your local pumpkin patch!

The best listing we found is at Pumpkin Patches and more. Taste the Local Difference has a nice list of northern Michigan pumpkin farms and notes that in early colonial times, pumpkins were used as an ingredient for the crust of pies, not the filling. We’ll explore that in the Absolute Michigan kitchens and report! Their Pumpkin page has more facts including:

  • Pumpkins are a nutritious, low-fat, low-calorie food.
  • They are high in potassium and Vitamin A and are also a good source of beta-carotene.
  • Pumpkin seeds are rich in magnesium, copper and cholesterol-lowering phytosterols.
  • There are many varieties of pumpkins besides the standard Jack-O-Lantern and pie pumpkins. Some especially fun ones are Jack B. Little miniatures, white pumpkins, Australian Blues, and Atlantic Giants.
  • Pumpkins were once believed to eliminate freckles and were used as a remedy for snakebites.

Click through for more and a slew of great pumpkin recipes including Pumpkin ButterPumpkin Nachos (seriously), Pumpkin Thyme Rigatoni, and Potage au Potiron, a delicious soup made in the pumpkin! Pumpkins aren’t just for eating – some of Michigan’s brewmasters have brewed up some pumpkin ales. Click that link for a list and don’t forget about Jolly Pumpkin and their La Parcela Pumpkin Ale!

Of course the main use of pumpkins at this time of year is carving, and Michigan has some incredible artisans including “Pumpkin Ed” Moody, a specialist in giant pumpkin carving. Click the photo to see some of his work and also to learn about his new project, Karving for Kids that will allow Ed to carve for kids at Children’s Hospitals around the country. You can see another astonishing pumpkin carver in action in the video below!

Much more pumpkiny goodness at Absolute Michigan keyword pumpkin!

As promised, here’s a CBS News video of Michigan master carver Ray Villafane – this guy’s work is jaw-dropping!


Celebrate October in Traverse City w/ Greensky Bluegrass

Our winners have been drawn!!

Char B from Ohio wrote “We love the views, wine, cherries, and hopefully beautiful fall leaves. We are planning on climbing Sleeping Bear Dunes. Can’t wait to get there!” and Cindy P of Traverse City said simply “Michigan is Magnificent” – congratulations!

Absolute Michigan’s headquarters is at the gorgeous The Village at Grand Traverse Commons in Traverse City. This Friday, October 12 from 5-10 PM Porterhouse Productions hosts a celebration of the bounty of Michigan at the October Festival at the Commons with Greensky Bluegrass.

The event features a food truck rally and wines from Black Star Farms, ciders from Left Foot Charley and 19 great seasonal ales including the festival’s Omena Harvest Ale (brewed with 50 pounds of freshly picked hops from Amy and Brian Tennis of New Mission Organic Hops), Filling Station Bayreuth Oktoberfest, Bell’s Best Brown, Arbor Strawberry Blonde, Founders’ All Day IPA & Breakfast Stout, Jolly Pumpkin Weizen Bam, Arcadia Jaw Jacker, Dark Horse Octoberfest and Cheboygan Oktoberfest and North Peak Hooligan! In addition to full meals, the food trucks will be selling tasting portions and all the libations, food & music is 100% Michigan. Even better, 100% of the alcohol sales support the great work of Bay Area Recycling for Charities.

There’s also a Silent Disco with DJ Dominate, glow in the dark LED disc golf, bonfires & heated tents. And speaking of that Michigan music, acts include Lindsey Lou and the Flatbellies, the Joshua Davis Band and Greensky Bluegrass - all Michiganders and all very good. Greensky Bluegrass all hail from Michigan and regularly light up stages across the nation with some of the finest names in bluegrass & music.

Tickets are available online where you can also see a promo video – $20 in advance or $25 day of event. Here’s Greensky Bluegrass absolutely tearing it up with Scott Law. It was a show that also featured May & Seth Bernard and is a treat!

Ready to Pick: Peaches!

PEACHES by waterbug49307
PEACHES by waterbug49307

Peaches are members of the rose family that were first cultivated in China, where the peach was revered as a symbol of longevity. Peaches average only 42 calories and are a good source of potassium, vitamins A & C and low in sodium with no saturated fat. This makes them a healthful snack and a smart, low calorie way to end a meal.

The Michigan Peach Sponsors note that peaches are grown in many counties in the lower peninsula of Michigan, with the major peach production area are found on the west side of the lower half of the lower peninsula along Lake Michigan where the weather conditions are most favorable for fruit bud survival during the winter. Another small production area is on the east side of Michigan next to Lake Erie, Lake St. Claire, and lower Lake Huron.

Don’t miss A Peach of a Man on Absolute Michigan for information about Stanley Johnston, “the Picasso of the Peach” who developed numerous peach varieties including the famous Redhaven peach. See more peach articles & links from Absolute Michigan.

Peach Recipes

Peaches make everything (cereal, yogurt, ice cream…) better! Thanks Taste the Local Difference for the recipes!!

Michigan Strawberries are Ready to Pick!

Ann Arbor June 2009 by RichardDemingPhotography
Ann Arbor June 2009
by RichardDemingPhotography

Ed Vielmetti is our Paul Revere of Michigan strawberries, and they are coming early in 2012. The Ann Arbor area is usually the first in Michigan to see ripe berries, and Ed says that ‘U-Pick’ strawberries are coming this weekend in SE Michigan! Ed advises:

The pick-your-own strawberry season is short. Typically there are only three or four weeks when the berries in the fields are ripe enough to pick, and some years there are only two weekends when they are out in enough quantities where you can count on getting enough to freeze, turn into jam or prepare in quantities at reasonable prices.

Check out the rest of his article for some Ann Arbor area U-picks. A site Ed tipped us off to last year is Real Time Farms. In just a year they have really grown! Head over there to find out if strawberries have made it to your market and an unbelievable bounty of Michigan grown goodness!