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!

Eggnog 

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.

Coquito 

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 

Image courtesy of Winter Caplanson

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.

Wine

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.

Wassail 

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.

Beer 

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. 

Cider 

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.

Thanksgiving is a time to get together with your loved ones, count your blessings for the good things in your life, and — of course — eat until you have to loosen your waistband. 

The big meal is a centerpiece of Thanksgiving, a chance to pile the dining room table high with delicious food and share in the bounty. And as the benefits of locally sourced food become more well-known, there has been an increasing demand for farm fresh food to bring to the holiday table.

You can put CT Grown on your plate for every course of the Thanksgiving feast, from the main course to that extra slice of pie. Check out these recommendations for how to include CT Grown foods at this year’s get-together.

Turkey

More than 100 farms in Connecticut raise turkeys. These farms take pre-orders to prepare for the holiday and manage demand, so reserving your bird early is a good strategy. 

When preparing a farm fresh turkey, be aware that it tends to be ready sooner than a store-bought turkey. That’s because a farm fresh turkey has a higher moisture content, allowing it to roast faster — and giving an unbeatable, succulent taste! 

Roast for about 12 to 15 minutes per pound at 325 degrees. Monitor the turkey carefully, and check regularly about an hour before you expect that it will be finished. The turkey will be done when its internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.

Looking for a turkey alternative this year? Farms raising turkeys often have other poultry as well, such as chickens, geese, and ducks. You could even take home a few different birds to try your hand at a turducken!

Looking for different ways to use up Thanksgiving leftovers? Try turkey empanadas or a turkey tortilla soup served up with locally made cheese, chips, and salsa. 

Stuffing

There are countless recipes for stuffing, so there’s plenty of room for creativity when it comes to this particular dish. Whether you’re using a cookbook recipe or one passed down through the generations, you can find plenty of the necessary ingredients at CT Grown farms. Some common options include sausage, mushrooms, onions, carrots, garlic, herbs, or apples. 

Potatoes

Potatoes are easy to grow and produce a bountiful harvest, so many CT Grown farms dedicate some of their land to this crop. Use some locally grown potatoes for the traditional favorite of mashed potatoes, or try a unique option like scalloped potatoes, potatoes au gratin, or a potato bake mixed with local vegetables.

Potato sides are often prepared with dairy products like milk, butter, or cheese. Choose products from one of Connecticut’s family dairy farms when purchasing these ingredients!

Side dishes

Sweet potatoes are always a hit at Thanksgiving dinner, but don’t overlook the many varieties of winter squash grown in Connecticut. Check out options like acorn, butternut, delicata, and spaghetti squash to try something new.

Plenty of greens are still in season, including green beans and Brussels sprouts. You can also find leafy greens, cucumbers, and tomatoes for a CT Grown side salad.

CT Grown farms can also be a good source of ingredients for dishes like Relleno de pavo, a sweet and savory stuffing made with ground meat, chorizo, bacon, apple, raisins, and more. 

Cranberry sauce

Cranberries are a very minor crop in Connecticut. However, there is one commercial-scale cranberry bog operating in Killingworth and selling the resulting products locally. 

If you want a local alternative — or supplement — to the traditional cranberry sauce, consider putting together some homemade applesauce. It’s a great way to use up some of the apples you get from an orchard!

Wine

Connecticut is home to more than 45 farm wineries, all offering delicious and unique vintages to pair with your Thanksgiving dinner. Have at least three options available for your guests: a white or rosé as a starter, a light- or medium-bodied wine for the main course, and a sweeter option like Riesling or port to go with dessert.

Desserts

Prepare a few seasonal goodies in advance, and you’ll have some delicious desserts to enjoy once you’ve had a moment to digest. Visit an orchard to choose your own selection of apples to bake into scrumptious apple pie, bars, fritters, and other treats. And, if you are short on time, many offer “grab and go” prepared pies or other baked goods. 

Connecticut’s dairy farms are a good source for dessert ingredients as well. Look for locally sourced cheese, ice cream, or whipped cream for a pie topping.

You can pick up a pumpkin to use for final courses like pie, cookies, cupcakes, or flan. Sweet potato pie also makes an excellent Thanksgiving dessert.

Flowers

Last but not least, pick CT Grown for the floral arrangements you’ll have at the dinner table. Flowers are a major part of Connecticut agriculture, with the state ranking 9th in the nation in total greenhouse and nursery sales. Locally sourced flowers are easy to find at a Connecticut greenhouse, nursery, or garden center.

Look for flowers in yellow, orange, and red to evoke and celebrate the fall season. Some options include carnations, daisies, mums, roses, and sunflowers. 

Getting some CT Grown products into your daily diet is easier than you might think. Here are 10 ways you can include CT Grown on your plate each day.

1. Look local for your morning eggs

If you like to cook up an omelet to get you going in the morning, take a look around your neighborhood to see where you might be able to pick up some fresh eggs. Many farms keep small flocks of chickens, and offer eggs at their farm store. Connecticut also has several large egg producers, selling products under brands like Eggland’s Best, The Farmers Cow, and Hillandale Farms. 

2. Sign up for a dairy delivery

Several Connecticut dairy farms are working to bring the milkman back to our neighborhoods. You can find options for delivery services that bring fresh supplies of milk, yogurt, and cheese right to your doorstep. Some farms pair this offering with other CT Grown products, making it even easier to get your groceries and support your local farmers.

3. Pack a CT Grown apple for lunch

More than 2,000 acres in Connecticut are dedicated to growing apples, and bountiful harvests of this fruit are readily available from July to October. Visit an orchard to pick your own apples, then pack an apple with your lunch each day. Since apples store well, you can continue to find fresh apples from orchards throughout the winter and into the early spring.

4. Look for locally sourced items at your favorite restaurant

Several restaurants in Connecticut commit to partnerships with local farms to acquire seasonal items and staples such as dairy, meats, and shellfish. When local food is on the menu, you can enjoy fresh, seasonal items and discover delicious new varieties and cuts. 

Be sure to check out CT Farm-to-Chef Week from September 9-16, 2023. This annual occasion showcases venues that use CT Grown food for their dishes and beverages, giving you a chance to discover new eateries with a farm-to-table commitment.

5. Find CT Grown when grocery shopping

Connecticut farms often partner with wholesalers and retailers to make their products available at local grocery stores and food co-ops. Look for the CT Grown logo to find food items that are produced locally. Some stores also feature special displays to showcase value-added products from Connecticut producers, such as honey, sauces, maple syrup, and salsas.

6. Make a local farm your meat market

Connecticut farms raise a wide variety of meats, including beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and even specialty items like bison and emu. A visit to one of these farms not only lets you discover new cuts, but also gives you the option to purchase large shares of meat to freeze for future meals. 

7. Stock up on local wines

Connecticut is home to 45 licensed farm wineries featuring scenic vineyards and beautiful tasting rooms. In addition to picking up local options when shopping for wine, you can also sign up for a membership, wine club, or Adopt-A-Vine program that lets you regularly pick up new vintages or enjoy discounts when you visit a winery. 

8. Use pick-your-own for your baking needs

Pick-your-own farms give you a chance to get out in the fields and orchards to select fresh seasonal items like apples, berries, peaches, pears, and pumpkins. Farms invite visitors to purchase these products in bulk, and you can put these larger quantities to good use with mouthwatering baking options like pies, breads, and muffins that use locally sourced ingredients.

9. Become a regular at the farmers’ market

By visiting a farmers’ market each week for some of your grocery shopping, you can discover new varieties of produce, custom cuts of meat, homemade sauces and jams, and much more. You can also talk directly with local farmers to get advice on how to best prepare and store your food. 

10. Start researching CSAs now

Many farms participate in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, where you purchase a portion of a farm’s harvest in advance and regularly pick up shares of fresh produce during the growing season; CSAs are also available for products like flowers, meat, and cheese. Farmers begin welcoming sign-ups for CSA programs at the beginning of the year, but you can start looking into options near you to find one that fits your needs. 

Part of the fun (and frustration) of holiday shopping is finding the right gift for everyone on your list. While checking out your local businesses this season, don’t forget to include Connecticut farmers and producers!

You can find excellent gift options at winter farmers’ markets, and at farm stores and websites. Here are a few ways you can give a CT Grown gift to a loved one this year:

Find their jam

While harvest season is over in Connecticut, there are still plenty of delicious CT Grown items available. Each year, part of the harvest goes toward value-added products like jams, jellies, salsas, pickles, relishes, dips, and sauces. These are often made from family recipes that have been passed down for generations.

Enroll them in a CT Grown class or retreat

Many Connecticut farms and producers are happy to share their knowledge, hosting classes and workshops. These events provide a great way to learn about what crops thrive in Connecticut and how you can support sustainable agriculture at your own home.

Sign up a loved one for:

Don’t leave the little ones off the list, either. Some cooking courses are designed with children in mind, and provide a firsthand education on where their food comes from. You can also register them in a farm camp or one of three weeklong 4-H camps.

Sign them up for a CSA membership

Give the gift of fresh food throughout the coming year. Numerous farms participate in Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, which allow participants to pay for a portion of the next harvest in advance.

Several products are available through CSAs, ranging from cut flowers to meat to fruits and vegetables, and shares are usually available for pickup each week between June and October. 

As an added bonus, farms often accompany their CSA shares with useful supplements like a newsletter with recipes for preparing each week’s bounty. A great gift for someone who likes to cook and is always in need of fresh ingredients!

Send some food by mail

More and more CT Grown farms are embracing ecommerce, with some hosting online stores where you can conveniently order food to be delivered or mailed. There are Connecticut shellfish companies that can mail oysters caught the same day, meat producers who will travel locally to drop off a cooler with some chops or steaks, and farms that ship gift boxes of apples, pears, and other items.

You can also find subscription boxes featuring CT Grown goods. These companies often partner with local farms to regularly mail a box bursting with delicious food items, including meats, cheeses, and jams. Some boxes also offer items made from animal products, such as soaps and skin care products (see below).

Toast them with local libations

Pick up a bottle of wine from one of the 45 farm wineries that make up Connecticut Wine Country. Alternatively, you can sign them up for membership in one of the many wine clubs or adopt-a-vine programs offered by these wineries.

Other gift options include a selection of beer from a craft brewery, hard cider from an orchard or craft cidery, spirits from a local distillery, or “honey wine” from one of Connecticut’s growing number of meaderies. Many of these businesses enjoy a close relationship with CT Grown farms, incorporating the flavors of locally produced fruits and herbs into their beverages.

Get them ready for gardening season

Hundreds of Connecticut farms grow flowers and produce potting soil, seeds, compost, and other products that can assist home gardeners. Some farms also offer unique garden products, such as potting plants sustainably made from cow manure or specialized plant varieties. 

Browse your local greenhouse or garden center to see what’s available!

Find some wood goods

Connecticut has a small but vibrant woodland economy, and wood products sustainably harvested from the state’s forests can be labeled as CT Grown.

Look for a CT Grown producer of gift items like carved bowls, cutting boards, coasters, or game boards. If you’re looking to spend a bit more, you can also find fine furniture carved by Connecticut artisans using local wood.

Warm them up with fiber products

If you know someone who’s planning to spend the winter under a quilt, visit a local fiber producer to browse their selection of goods. Connecticut farmers collect fiber from sheep, alpaca, and Angora goats; produce yarn from this fiber; and often sell finished products as well.

Popular products include blankets, hats, mittens, scarves, and sweaters. You can also find rugs and knitted craft items, such as stuffed animals and jewelry.

Find CT Grown personal care products

Some CT Grown producers do a brisk trade in personal care products, including lip balms, lotions, deodorants, and chapsticks. Apiaries frequently sell these items alongside their honey, using beeswax to help the skin retain moisture.

Farms producing milk from cows, sheep, or goats sometimes use it to create soap. These soaps are said to be particularly useful for sensitive skin, as they can help moisturize, prevent wrinkles, and keep acne at bay.

Get a box of cigars with Connecticut tobacco

Connecticut has a long history of producing tobacco, and still holds a place of honor among cigar aficionados. A box of cigars wrapped in CT Grown tobacco makes a fine gift for someone who enjoys the occasional smoke.

Two varieties of tobacco are grown in Connecticut, each with their own distinct flavor profile. Shade tobacco has a subtly sweet taste, offering notes like vanilla, cream, and graham cracker. Broadleaf tobacco is darker and bolder, with a flavor described as earthy or similar to dark chocolate.

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

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:

Cider

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.

Chocolate milk

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!