Michigan cooking grew out of the hearty dishes of the state's German, Irish, English, and Polish settlers and is strongly influenced by its long, cold winters and Great Lakes location. The most popular starters are simple, creamy soups, such as milk-based celery soup (flavored with onion, pepper, and butter) or potato with carrot, onion, celery, and perhaps a pinch of dill. Germanic touches are the most visible. Sausages are extraordinarily popular—a coney, a lavishly topped hot dog with chili, onion, and cheese is a particular favorite. Sausages are often added as a substitute for bacon or ham. Michigan baked beans, for example, feature either chunks of sausage or substantial amounts of pork. Bean stew, a local variation on baked beans, is made with navy beans and sausage cooked on the stove top with molasses and mustard (with a few string beans added at the end for a touch of green).
The pasty—meat pre-cooked with carrot, onion, potato, and mild seasonings encased in pastry and baked—is also a staple dish. Originally popular as a convenient lunch for miners, the pasty makes for a handy snack during hunting or fishing trips. Because both are popular pastimes, fish and game like bluegill, crappie, lake perch, whitefish, northern pike, walleye, salmon, venison, pheasant, and boar are all popular main dishes. Fish is frequently cooked with a pancake-type batter or beer batter and deep-fried. A slightly healthier alternative finds it baked with butter and breadcrumbs. Venison turns up regularly in meatloaf, casseroles, and chili with pinto beans. Some Michigan residents even make their own sausage out of game, especially venison. Beef or venison stewed with local apples is another favorite, and meatballs baked in onion cream sauce reflect northern European influences.
Potatoes are the standard side and are most commonly baked with cheese or in fried potato pancakes. When the Michigan weather turns warmer, ground bologna spread seasoned with sweet pickle, onion, mayonnaise, and mustard—usually served on white bread—is a deli staple. In desserts, hickory nuts often flavor coffee cake or sweet bread. Cherries are a local product, so cherry pie and cherry jam are common sweet treats (cherries also feature prominently in bread pudding). Apple pie, often dressed up with caramel or cranberries, and plain rhubarb pie or crisp are also popular with Michiganders.
-World Trade Press