It’s a season for families to come together and celebrate the holiday spirit. And when everyone from the grandparents on down to little grandchildren are together under one roof, that means it’s time for another big feast!
CT Grown products are a great choice for the family gathering. You’ll also need something to wet your whistle, though, and Connecticut’s farmers have you covered there as well! Check out these options, and raise a glass to CT Grown for the holiday season!
Like many traditional holiday dishes or beverages, eggnog was once considered a luxury due to the priciness of many of its ingredients. Families would splurge on the drink — and other delicious items — and hold toasts to wealth and prosperity in the new year.
Although eggnog is no longer considered a luxury, these toasts have remained — along with the seasonal availability of the beverage, which could conceivably be offered year-round. Eggnog is a thick, sweet drink that mixes milk, cream, sugar, egg yolks, and whipped egg whites.
Several Connecticut dairy farms get in on the holiday spirit by producing eggnog at this time of year. You can enjoy it plain, or spike it with alcohol like rum or bourbon.
This is also the only time of year you can test it out in other ways! Try eggnog as a coffee creamer, or use it as a milk substitute in recipes for waffles, pancakes, and cookies.
Spanish for “little coconut,” coquito is also referred to as Puerto Rican Eggnog due to its popularity on the island. As a tropical tradition, many of its ingredients — including coconut milk, coconut cream, and vanilla — aren’t exactly CT Grown.
However, you can still use yolks from locally sourced eggs and mix them with condensed milk (a product invented in Connecticut, incidentally) to make a thick base for this drink. Add in some rum from a Connecticut distillery as well!
Whiskeys and spirits
A growing number of distilleries in Connecticut are giving residents and visitors a local option when it comes to bourbon, gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, and other spirits. These distilleries frequently partner with local farms to infuse their product with flavors like fruit and herbs.
During the holiday season, you can relax with warming drinks like a hot toddy, hot buttered rum (using CT Grown butter, of course), spiked hot chocolate, or a nor’easter — a winter spin on the Moscow Mule that includes maple syrup in the mix.
Some of Connecticut’s 45 farm wineries close their doors for the season when colder temperatures arrive, but many are happy to welcome guests throughout the year. Pull up a seat in the cozy tasting room to enjoy some delicious vintages, and pick up a bottle or two as a gift.
Connecticut farm wines also work well for mulling to create a delicious, warm beverage on a holiday evening. Mulled wine is prepared with ingredients like oranges, honey, and spices for a wonderful evening libation.
Yes, the drink from the Christmas song!
Traditionally held on Twelfth Night, wassailing involves a group of people visiting homes to sing festive tunes and wish the occupants good cheer. The homeowner rewards them with a small gift (a figgy pudding, perhaps) in exchange for the group’s blessings and a drink from the bowl of wassail they carried. In addition to the neighborhood strolls, wassailing ceremonies have also taken place in orchards to bless the trees before the next season.
Although caroling has largely replaced wassailing, the beverage remains a unique holiday offering — and one that can easily use CT Grown ingredients. Wassail is traditionally made with a base of cider, ale, or wine, which is then mulled with spices.
Connecticut’s craft breweries are in operation year-round. But once winter arrives and patrons abandon the beer garden for the toasty taproom, the preferred styles shift to heartier fare.
“Winter warmers” such as porters and stouts typically use darker malts, have a higher alcohol by volume (ABV), and are more filling. In addition, many breweries celebrate the season by creating holiday ales with ingredients like cinnamon, orange peel, and other flavors found in mulled drinks.
You may also find a greater availability of imperial beer options, which have stronger, heartier flavors that may be further enhanced through barrel aging. These beers also have a very high ABV, so be sure to drink responsibly.
This autumn favorite is still available during the holidays, though this is also your last call for the delicious beverage. Apple cider is a dark, sweet beverage produced by compressing apple mash; since it lacks preservatives, it has a shorter shelf life and more seasonal availability compared to apple juice.
Warm up with apple cider on a cold evening by mulling it with honey, maple syrup, or spices. You can also look for some of the hard cider options offered by many orchards, which often have varieties pairing the alcoholic beverage with flavors like honey and ginger.
Milk for Santa
You can’t forget Saint Nick this time of year. Locally produced milk is available from 87 dairy farms in Connecticut, and leaving out a glass of milk for Santa ensures that he’ll get 13 essential nutrients with every serving.
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!