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Beer & Cheese, Kids & Kids, Market Offerings and Farm Happenings

Posted 7/27/2018 12:29pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

The folks from Half Acre Brewery in Chicago paid us a visit yesterday.  They already knew that chees and beer play well together as food and beverage, but they did not expect to get intimate with the microbes and the milk.  After touring the creamery, we laid out a panorama of cheese “experiments” to share with them.  From adding beer to curds to washing or soaking cheese in beer and wine, we had a lot to taste and stories to tell. 

For those whose livelihoods revolve around fermentation, it is easy to dive deep into discussions about cheese microbes and beer microbes and how they might interact. Do they compete? Does one group provide a favorable environment for the others to thrive? Which flavors will predominate over time? What about those funky chemical compounds in the hops? How do cheese styles affect the microbial ecology? It is always enlightening for us to bring experienced palates to expand our own sensory awareness.

Like two cultures derived from the same mother tongue, we rejoice in the common denominators of our respective crafts and marvel at the differences.  The culmination of the visit occurred when it was time to pour the coffee stout beer (“Big Hugs”) into the cultured & renneted milk.  We had only tried this on a very small scale batch, so not even the cheese makers quite knew what to expect in full vat of milk.  We explained the process of milk’s conversion from liquid to gel once the rennet is added (technically called ‘flocculation’), and they stared patiently over the quieted milk for several minutes to watch the spinning stop and the milk begin its transformation to curd; yet another magic trick up the cheese maker’s sleeve.

As I bid farewell to our brewery friends (after their goat petting therapy session), my next set of visitors pulled into the driveway in a yellow school bus—nearly 20 7-10 year-old city boys.  They spilled out of the bus stairs with the exuberance of kids who had been sitting for way too long.  My plans to give them our standard guided tour gave way to realization that these kids just needed to play with our “kids.” So, after a very brief intro to the farm, peppered with lots of questions about the dogs, the chickens, the peaches and the flies, we trotted off to the kid barn.

The children exchanged initial introductions with a few goat kids through the fence, and then I let several kids inside the pens with the goats. Initially, I metered the child to goat kid ratio, but after they discovered the doorway to the outside goat “jungle gym,” I threw caution to the wind, and let all the children in with the goat kids.  The similarities overwhelmed the differences; both our kids and their kids ran back and forth between the inside pen and outside play structures, both kids and kids yelled with a mixture of excitement and fear.  The city kids forgot about the flies and the goat poop and the smells. The goat kids chased the city kids and vice versa.  Several of the children would update me on who was their favorite goat or their new best friend.  A couple of the goat kids would return to the pen and look to me for reassurance.  With their time on the farm drawing to a close, the city kids left the goat pen reluctantly. The power of youth and play is universal and crosses the arbitrary boundaries of species.

Text Message Customer Loyalty Program:  This week’s text club special relates to fresh ricotta. To get the message with the special info, you’ll need to sign up: text either “GOAT” or “URBANA” or “FARMSTORE” to 30500 to sign up. 

Farmers’ Market Offerings –Diversity is the theme this week

This Saturday’s forecast for Urbana is cool and sunny. So, there are no excuses to put off coming to the market to get your weekly fare of locally-grown goodness. The market is brimming with mid-summer bounty-peaches, sweet corn, tomatoes, eggplants, berries, and lots of delicious goat dairy products from yours truly. Here’s the cheese line up for Saturday:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Fresh, whole milk ricotta: our last of the season ricotta is amazing with grilled stone fruit and a drizzle of honey or your favorite balsamic reduction. We made a lot, but it will go fast. Come early to get as much as you want.
  • Goat Milk Feta: Summer is “feta season!” We make our feta with pasteurized milk and age it in whey brine, imparting all the wonderful complex flavors you’ve come to expect from our feta.
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie: This batch is perfectly ripe, bordering on gooey this weekend.  Nice delicate rind with hints of mushroom.
  • Angel Food: our little “mini-brie” or crottin style bloomy rind; this batch of Angel Food is aging nicely, with hints of cream and mushroom.  It could be sliced into rounds, lightly breaded and pan-fried for topping a bed of fresh greens.
  • Black Goat: an ash-coated bloomy with a delicate and crinkly yeasty rind. This batch is perfectly ripe, and it has a sublime fudgy almost gooey consistency, a slight goat tang and a hint of yeastiness on the rind. 
  • Moonglo: fall-milk, tomme-style cheese; the texture of this semi-hard cheese is soft and supple like Gouda, but the taste is sharp and fruity. Ask for a taste if you’ve never had it before. Try melting it for a gourmet grilled cheese.
  • Applewood Smoked Moonglo: our friends at Urbana’s Black Dog Smoke and Ale House cold-smoked our Moonglo cheese over Applewood chips; the result is a lovely smokey version of our Moonglo. Like our regular Moonglo, it makes a killer grilled cheese (that’s what Black Dog is doing with it at their Urbana location!).
  • Huckleberry Blue: our limited late fall goats’ milk blue cheese—it’s a gateway to blue cheeses; creamy texture, not overly blue-veined (or sharp in a blue way). This cheese is great crumbled on a salad, sliced and warmed on a steak or burger OR served on baguette with a fig jam or walnut balsamic vinegar reduction (this is an amazing combination).
  • INTRODUCING a new cheese: “Blushing Goat” This little washed rind cheese is bathed in wash of kombucha beer for a little over one month.  The result is a vibrant rind, slightly sweet & salty paste with a hint of beer on the finish.  Try a slice on a baguette drizzled with honey OR a perfectly sliced heirloom tomato drizzled with olive oil.  LIMITED AVAILABILITY THIS WEEK.

Gelato: We’ve got a good quantity of with gelato and sorbetto this week.  I encourage you to bring a cooler with ice packs to the market to keep your gelato in tip top shape as you travel from the market to your home.

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Fresh Mint
  • Salted Caramel Swirl
  • Buttered Pecan (made with Voss Orchard Pecans)
  • Thai Basil (very limited)
  • Peaches & Cream (made with our very own peaches from the PFFC orchard)
  • Nectarine Sorbetto (with nectarines from Mileur Orchard)
  • Peach Sorbetto (with peaches from Mileur Orchard)
  • Lemon Sorbetto

DON’T FORGET: we have a new spot at the farmers’ market--Urbana Market at the Square. We are in spot #20 on the south-west (along Illinois Street) end of the market. We are right next to Moore Family Farm.

Farm Store Summer Hours

Now through the end of August, we are open Wednesdays-Fridays, 3-7 pm, as well as Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4 pm. The farm is a tranquil green space where you can come after work to unwind. During our open hours, you can savor a scoop of gelato or “build your own” cheese boards—pick out your cheeses, add a stick of salami (Underground Meats) or a jar of jam from Autumn Berry Inspired or pickled veggies, grab some Lucky Pierre bagel chips and we’ll provide the board. You can sit outside under our new pavilion roof and enjoy a glass of wine or beer with cheese! We have lots of shades spots in the grass too.  Want to go the total sweet route? How about a root-beer float with a scoop of our gelato?

Need to de-stress? Come visit with the goats. They love to be petted, even in the warm weather.  Shop in our farm store: “The Real Stand.” We’ve got pasture-raised meats and poultry from Bane Family Meats, frozen artisan sausages from Piemonte Sausage Co., pickled veggies and pestos by Sarah (our former gelato maker), locally-grown and milled flours by The Mill at Janie’s Farm and much more. 

NEW in the Store! Fresh sweet corn from Babb Farms. Their corn is tender and sweet, and ready for your grill or stock pot. Try it Mexican style with a chipotle mayo and crumbled feta cheese.

U-PICK: We have enough peaches to offer some U-pick opportunities this weekend. You can come out to the farm during our regular farm store hours, and we’ll show you where to pick.

Farm Dinners

 We have a few seats left for our “Summer Vegetarian” farm dinner on August 18th.  The menu is on our website; I encourage you to book your tickets now. The farm is gorgeous in the summer, there usually is a breeze and it’s a magical place to enjoy a hyper-local farm-to-table meal.  While you’re on our website, check out the themes and dates for the fall. We have two versions of our 100 Yard Dinner this year: a progressive meal around the farm in mid-September and “ploughman’s feast” style meal in October. 

Back by Popular Demand (by ME!): Night of the Living Farm Tuesday, August 28th 7:30 or 8:00 pm start time (will depend on sunset) Join entomologists Dr. Michael Jeffords, Susan Post, and Dr. Joe Spencer from the Illinois Natural History Survey, for a unique exploration of the insects and other creatures that call Prairie Fruits Farm home.

As the skies darken, Michael will give a short program on creatures of the night, followed by black-lighting to attract insects from the surrounding landscape. Insects from mayflies to moths are likely to make an appearance. As soon as the sky is sufficiently dark, we will explore the surrounding forest and prairie with miniature spotlights to see and experience Arthropod activity seldom witnessed. Everything from giant wolf spiders to munching caterpillars to charming tree frogs will likely appear in our flashing beams. We will charge a nominal fee of $10/person (includes a scoop of gelato).  We now have a registration page for this event on our website:   http://www.prairiefruits.com/store/special-events

CU Symphony Orchestra to perform special “environmental” pieces on our farm on Sunday September 23rd, 2-4 pm. Their composer in residence, Stacy Garrop, wrote these pieces to celebrate “Gaia,” mother earth.  Details to follow; for now, save the date.   

Copyright 2018. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2018. All rights reserved. 4410 N. Lincoln Ave., Champaign, Illinois 61822 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC is responsible for the content of this email. Please contact Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell with any inquiries.