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. 

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. 

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!


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!

Five Things You Need to Know About Michigan Morel Mushrooms

5thingsMay is Morel Season in Michigan … usually that is. In 2012, however, morel season has arrived early (click for photo evidence). Michigan’s morels are out there, so here’s a classic feature on Michigan morels to help you get out and find the mighty morchella!!

The Elusive Black Morel by cedarkayak
The Elusive Black Morel
by cedarkayak

1 Morechella, true morels, are a honeycomb-like mushroom that  are prized by chefs the world over. The Great Morel Homepage can take you a lot deeper with links about the science of  these woodland delicacies. If you’re looking for information about hunting morels this feature on has some great tips to help you hunt and to be a good citizen of Morel Nation. Ed Vielmetti in Ann Arbor has a bunch more thoughts on the hunt. has tons of information as well about where to look, saying: Black morel habitats includes Ash, Fruit and Aspen trees (also known as: Popple or Poplar) or even lawns and fields.White (yellow) morels especially like Elm, Fruit trees, and Maple. And in southern Michigan, the Tulip Poplar tree is a good host.

2 When you find morels, you’re going to want to cook them. The easiest tip is to soak them and rinse very well – they do have a lot of “grit” – and then fry them in butter. You can of course do a lot more with them. Check that article and the recipes page at The Great Morel (one suggests a Michigan Dry Riesling pairing – we couldn’t agree more!). Even if you don’t find morels, you can buy them from Michigan-based Earthy Delights. On their recipes page they offer several ideas including Spring Wild Harvest Ragout With Fiddlehead Greens & Morels!

My favorite part of Spring by Apocaplops
My favorite part of Spring by Apocaplops

3 Michigan loves its morels and we have two great morel celebrations. The annual Mesick Morel Festival is slated for May 11-13, 2012. Follow their Schroomers Log for updates on who’s finding what and where. The second is the National Morel Mushroom Festival in Boyne City that takes place May 17-20, 2012. When you click that link you’ll hear the strains of the Mushroomers Waltz, and when you visit the festival, you’ll have a chance to taste an incredible array of morel dishes and enjoy an experience much like  Absolute Michigan did a few of years ago.

Although morels are early, Morelfest committee member Scott MacKenzie assures us that restaurants & chefs are storing up plenty for their featured Taste of Morels event. Scott says he’s starting to find black morels and adds “Who knows what Mother Nature has in store. The gal I was hunting with found one gray. If it stays cold, it may turn out just perfect. One thing is for sure: if you come up, I guarantee you’ll have a good time! Thornetta Davis is performing and there’s all kinds of fun to be found.”

4 Finding morels means knowing what they look like, and being able to distinguish them from poisonous false morels. You can see a whole bunch in the Michigan Morel Slideshow from the  Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr, including one from Sunday posted by the Honor Motel.  Michigan in Pictures has a bagful of photos and articles about morels as well. If you want to share YOUR photos with us, add them to the Absolute Michigan pool on Flickr or post them to the Absolute Michigan Facebook!

5 There’s a bunch of great videos out there on morels including a sweet time lapse of a morel growing over 8 days by Ken Scott, a nice tour of the Michigan woods in morel season, one with Zachary Trost and morel expert Tom Nauman and a very nice primer to morel hunting from Country Living. I have to go with my buddy Tony Williams and the Boyne City Morel Fest – enjoy and good hunting!!

Fat Tuesday is Paczki Day in Michigan

A couple of years ago, comedian and commentator Mo Rocca traveled to Hamtramck for CBS Sunday Morning to get this report on Pazcki Day, but as we know, sugary treats never go out of style!

Hamtramck’s Paczcki Day page (now offline but available through had all kinds of lore and legend on these traditional Polish doughnuts which are also known as Bismarcks or plain old jelly doughnuts:

Paczki is the plural form of the word paczek in Polish, but many English speakers use paczki as singular and paczkis as plural. A paczek is a deep-fried piece of dough shaped into a flattened sphere and filled with Plums or other sweet filling…

Paczki have been known in Poland at least since the Middle Ages. Jadrzej Kitowicz has described that during the reign of the August III under influence of French cooks who came to Poland at that time, paczki dough baked in Poland has been improved, so that paczki became lighter, spongier, and more resilient Paczki Day Traditionally, the reason for making paczki has been to use up all the lard, sugar and fruit in the house, which are forbidden during Lent.

paczki in AmericaI guess that if you’re facing 40 days without sugar & fruit, a plateful of paczki makes a lot more sense. Dig in with the links below!

Celebrate Valentine’s Day the Michigan Way

Here’s a whole ton of Valentine’s Day ideas. YOU probably have some other ideas – share them in the comments or right here or on our Facebook!

Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart. - Confucius by Church of One
Wheresoever you go,
go with all your heart. – Confucius
by Church of One

Next Tuesday, February 14th is Valentine’s Day – a day for lovers, sweethearts, paramours … and chocoholics. Like it, love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is an annual tradition that will see over one billion valentines will be given out worldwide, 85% of those by women. However you choose to celebrate the holiday, consider making it a little more special with something from Michigan.

There’s plenty of delicious Valentine’s Day recipes from Pure Michigan at The Food Network also offers up some culinary advice for Valentine’s Day complete with a full Valentine’s menu. Lansing’s WLNS CBS channel 6 website has a complete Valentine Day section on their website where you can learn all kinds of useful information including (who knew?) that chocolate is an aphrodisiac. The folks at the Grand Rapids Press and have some tips for Valentine’s Day cooking with kids.

We have to remind you that February is National Cherry Month and cherries make a great and healthy way to bring the distinctive Valentine red into your celebrations. An affordable and tasty non-alcoholic beverage are cherry sparklers made with Michigan cherry juice and sparkling water.

On the adult beverage front, a whopping 95% of wine drinkers agree that wine makes a perfect gift, and you can’t go wrong with a  Michigan wine or  Michigan beer! The folks at MyNorth offer a listing of Northern Michigan sparkling wines to set the tone for your celebration. While bubbles are big, beers can also be appreciated. Dianna at Promote Michigan has let us in on her Love Affair with Michigan Beer, which features all kinds of special and regular brews from Michigan’s brewmasters. You can stay awake Ann Arbor Brewing’s Espresso Love featuring coffee, cozy up to the Decadent Dark Chocolate Ale from Atwater Brewing or go a little lighter with Dragonmead’s Redwing Raspberry Wheat. This is a great feature so definitely check it out!

Ginny, You Are My Shining Star by docksidepress
Ginny, You Are My Shining Star by docksidepress

If you’re left scratching your head over what to buy him or her, check out the ‘Valentine’s Day Gift Giving Guide‘ from  Don’t forget the furry friends in your life either! You can be a homeless pets Valentine when WXYZ-TV 7 in Detroit hosts their Annual Valentine’s Day Telethon to support the Michigan Humane Society. Tune in or donate online with the Michigan Humane Society!

If that’s not enough and you really want to get your Valentine on, check out Absolute Michigan keyword Valentine for food & gift ideas.

For a little eye candy, you should check out the Valentine slideshow from the Absolute Michigan flickr pool!

We also have a large number of Michigan web sites to check out (though if we’re missing one, be sure to add a link to it).

Flowers & Florists - say it with flowers

Chocolate - there’s also candy companies

Candles - lighting the way for romance for thousands of years

Jewelry -silver & gold, platinum and bronze, pick your favorite.

Wow, you actually made it to the end of this post – don’t forget to buy yourself a little something for Valentines Day!

Michigan Blackberries: Ready to Pick!

Enjoy a cup of Summer~ by Blondieyooper
Enjoy a cup of Summer~ by Blondieyooper

Taste the Local Difference says that blackberries are ready to pick! Blackberries are very high in Vitamin C and K and manganese and a good source of Vitamin E, folate, magnesium, potassium, and copper. They have one of the highest levels of the antioxidant antocyanin, which may help fight cancer, aging, and improve vision. Some fun facts:

  • Blackberries are also known as “black caps”
  • Blackberry tea was considered a cure for dysentery during the Civil War
  • The blackberry leaf was used as a hair dye
  • Blackberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow

In addition to great recipes for Wild Greens and Chevre in a Blackberry Cider Vinaigrette and Blackberries With Mint Tea Syrup And Yogurt, they have a really easy and tasty looking recipe for…

Blackberry and Peach Buttermilk Cobbler

blackberries by PepOmint
blackberries by PepOmint

1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp. cornstarch
3/4 lb. peaches, pitted and thickly sliced
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter cut into large pieces
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
6-oz blackberries

Preheat oven to 375 °F. In a medium bowl whisk together maple syrup and cornstarch then add peaches and toss to coat; set aside. Put butter into an 8-inch round or square glass or metal cake pan. Heat in oven just until butter is melted, 2 to 3 minutes, then remove and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt then stir in buttermilk and mix until just combined to make a thick batter. Pour into pan over melted butter without stirring. Sprinkle reserved peach mixture and blackberries evenly over top of batter and bake until golden and bubbly, 50 to 55 minutes.

Taste the Local Difference encourages you to Spend 10

local-difference-2011Absolute Michigan sponsor and local food partner Taste the Local Difference has released their 2011 Local Food Guide. The pocket-sized guide is packed with information about more than 300 businesses that feature local food: local farms, wineries, breweries, distilleries, farmers markets and retail businesses and food artisans in the 10-county region stretching from Manistee to the Mackinac Bridge.

You can download the guide as a PDF or pick it up at farms, markets and other places that feature local food across Northwest Michigan. A highlight is their Spend 10 Local Dollars Campaign, which encourages people to make a pledge to spend $10 weekly on local food products. Taste the Local Difference project director Janice Benson says:

“The guide helps people find local food, and combining that with a commitment by families to spend at least $10 each week on local food will significantly boost our local economy. We have a lot of great produce throughout the summertime, but we also have meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, beverages, and much more that is available to us all year long.”

DoF Asparagus by RichardDemingPhotography
DoF Asparagus by RichardDemingPhotography

You can get all the details and  make the pledge, search farm markets & businesses for all kinds of products, view tasty recipes and more at Try some of these ways to make a difference in your community with $10 or more a week!

  • Buying local meat, fish, eggs, and produce from your local grocer, restaurant, or farmer.
  • Ordering a glass of local wine, cider, or other beverage that includes locally grown items at dinner.
  • Ordering a menu item that includes locally grown items at a restaurant.
  • Becoming a member of a CSA farm.
  • Ordering food for office lunches and parties that includes locally grown items.
  • Purchasing locally grown food products for holiday gifts and entertaining. (Jams, honeys, cheeses, dried cherry mix, salsas, etc.)
  • Buying local cream for your daily coffees and local teas that include locally grown herbs and fruit.

We’ll add one more – check out Absolute Michigan’s Michigan Grown section and search for all kinds of great Michigan products that can help you help your neighbors!