This week I spent a lot more time in the cheeserie leaning over the cheese vat. I came to reconnect my body with the rhythms of ladling curd. There’s a pattern that sets in that reminds me of tango or waltz—dip, scoop, rest, dip, scoop, rest—that’s rest the curd into the basket or the cheese mold, not “rest” your body. Amidst the steam of ricotta, the seemingly endless, dense curd of sheep milk cheese and the delicate curd of chevre, the dance steps change slightly to fit the needs of the curd. Once the curd is out of the cheese vat, another dance ensues—the shuffling “hustle” of washing the dishes.
Rain, rain, rain—it’s making the garden grow but not allowing our neighbors to cut hay. This is the latest date we can remember that we haven’t been able to get a first cutting of alfalfa. Thankfully, the pasture is lush and tall, so the goats have plenty of fresh forage to eat. We moved another group of weaned kids out into pasture this week—they’re pasture mates with the retiree goat girls. It’s pretty comical to see them out there, their little heads visible just barely above the tall grass. They move like a school of fish. The retired does move in the opposite direction of the little ones.
Farmers’ Markets, Farm Sales, Farm Dinners
This Saturday, June 1st, we’re attending just the Urbana Farmers’ Market. We’ll return to Green City Market next Saturday. We’ve got a full lineup of early summer cheeses:
- Fresh chevre—plain, herbs de Provence, cracked black peppercorn
- Fresh goat milk ricotta
- Sheep milk feta (if you think this is just any old feta, you NEED to try it!)
- A selection of bloomy rind cheeses including Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Ewe Bloom, Black Goat
- Moonglo (some of the last pieces of last fall’s batches—get it before it’s gone)
We have moved into gelato season with the warmer temperatures. Come take home a pint or two:
- Cajeta Swirl (that’s goat milk caramel sauce swirled into vanilla gelato)
- Mint Ricotta (made with our very own ricotta)
- Pumpkin Pie
- Pecan Biscotti crunch
If you miss the market on Saturday, you have another opportunity to buy cheese, gelato and other farm products. Just come out to the farm on Wednesday afternoons from 4 to 6 PM.
We have a farm dinner this Saturday with our very special guest chef Paul Virant. The menu is now on our website. We also have four extra seats available due to cancellations. So go to the ShowClix site to purchase them.
In my haste to get out a message to our local patrons about our Wednesday Open House and On Farm Sales, I completed forgot to include the weekly professional knife sharpening service we offer by way of Laurence Mate, aka, the knife sharpening dude. He will be here tomorrow from 4 to6 PM along with all of us farmers and food artisans. Bring your dull knives and see the farm and shop while Laurence sharpens them for you. Strawberry Gelato makes its 2013 debut tomorrow!! It's delish!!!
I'll be brief to not detract from your holiday weekend festivities (if you're here in Central IL, grilling is probably NOT happening with the torrential rains and thunderstorms we're having). This Wednesday's forecast (that's May 29th) calls for warm temperatures and many scoops of goat milk gelato. Come out to the farm from 4 to 6 PM to enjoy some gelato, buy some cheese, soaps and t-shirts and pick up some mid-week local groceries. Tomahnous Farm will be here with plant starts, greens and maybe asparagus. Lucky Duck Farm will be here with eggs and maybe meat. Stewart's Artisan Breads will have his usual selection of beautiful breads, cookies and granola. Summer is here, and the farm is THE place to be!
Greetings CSA members:
Our first pickups of the season are happening tomorrow and Wednesday. Just as a reminder, please make sure you come to pick up your shares of bread, cheese and/or gelato.
Tuesday: Normal (with PrairieEarth Farm CSA) 1st Presbytarian Church Parking Lot from 4:30 to 5:30 PMTuesday: Peoria at Marcella Teplitz House (downtown) from 5 to 6 PM
Tuesday: Bloomington (with Henry's Farm CSA) Unitarian Church Parking Lot (Emerson St.) from 6 to 7PM
Wednesday: Springfield (at the Katic Bread stand) at the downtown Farmers' Market from 8AM to 11AM
Wednesday: Prairie Fruits Farm (at the farm) from 4 to 6 PM
If you can't make it, please send someone else to pick up your shares. We don't make allowances for pick ups on alternate dates. Please let us know if you have any questions. We look forward to seeing you soon!
As I write, the temperature outside has plummeted to the high ‘30’s. Tonight’s full moon beckons the onset of summer, but the moon didn’t get the message about the frigid temperatures. We thought we were well past close to freezing temperatures, so we planted our tomatoes and peppers this week. Our peaches, apples, pears and cherries have set fruits, so let’s hope the dip in the mercury doesn’t cause any damage. Two years in a row without tree fruits would be too much to bear.
This week, I finally got around to giving booster vaccines to our weaned goat kids. We have now weaned our third cohort of kids; indeed, they grow up so fast. I marvel at their size, the strength of their teeth (when they used to suckle on my fingers as newborns, it was barely a tickle; now it actually hurts!), their ritualized adult-like behaviors—head butting, male mounting, the whole nine yards in miniature. This group took their vaccinations in stride. They also seem to be ready to move on to hay and grain and leave the milk behind them. As we vaccinate, we make sure we remember who is who—most of them either have lost or worn through their name tags by this point in their young lives. So, I have to rummage through the birth book to figure out names (by names, I am referring to their mother’s name, since we haven’t picked out any names for this year’s crop of kids yet). Since I was present at most of their births, I have a pretty good memory for their markings or how their features match up with their mothers’. I’ve developed my short list for which doelings we’ll be keeping this year. I have to sharpen the pencil just a bit more, as we’ll probably only keep 10 to 12 this year. Decisions, decisions. It’s hard to look past just a “pretty face.”
Farmers’ Markets, First week of Cheese, Bread and Gelato CSA and Farm Open House
This week, we’re attending both Urbana’s Market at the Square and Chicago’s Green City Market. For those of you in Chicago, please come visit our newest farm employee, Andrew. He’ll be there to help you select cheeses and gelato for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend food festivities. He’s got a great food sense, so if you’re looking for suggestions about how best to use some of our cheeses in your weekend cooking plans, just ask him.
This week, we’re featuring our Black Sheep as the perfect cheese for the holiday weekend. This ash-ripened sheep milk cheese is perfectly ripe right now, with a nice yeasty (bread dough) rind, a gooey exterior and a creamy slightly “sheepy” (in a good way) paste. It pairs well with a tart jam such as quince paste, but if you’re planning to put some burgers on the grill, you might consider a Black Sheep Cheese Burger. You will impress your friends with your novelty and good taste. In addition to our featured “black sheep,” we’ll have:
- Fresh, creamy and delicious chevre—plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
- Fresh goat milk ricotta—this would be perfect for a pasta dish or served along with some sweetened strawberries and whipped cream!!
- Sheep milk feta—think salad, think pasta, think olive oil drizzle and baguette bread
- An assortment of bloomy rind cheeses including Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie, Black Goat and the aforementioned Black Sheep
- Moonglo—these are some of the last wheels of the fall milk batches so get it while it lasts. There will be a hiatus of Moonglo as the spring milk batches complete their aging process.
Nothing says holiday weekend better than gelato, so stock up for your weekend festivities. Just be sure to bring a cooler or an insulated bag so you can transport your gelato home safely and coolly. Here are some of the flavors you’re likely to encounter at the farmers’ market this weekend (there are others, but I can’t remember them all!!) Flavors with an asterisk are those making an appearance at the Green City Market as well as Urbana’s Farmers’ Market:
- **Honey-Ginger Ricotta
- **Mint Ricotta (Stewart just can’t help himself on new flavors)
- Chocolate Mint Infusion
- **Margot’s Fresh Mint
- **Pumpkin Pie
- **Dulce de Leche (goat milk caramel)
Our Cheese, Bread and Gelato CSA starts this week in Bloomington, Normal, Urbana-Champaign (at our farm), Peoria and Springfield. Next week will be the first pick up for Naperville. We’re looking forward to meeting our new members and seeing last year’s members as well.
Our summer farm open house has started. Every Wednesday through mid-August, you can come out to the farm from 4 to 6PM to stroll the farm, visit with all the animals, savor a scoop or two of gelato and buy some great local foods products. We’ll have our cheese and gelato for sale, of course, along with our goat milk soaps (made by Red Barn Farm) and hip t-shirts. Tomahnous Farm (veggies, flowers, plants), Lucky Duck Farm (chicken and duck eggs, maybe meat), Stewart’s Artisan Breads and Laurence the Knife Dude will be here as well. Bring your knives to be sharpened while you visit with the goats. Where else can you do THAT!!?? Stay tuned for more details early next week.
Greetings CSA members:
I negleted to include the start date for the Springfield CSA pickup. It's next Wednesday, May 29th at the Downtown Springfield Farmers' Market-Katic Bread booth. Please pick up your shares no later than 10AM so that they stay in peak cold condition (cheese and gelato especially).
Sure enough, summer has come early to central Illinois, making it the perfect week to start our summer farm open house. SO, starting this Wednesday, May 22nd, and every Wednesday through mid-August, we will open our euphemistic "doors" to the public from 4 to 6 PM. You can come out to the farm to visit with the goats, guess the weights of the fast growing pigs, pet the dog or just enjoy a scoop of gelato under a shade tree.
We'll have plenty of cheese for sale and you can buy pints or single servings of gelato. We'll also be selling our beautiful Prairie Fruits Farm T-Shirts, and our goat milk soaps made by Red Barn Farm. Stewart's Artisan Breads will be here, along with Laurence Mate, "the knife sharpening guy." Tomahnous Farm and/or Blue Moon Farm will be here from time to time selling whatever vegetables are in season. We may have other guest farmers make appearances as well. We look forward to seeing you here. This little doe is waiting for YOU!
Greetings CSA members:
I apologize for the lapse in communication since you signed up to become members of our unique and delicious CSA. We have six pick up locations with 72 members total. This is a three-fold increase in our number of CSA members over last year! Thank you for supporting us!! Starting in late May ore early June, most of our pick up dates are scheduled EVERY TWO WEEKS (EXCEPT WHERE NOTED BELOW). Here are the start dates for each CSA by location:
- Bloomington (with Henry's Farm CSA): Tuesday, May 28th 6 to 7PM
- Peoria (Marcella Teplitz' house): Tuesday, May 28th from 5 to 6PM
- Normal (with PrairieErth Farm): Tuesday, May 28th from 4:30 to 5:30PM
- Prairie Fruits Farm (at the farm): Wednesday, May 29th from 4 to 6PM
- Springfield (at the Downtown Farmers' Market with Katic Breads): Wednesdays from 8AM to 12 noon.
- Naperville (with Broadbranch Farm): Friday, June 7th from 3:30 to 5:30PM
NOTE TO Naperville members: we will be having pickup on THREE dates in June to make sure you get 14 pickups total and to get you on the same pick up week as the other CSA pick up locations. So, you'll be picking up your shares on June 14th and then again on June 28th.
For all pickup locations, we'll be adding a third pick up in late August to make sure you all get 14 pickups total. Stay tuned for the complete calendar of pickup dates by location.
For those of you who signed up for the CSA member exclusive farm dinner, we'll be offering you the chance to purchase 1 additional seat for that dinner. If you would like another seat, please send us a check ($45) made out to Prairie Fruits Farm and note 1 seat for CSA dinner. Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns. We are very excited about this season's CSA and again thank you for making it happen.
News from the farm
It’s hot. It’s hard to believe, since last week I swear I was wearing my winter down jacket at the farmers’ market. We had our first lesson in how to keep the pigs cool this week: dig them a wallow and fill it with lots of cool water. I did not realize that pigs don’t sweat to cool their bodies; they seek muddy wet environs to regulate their body temperature. We came to this realization as we were sitting in our dining room yesterday. I glanced out the window to see one of the red waddle pigs jaunting towards the newly planted vegetable garden. He looked like a porcine on a mission (find fresh dirt and dig, dig, dig). Blue, the dog, immediately chased after the pig and tried to herd him (I use this term “herd” very loosely because Blue has some rudimentary instincts to herd, but he needs serious training—let’s just say there’s a lot of barking and circling but not much movement on the part of the herded). Of course, we followed quickly and ran out of the house to join the dog in his efforts to herd the pig back into his enclosure. It quickly became a two person + one dog show, and after much circling, Wes and Andrew managed to get the pig back with his buddies. Wes dug them a depression in the dirt, pulled out the hose and started filling the depression with water. The pigs delighted in their dirty cool wetness.
We’re getting the farm gussied up for our first farm dinner this weekend. We’re replacing floor boards on our outdoor dining platform, weeding the herb garden, planting flowers. Even the goats got a major house cleaning yesterday and today-full barn cleanouts with fresh straw bedding all around. We received the lamb from Caveny Farm that will be featured in the meal and Chef Alisa will be neck deep in food preparations tomorrow.
Tasting Cheese and Farmers’ Markets
Toward the end of each week, all of our cheeserie staff gets together to taste cheese. We taste the young, the middle-aged and the well-aged (even the over ripe too). It gives us an opportunity to follow the progression of flavors and textures that develop in a single batch of cheese over time as well as a means to compare the same style of cheese from batch to batch. It also gives our new staff exposure to the art and vocabulary of cheese tasting. To fully appreciate the flavors, you must temper the cheese to close to room temperature. If that’s not possible, you need to warm the cheese in your mouth before you let yourself truly taste the cheese (this is kind of hard to do, especially if you really like the cheese). Once you taste it, you have to find the words to describe it: sweet cream, butter milk, “fudgy” (that’s one of my favorites that Nat likes to use), tangy. Unflattering terms include: sour milk, chalky, sneaker feet. Nat had a great one today: “river wet” socks—can you imagine what that might taste like??
Today, we tasted several batches of our goats’ milk camembert “little bloom on the prairie.” The oldest one is nearly 6 weeks old (this was the last wheel of that batch, sorry) and was perfectly gooey throughout. The next in line is now one month old and has the perfect ratio of gooey exterior to firm paste. The guts of the cheese taste like the perfect sweet milk-salt balance. The rind has hints of mushroom. This one will be available for sale this weekend at the farmers’ market. The youngest batch we tasted is not ready for prime time, but we could tell it is headed in a good direction—stay tuned.
This Saturday, we’ll be attending only the Urbana Farmers’ Market. It will be my first Urbana market of the season. We have lots of GREAT cheeses this week:
- Fresh chevre that is perfectly lemony, creamy and delicious: plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
- The full Monty of bloomy rind cheeses: Angel Food, Little Bloom on the Prairie (in all its gooey glory), Black Goat, Ewe Bloom and Black Sheep
- Fresh goat milk ricotta
- Sheep Milk Feta
Our gelato will cool you down this weekend:
- Margot’s Fresh Mint
- Toasted Coconut
- Dulce de Leche de Cabra
- Pumpkin Pie
- Honey Ginger Ricotta
- Chocolate Mint
- Rhubarb Sorbetto
We’ll also be bringing our goat milk soap hand-crafted by Red Barn Farm. They use our goat milk, our honey and our herbs to make these gorgeous soaps. They lather really well, and last a long time. Come visit us at the Urbana Market to try and buy.
The farm exploded with color this week. It’s one thing to be lured into buying thousands of bulbs from the sensuous descriptions in the flower catalogues. It’s another thing to behold their beauty in the flesh. I am marveling at the ruffles and stamens of the tulips.
I am also in awe of the wisteria. The bumble bees have discovered them as well.
The window of opportunity for rainless days to plant opened up for us this week, albeit briefly; and finally, we were able to get potatoes, peas, beets, carrots, parsnips, chard and kale planted. As of this afternoon, it’s a mud bath out there again; the dog is filthy and the pigs are caked in a blissful black veneer.
The goats were finally able to wade out into their green sea of pasture this week too. It always brings me joy to watch them bury their heads in the lush greenness, open their jaws wide and stuff their faces with fresh forage. You can hear them eating with gusto too.
In the cheeserie
In keeping with the theme of flowing rivers of liquid, the abundance of milk over the past several weeks has been converted to tommes and blue wheels. What does a cheese maker do when he or she has surplus milk? He or she turns into wheels that age for several months. We’ve made so many wheels of Moonglo, that there’s barely room at the “inn” (that would be their cheese cave of sorts).
Our”tomme room”, as it is called affectionately, has so many wheels that must be bathed in Moonglo pear tea wash twice weekly, that it takes the cheese makers several hours to wash and flip them. We don’t even need to use our fogger to generate humidity, because the mass of breathing cheeses gives off so much water vapor that they keep the room at the ideal humidity range required for their aging. Thankfully, the farmers’ markets have resumed, so we can sell lots of fresh cheese and bloomy rinds, thereby slowing the flow of milk to Moonglo.
We’re attending two markets this Saturday May 11th: Urbana’s Market at the Square and Chicago’s Green City Market. It’s the day before Mother’s Day, and what better way to celebrate our mothers than to give them the gift of dairy. We’ve got a great lineup for you:
- Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn
- Angel Food Brie
- Little Bloom on the Prairie
- Black Goat and Black Sheep (compare and contrast the two milks—you’ll be amazed)
- Fresh goat milk ricotta (the perfect ingredient for that brunch you plan to make for your mother)
- Sheep milk feta
- Moonglo (made with milk from last year’s late lactation milk)
But wait, there’s more dairy! Goat milk gelato:
- Stracciatella (chocolate ganache chip)
- Honey Ginger Ricotta **
- Pumpkin Pie **
- Fresh Mint **
- Dulce de Leche de Cabra (that’s goat milk caramel) **
- Chocolate Mint
- Toasted Coconut
- Pecan Biscotti (oh man, this one is good, and it’s new!)
** indicates flavors that we’ll have at Green City Market
Thank you to all of our CSA members, new and returning. If you still want to sign up, I am keeping the signup section open through this weekend. We really need more folks from Springfield to sign up so we have enough to make the trip worthwhile. So, if you’re from Springfield or close by, check it out!!