An excuse to play dress-up, put up decorations, and eat sweet treats? No wonder we love Halloween so much.
Halloween is also a great time to throw a party, bringing together family and friends to enjoy spooky-themed dishes and see who can come up with the most creative costume. Whether you’re planning a party for little ones to enjoy after trick or treating, a fun occasion for your family, or a gathering among adults, you can find ways to make CT Grown part of the celebration.
”From CT Grown pumpkins to delicious apple cider, and even hard cider for the adults, there are many options for adding local flavor into your Halloween celebration,” says Jaime Smith, Bureau Director of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Agricultural Development and Resource Conservation.
Apples are one of the most well-known crops in Connecticut. More than 60 different varieties are grown in the state, with flavors ranging from sweet to tart. The 2017 Census of Agriculture, latest data from the USDA, shows that Connecticut has 280 farms growing apples on over 2,000 acres of land.
Many of these farms welcome guests to pay a visit and pick their own apples. You can find these pick-your-own locations on the CT Grown map, or visit a local farmers’ market or retail location to see what’s available.
We’ve grown plenty creative in Connecticut when it comes to apple dishes, serving up everything from breakfast dishes to apple pie. Check out this page for a full slate of recipes. Or if you’re pressed for time, you could always just upend a bag from your local orchard into a bucket of water and invite your guests to go bobbing.
Pumpkins, gourds, and squash
It’s not a party without decorations, and no Halloween celebration is complete without a jack o’ lantern. Thankfully, Connecticut is well-stocked on pumpkins. In fact, the fat orange specimens favored for carving are known as Connecticut field pumpkins, and they have been cultivated here since pre-colonial times.
Pumpkins aren’t just a good way to demonstrate your creative skill. Save the seeds you scoop out and toast them with some cinnamon and sugar for a delicious, easy to make party snack. Connecticut field pumpkins can also supply you with the base ingredient for pumpkin pies, soups, and more.
Pumpkins are nearly as prolific as apples in Connecticut, with 267 farms offering them in 2017. Many of these venues also sell gourds, which appear almost otherworldly with multiple colors, curving shapes, and a slew of bumps. Simple and inexpensive, gourds offer an easy way to add festive flair to the spread of food and beverages at your party.
While soft-shelled gourds are destined for the compost bin after your party, hard-shelled ones can easily be repurposed. Once they’re cured and dried, they can be remade into drinking vessels, spoons, birdhouses, and any number of other useful items.
Appetizers with in-season produce
Several vegetables are still in season in Connecticut, and you can pick them up for a healthy party snack. As an added benefit, the late season harvest crops also lend themselves well to ghoulish arrangements on the appetizer tray. Here are a few ideas:
- Broccoli Frankenstein: Get artistic with your vegetables and create the face of Frankenstein’s monster. Florets of fresh CT Grown broccoli make a perfect base for this project. To take a look at a similar project featuring Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc., click here.
- Cauliflower Brain: Ever see the head of a cauliflower and think it looks a bit like a brain? Complete the illusion by roasting the vegetable and adding a topping like buffalo sauce or a creamy pink dressing. Check out this recipe, which takes the additional step of putting the final result into the head of a jack o’ lantern.
- Radish Eyeballs: Who knew radishes could be so creepy? Simply peel the radish and pop in an olive and you’ll have the perfect garnish for your appetizer plate or Halloween cocktail. Get more ideas for this spooky snack here.
Every fall, Connecticut residents eagerly await the availability of apple cider. Many Connecticut orchards produce this beverage, and some cider presses have been in operation for a century or longer.
Cider is created when ground-up apple mash is crushed beneath a press’s wooden boards, with the resulting juice strained through press cloths. Unlike apple juice, cider is unfiltered and has a darker color since apple particles are suspended in the drink.
Sweet cider will start to ferment over time, so drink it up fast — or set some of it aside for apple cider donuts.
Of course, fermented apple cider is exactly what some people will be after for their Halloween party. Several farms offering sweet cider will also have hard cider available. Look for both traditional options and those flavored with other locally grown ingredients like honey, hops, pumpkin, and berries.
Last year, we explained why we were naming chocolate milk the official drink of Halloween. This beverage provides 13 essential ingredients, namly calcium, vitamin D, and potassium; delivers a healthy dose of protein; and helps keep you hydrated.
Chocolate milk is a treat for all ages, but it’s a particularly good choice if your Halloween party will have younger guests. Look for a CT Grown choice to help support the 90 dairy farms in operation in Connecticut.
Wine and beer
Autumn is harvest time for the 45 licensed farm wineries in Connecticut. While the grapes collected this year won’t make their way into your stemware for awhile, you can pick up a few bottles made from previous harvests at a Connecticut Wine Country location. Learn more about where to find Connecticut wine here.
Fall also means seasonal beers at Connecticut’s independent breweries, many of which source their ingredients from local farms. While pumpkin flavored beers abound at this time of year, you’ll also see more brown and amber ales on tap, as well as heavier, more filling options like porters and stouts.
Drink responsibly, and enjoy a safe, spooky CT Grown Halloween!
When you think CT Grown, you might not picture a frosty glass of local beer. Yet the boom in craft breweries has led to increased demand for local ingredients, which in turn has helped strengthen associated agricultural enterprises in Connecticut who grow the products brewers need.
After a short-lived renaissance in the mid-90s, craft beer and microbreweries have surged in popularity in the early 21st century. Breweries have been rapidly opening across the state, and Connecticut now boasts more than 125 independent breweries. Of course, a beer is only as good as the ingredients that go into it, and many Connecticut brewers have been turning to local sources for their barley, grains, malts, and hops.
As local brewers have increased in number, the demand for hops has also gone up. More than a dozen commercial hopyards have sprouted in Connecticut, and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station has been supporting them with research and recommendations on integrated pest management and other best practices.
“Hop flavor is affected by soil and climate. Connecticut Grown hops have fruitier and more citrusy notes that allow us to develop more distinct flavors than mass-produced beers, especially when it comes to making New England IPAs that are less bitter than their West Coast counterparts,” says Alex DeFrancesco, owner of Stewards of the Land Brewery in Northford.
Some local farms and hopyards have taken the next step of opening a brewery of their own on the premises. Several farm breweries have been established since these venues were permitted under legislation passed in Connecticut in 2017.
Guests at a farm brewery have the added benefit of experiencing the joys of visiting a CT Grown agricultural producer. Instead of just tasting a flight or a pint, people can take home fresh produce, visit farm animals, or simply sit back and enjoy the pastoral surroundings while enjoying a brew made with CT Grown farm products.
“Our mission has always been to make our beers with locally grown ingredients,” says Barry Labendz, founder of Kent Falls Brewing Company in Kent. “We opened our brewery in 2015, around the same time Smokedown Farm Hops in Sharon and Thrall Family Malt (barley) in Windsor were getting started as well; before there was even a permit for farm breweries! Working with Thrall and Smokedown has taught us a tremendous amount about the physical ingredients we use to make our beer, a invaluable input with the growers about the flavors and aromas we are looking for in our ingredients, both of which play a huge part in producing delicious beers. And when a consumer purchases one of our beers, they are not only enjoying local flavors, but supporting a community of local farmers while doing so!
Several breweries and venues are celebrating the season by having Oktoberfest events. Find a full list here, and check in with your local brewer to find out how they have made CT Grown part of their work.