Thanks Be for Michigan’s Bounty — Better Load Up for Another Tough Winter

Bro's TurkeyYesterday, Michael Whitney linked to a flawed Thanksgiving quiz, as it seemed to be missing the correct answer on most questions. My answers, if given a choice, would read:

1: What time do you start eating dinner? A: Around 2, when you start panicking about the Kitties losing and so stress-eat all the bacon off the top of the turkey.

2: How much do you eat during the day leading up to dinner. A: See answer to #1.

3: Do you believe in eating appetizers before dinner? A: See answer to #1 and #2.

6: To baste or not to baste? A: Bacon.

11: What’s your take on turkey? A: Bacon.

An explanation for those of you who aren’t familiar with my family’s tradition: rather than wrestling with brine or basting with whatever one bastes with, we just load the whole thing up with bacon when we put the bird in the oven and pick it off after a few hours, which leaves the bird nicely seasoned and ready to brown. And it’s not even a new thing: my family has been doing this for generations, apparently. Though that fancy weave look in the picture is a newfangled approach my brother used on his turkey last year.

My own personal Thanksgiving tradition is to attempt to eat all Michigan products for Thanksgiving (generally allowing exceptions for citrus and spice, though this year I forgot to get MI-milled flour), and post thanks to some of the ones either you should know about or to whom I am particularly grateful.

The last several years of my tribute to MI posts have focused on the extent crazy weather is already challenging the farmers who bring us our food. While last fall brought a generous harvest, the year before everyone was struggling with drought. This year, farmers seem to be dreading what is expected to be another really cold winter. One of new favorite MI wineries, 2 Lads, made only two wines this year (the Polar Vortex Vintage), preferring not to overharvest given predictions of another harsh winter.  2 Lads Full Back 2Most of West Michigan’s fruit trees survived, though in E MI, one of two fruit farmers I used to buy from lost everything and decided to retire (the other lost their peach harvest for the season). And our meat farmers spent most of last winter concocting up things to feed their cattle (like molasses) to get their metabolism up high enough to stay warm though last year’s frigid temperatures.

We’ll be having 2 Lads Pinot Noir D. Cuvée and Verterra Unoaked Chardonnay (the latter of which we haven’t tried though we’ve become hooked on their cool weather whites). The 2 lads of the name, by the way, are (as several of Michigan’s winemakers are) South Africans and both ruggers, so they’ve named all their wine vessels after rugby positions. My first year of rugby I was a fullback, just like the vat of Pinot Noir in the picture.

Both the turkey and the bacon come from Crane Dance Farm. We’ve been buying most of our meat and eggs — when the hens aren’t taking the winter off, which they did early this year — from Crane Dance Farm since we got to W MI. When my large animal vet father-in-law visited from Ireland, Jill and Mary showed him around the farm so I could convince him that not all American meat is grown in horrible industrial conditions. He came away thinking they’d find the Irish farms he used to work with industrial scale by comparison.

Jerusalem Artichoke 1We’ve been buying many of our veggies from the Ham Family Farm almost as long. Charlie Ham showed up at the market the other day — a sign of winter, since he sends the local kids during the growing season — and it was like a rock star with everyone greeting him.

Two big changes in the Grand Rapids foodie scene this year. First, so many people have grown addicted to Hilhof dairy products that on every Thursday (delivery day) folks scramble to buy up what cream is available from the 3 stores in the neighborhood that carry it. Also, Downtown Market opened last year. Not only do we finally have a great fishmonger now (the Fish Lads), but we stole one of Zingerman’s bakers, who now runs Field and Fire. My bread stuffing came from stale leftovers from the latter.

The big new addition to my Thanksgiving table are my very own Jerusalem artichokes. I’ve been using them in my stuffing for years (because they’re a damn sight easier to work with than chestnuts and have a similar taste and texture). So this spring I threw a few in the ground. Hooboy, I hope I don’t grow to regret this! After chopping down the 10′ plants I discovered I had grown a sink full of the things. Let’s hope my sand storage technique keeps the rest through the winter.

It’s snowing pretty heavily, the sidewalks are icy, but I’m just going to batten down and watch some football.

Thanks to all of you for sharing our work over the last year.

30 replies
  1. scribe says:

    Thank you for all your hard work over the past year, for putting up with my Stiller fandom, and all the other stuff you do.
    I pass on baconing the turkey, preferring instead to roast it low and slow – 300 for 5 hours or so, just like one does with the [in]famous 5-hour duck recipe. Instead, I use the bacon in the filling, bread stuffing to you philistines.
    More later, though we might wind up turning this thread into trash talk – Iggles and Owboys looks like a good game.
    Best to all.

    • emptywheel says:

      Oh, bmaz is supposed to be working on Trash. I gave him today so I could do trash for the all-important Pats-Packers game.

  2. Peterr says:

    I’ve got my turkey smoking on the grill outside, with the snow flurries swirling around. Stuff it with a couple lemons, garlic, and rosemary, then smoke for about 12 minutes a pound.
    Pinot Noir is great with turkey — hope your local boys make a good one.
    I give thanks for Marcy, bmaz, and the rest of the folks who hang out around these parts!
    raising a glass

    • emptywheel says:

      This one is good enough I joined 2 Lads club, because it’s not really available otherwise. THen again, that’s how I got to tour to see the rugby team of wine vats, so it was worth it.

      • Peterr says:

        If you find a local winery you like, joining their wine club is one of the best ways to support them — and also to get the latest news from the winery, if you can’t drop by and chat on a regular basis.

  3. Ed Walker says:

    I’ve finished the cornbread for two kinds of stuffing, smoked oysters for some, roasted Italian Chestnuts and sausage for the rest; two kinds of cranberry sauce, raw with orange, and cooked down; the knives are sharpened, though I’ll do the big carving knife one more time; the giblets are cooking for giblet gravy and the bird is air-drying. The fruit salad is done, the pies are baked, and the champagne and wine and beer and ginger beer are in the refrigerator. Vegetables are coming with guests, and there’s a huge head of broccoli just in case. Seems like the carrot ginger soup is overdoing it.

    Now what did I forget?

  4. emptywheel says:

    He did say something about a nap.

    That’s okay, we can make this trash. It’d be good juju for the Kitties, which should have an easy time of it today which is why I worry.

  5. Jim White says:

    Family heirloom pies were made yesterday, Osgood from my Dad’s family and the pumpkin pie recipe that was Lisa’s grandmother’s. I also made rolls from a knockoff recipe for King’s Hawaiian sweet bread. The turkey breast got an applewood rub and a couple slices of bacon attached and is on the grill. Cranberries got brandied last night. Rum-laden sweet potatoes and green bean casserole (with our annual family conflict DMZ down the middle separating the onion ring and ground potato chip toppings) will happen soon.

    And now for the football games.

    Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. Thanks to everyone who hangs out here for the best group of thinkers out there.

      • Peterr says:

        We do two kinds of cranberries. One is cranberries with mango and maple syrup, and the other is Zinfandel-based. Mrs Peterr and I prefer the latter, while Teh Kid prefers the former. No recipes with me, as I’m at my folks’ house and not at home.

        • emptywheel says:

          Oh, I’ll take the Zin one too, please.

          I’m not happy with my cranberry of late, so I’m in the market.

          • scribe says:

            The rings from the can have to be intact. If not, the cranberry is ruined. It takes some level of kitchen skill to extract it from the can successfully.

            • bloopie2 says:

              So good to see another connoisseur of the cranberry; truly, that is the key to a successful holiday. The day I realized I should open the other end of the can to release the vacuum, was nirvana.

              • P J Evans says:

                One year we were given a three-jar gift package of cranberry sauces. They were all good. (One was Caribbean style, with habaneros.)

                We had an oval dish – probably originally for celery sticks – that was just the right size for a can of cranberry jelly. We also had a little slotted spoon that was the designated tool for serving it.

            • Peterr says:

              If you must do that, and I don’t at all recommend doing that, it’s not hard at all to preserve the rings from the can. After removing the top lid, turn the can upside down and use the can opener to remove (or start to remove) the bottom. It will slide right out.
              But seriously — put down the can opener. Preparing a real cranberry sauce is about as easy a kitchen thing as you can imagine. If you can measure and boil stuff, you can make a real cranberry sauce.
              Put berries in a pot, add whatever liquid (wine, brandy, syrup, OJ, whatever), add other ingredients as specified in the recipe, and bring to a boil. Once it starts to bubble, reduce to a simmer and let it go until all the berries have popped.
              Yes, it is that simple.

  6. bloopie2 says:

    Mom just finished the heaviest lifting of the day – making the stuffing and then stuffing the turkey and the artichokes. It’s wonderful to see our three daughters helping and learning, to keep those recipes and traditions alive for another generation. And I will take a minute to give thanks to those patriots who, 238 years ago, loved their country more than their government and who gave so much (see link) to enable us to have our freedoms today — the signers of the Declaration of Independence. They would be proud of the Snowdens and Risens and Wheelers of today, don’t you think?

    • emptywheel says:

      My sis-in-law sent pics out of her son cooking mom’s rolls last night. I think she loves those rolls as much as any of us.

  7. emptywheel says:

    Yum. There’s a refugee farm that (I think) just started selling at the market this year. During the year they have things like bitter melon other farmers don’t.

    But they sold me these pink mashing potatoes that are really really lovely, and a great texture.

  8. What Constitution? says:

    Cranberry Chutney. This was a cover recipe on Gourmet magazine about 30 years ago and has been a staple every season since. Has the added bonus of making the house smell unbelievably wonderful for the whole weekend while it’s being made. And the best part is, I don’t have to make it — for which I am thankful on this day…..

    • P J Evans says:

      Some time I want to try Indian-style cranberry chutney. I’ve made zucchini chutney (which would go very well with turkey) a couple of times.

      My brother just put the apple pie in the oven, and took out the pumpkin pie. I wish I were there: I’ve never met my grandniece, who’s now four.

  9. TomVet says:

    Don’t forget to set aside enough cranberries for muffins/rolls. Keep them nice and warm in a covered bread basket and smother with farm fresh butter – Yummm!
    Thanks to Marcy and all the elves who keep this site going so we can find out what’s really going on with our government, and to all the visitors who make this such a friendly place to be.
    Blessings of the day to all. Cheers.

  10. Klynn says:

    Hope you had a great Thanksgiving Marcy, bmaz and Jim. My regrets for being so quiet since our lunch last year. Our daughter has been very sick. Think of all the Wheelhouse often. Lurking mode has been quite the change. Take care and have a blessed year.

    • Jim White says:

      So sorry about your daughter. May this year be healthier for her and less stressful for you and your family.
      We had a very nice Thanksgiving although we would have liked our older daughter’s visit to have been longer.

  11. Klynn says:

    Thank you for your thoughts Jim. So glad you had a blessed day. Yes, the desire for longer visits with grown children is quite real. It’s a process to learn to say goodbye after each cherished visit.

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