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Posted 12/20/2012 9:23pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

As I awoke to a gusty 50 degree morning, it was hard to fathom that the day would end so dramatically differently.  In anticipation of our final on-farm sale, we harvested the still-lush field-grown spinach, kale and chard and snipped a few of the fresh herbs.  The grass was still green, the soil soft and muddy; remnants of a fall reluctant to lie down and die.  We knew that the warmth wasn’t right for the date on the calendar, and we hurried to finish the winter buck pens inside the kid barn.  It didn’t take more than a handful of grain to lure the bucks inside to their winter digs just as the wind gales started to escalate.  By noon the rain was blowing sideways, then it stopped altogether and the sun came out.  New black clouds collected along the southern sky and by early afternoon, the temperature was plummeting and the sky was spitting raindrops on the verge of freezing.  It’s strange how the transformation from rain to snow can happen so quickly when the wind is blowing more than 25 miles per hour.  As the sky darkened for its typical early winter hour, it occurred to me that folks might not be able to make it out to the farm tonight.  A few brave souls trickled into the warm barn, greeted with hot cider and evidence of warmer weather. 

Today was our last day of milking and our last day of cheese making for the season. As I reflect on the end of our season, I am struck by a recurrent theme of perseverance in the face of extremes—extreme heat, extreme drought, extreme wind, extreme highs and lows.  We set some records: highest number of quadruplets and triplets born on the farm, highest amount of cheese produced and of course, our American Cheese Society first-place award for our “black sheep” cheese.  Our goats performed remarkably well despite the environmental extremes they endured, and our summer dinner guests were great sports and ate with gusto, despite the sweltering temperatures.  Our farm continues to harbor the beauty of the prairie in the midst of these extremes-I witnessed some of the most dramatic skies throughout the seasons.  It has been a good year for us, and I want to thank all of you who have supported our farm.  As the wind howls outside and this season draws to a close, I know that in true cyclical fashion, it will be raining baby goats in a few short months.


Elly May and Jethro holiday cheer

Elly May and Jethro wish you all the happiest of holidays and good cheer!

Winter happenings and CSA signup

We’ve got some exciting things planned for the winter including expanding our cheese and gelato CSA to the greater Chicago area. Stay tuned for updates just after the New Year.

Final Farmers’ Market of the Year

We have one final farmers’ market on Saturday, December 22nd- Chicago’s Green City Market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. We’ll be there from 8:30AM to 1PM with cheese, honey, cajeta (our goat milk caramel-very limited quantities so come early) and even some gelato.  Come on out for a local food holiday blowout. We’ve got:

  • Fresh chevre—your last chance to stock up for the winter-plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Sheep milk feta-it’s been aging beautifully and the taste is sublime. We’re running a special to honor its delicousness—buy two containers and get $1 off each container.
  • Angel Food Brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Moonglo
  • Roxanne
  • AND Introducing our rich, creamy and sweet raw sheep milk blue “Eldon”—named after the Amish farmer who milks the sheep and supplies us with this delicious milk. 

Our gelato flavors—all locally sourced—include:

  • Pumpkin Pie gelato—pumpkins from the Great Pumpkin Patch in Arthur IL
  • Seedling Orchard Cider sorbetto
  • Autumn berry sorbetto-a wild harvested tart and tangy berry-beautiful pink color, lip smacking taste
Posted 12/18/2012 5:13pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
We've decided to open our farm doors for some last minute local food holiday shopping. So, come on out to the farm on Thursday, December 20th from 5 to 7PM.  We'll have cheese, gelato and honey for sale AS WELL AS our brand new, stylish farm T-shirts. Stewart's Artisan breads will be here too  with both savory and sweet baked goods. We'll even harvest some of our late season (and sweet as sugar) spinach, kale and herbs for you.  We'll crank up the heaters in the barn, turn on the festive holiday lights, and maybe even mull some hot cider for you to sip while you shop.  Just don't ask us to sing any holiday songs! We hope to see you here!
Posted 12/13/2012 5:20pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

News flash in the journal Nature: archeologists have discovered evidence of a 7,000 year-old clay cheese strainer.  There was a wonderful radio piece on National Public Radio this morning highlighting the importance of Neolithic cheese making in humankind’s transformation from hunter-gatherers to agrarians.  The research scientists called milk a “super food” (of course, we dairy folk already knew this) and suggested that our ancestors had trouble digesting it—yes, lactose intolerance has been around for millennia (who knew??). Transforming milk into cheese by the elegant act of acidification rendered this digestively-challenged product into a nutrient rich powerhouse. Cheese sustained our ancient cousins so they could have the energy to cultivate new crops and tame those wild ruminants.  By reasoning, then, you might say that cheese played a critical role in the birth of the world’s great civilizations.  Heady stuff for the simple curd; let’s celebrate cheese’s simple ancient beginnings as we go from lightness to darkness in this winter holiday season. If you want to read or hear the piece on NPR, go to:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/12/13/167034734/archaeologists-find-ancient-evidence-of-cheese-making

 Don’t forget to pre-order your holiday gift basket on our website—for those of you picking up your baskets either at the December 15th Urbana or Springfield Markets, we need your order NOW. If you’re picking up your basket at the December 22nd Green City Market, please place your order by Wednesday AM, December 19th.

End of Year Holiday Markets and On Farm Sales

This Saturday, December 15th, we have two holiday markets: Urbana and Springfield. Urbana’s market runs from 8AM to 1PM, and Springfield’s Holiday market at the State Fairgrounds runs from 9AM to 1PM.  We’re bringing plenty of cheese to adorn your holiday tables:

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Angel Food Brie—perfect for that baked brie appetizer you make for holiday parties every year
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie—our camembert style goat milk cheese is rich and creamy
  • Black Goat and Red Dawn—one’s got ash, the other one’s got smoked paprika—both are available in very limited quantities
  • Sheep milk feta—this feta is tangy and crumbly; perfect for finishing any roasted winter vegetable dish you plan to make for the holidays
  • Moonglo—our raw goat milk tomme—a bite of summer pastures in winter—kinda’ hard to beat!
  • Roxanne—the raw sheep milk brebis—a recipe inspired by the Pyrenees style cheeses of Spain and southern France

We’re running a special for this holiday season: if you purchase a container of feta along with either a bloomy rind cheese (Angel Food, Little Bloom) OR a wedge of Moonglo or Roxanne, we’ll give you $1 off the price of the feta!!

In addition to cheese, we’ll have some of our late summer farmstead honey and very limited quantities of our goats’ milk cajeta-that velvety caramel sauce that so many of you have been craving.

For our Urbana market goers, we’ve got some holiday gelato and sorbetto to don your holiday dessert tables:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Espresso
  • Stracciatella
  • Holiday Spice—a lovely blend of cinnamon, nutmeg and clove—think eggnog without the egg
  • Licorice—this is the REAL deal for you licorice fans—pure, unadulterated licorice root—slightly earthy, quintessential licorice taste
  • Pumpkin Pie—it compliments any chocolate dessert to a tee
  • Apple cider sorbetto- a great pallet cleanser for that fancy holiday meal you plan to make
  • Autumn berry sorbetto—beautifully tart

On Farm Sales: We’ve decided to open our doors for the holidays. We’ll be open on Thursday, December 20th from 5 to 7PM for your last minute local food holiday shopping needs.  We’ll have cheese (of course), gelato (of course), some freshly harvested spinach and kale from our farm, holiday breads (from Stewart’s Artisan Breads) and maybe even a few dozen farm fresh eggs.  Details to come next week, so stay tuned. 

Chicagoans: Please remember that there is NO Green City Market this Saturday, BUT there will be a final market on December 22nd. We will be there with plenty of cheese, honey, cajeta and maybe even some local flavors of gelato and sorbetto. 

Posted 12/9/2012 7:00pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Greetings:

If you're in a quandry about what to give as a gift this holiday season, you're problems are solved. You can now order a beautiful gift basket of Prairie Fruits Farm cheeses accompanied by either our farmstead honey or by cajeta, our delicious goat milk caramel sauce.  You must be able to pick up your basket at either the Urbana Holiday Market or the Springfield Holiday Farmers' Market (both on Saturday, December 15th) OR Chicago's Green City Market (Saturday, December 22nd).  ALL ORDERS NEED TO BE PLACED BY THURSDAY, DECEMBER 13TH AT 5PM. Here's the link:


http://www.prairiefruits.com/store/special-sales#


Champaign-Urbana cheese lovers: I will be at the Common Ground Food Cooperative on Tuesday, December 11th from 5 to 7PM sampling our lovely & tangy sheep milk feta. Billy LeGrand, the Coop's Cheesemonger (and their wine and beer 
connoisseur), will have special treats to accompany the cheese including olives, crackers and some lovely organic italian wine. Stop by to taste and say hi! If you're not already smitten by this cheese, I'm sure you will be.

Posted 12/6/2012 10:08pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

Unbeknownst to me, yesterday, December 5th, was World Soil Day, “a day to remember that we owe our existence to those few inches of living and life-giving topsoil.” This time of year, after the crops have been harvested from the fields and the stubble tilled in, the soil is laid bare to showcase its inherent richness.  Coincidentally, Wes and I were driving from Chicago to Bloomington and then back to Champaign yesterday, bearing witness to the abundance of black “dirt” that blankets much of central Illinois. We even passed the town of Flanagan, the namesake of one of the most productive prairie soils on the planet, “Drummer-Flanagan silty clay loam.”  It is so black, it’s almost blue.  These soils are the foundation of the longstanding agricultural heritage of this region; indeed, they are the starting point for the distinct nature of our goats’ milk and the cheeses we produce from their milk. 

Farmers' Markets: Cheese and Other Gifts

Chino models new T-shirt

Chino, our cat, models the new Prairie Fruits Farm T-shirt--no animals were harmed in this picture--he was purring the whole time!
We're attending two farmers' markets this Saturday, December 8th: Urbana's Holiday Market and Chicago's Green City Market.  We'll be debuting our new Prairie Fruits Farm T-shirts at the Urbana Market. Our in house model, Chino, shows off the green T-shirt above. We also have poppy red and grey colors--all sizes including child sizes.  They make GREAT holiday gifts!!! As for cheese,  I have been telling folks for a few weeks, that now is the time to stock up on fresh chevre to put in your freezer.  In addition to chevre, we'll have:

 

  • Angel Food Brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Black Goat
  • Ichabod--this is the last of our pungent pumpkin ale-wash rind sheep milk cheese. If you've tried it and loved it, come early to the market to get some.  
  • Moonglo
  • Roxanne
  • Sheep Milk Feta

Upcoming events and other news:   I'll be at the Common Ground Food Coop in Urbana on Tuesday from 5 to 7PM sampling our sheep milk feta. It's not just for summer salads. We'll have goodies to accompany the feta as well as a recipe or two.  The Coop will be offering the feta at a discounted price that evening, so come by to taste and to buy some.  

We are putting together some beautiful holiday gift baskets of cheese, honey and other Prairie Fruits Farm products.  Stay tuned for details about how to pre-order your basket.  We'll have our final batch of gelato made for the markets on December 15th--THIS IS URBANA'S FINAL HOLIDAY MARKET AS WELL AS THE HOLIDAY MARKET IN SPRINGFIELD. FOR OUR GREEN CITY MARKET PATRONS, PLEASE NOTE THAT THERE WILL BE NO MARKET ON DECEMBER 15TH, BUT THE FINAL MARKET OF THE SEASON WILL BE HELD ON DECEMBER 22ND.  Cheese is the perfect gift for the holidays.  

Posted 12/3/2012 4:26pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

In case you don't already have this on your calendar, a gentle reminder to come see us at the "Ms. Mint Holiday Bazaar" at Goose Island Brew Pub at Clybourn in Chicago. That's TOMORROW FROM 4 TO 9:30pm. We'll be there with cheese, some jam, some honey and beautiful holiday gift baskets.  It should be loads of fun, so come on out for a night on the town!

Here are the details:

EVENT INFO:

Ms. Mint’s Holiday Bazaar- 3rd Annual
Tuesday December 4, 2012 4-9:30 pm
Goose Island Clybourn Brewpub-1800 N. Clybourn Ave Free Parking/Vendors-in Baby Gap Lot
General Admission- Free/Donation
Tasting Ticket- $15 at the Door / $12 Online:

 Pingg: http://msmint.pingg.com/Dec4Goose2012

 Eventbrite: http://msmint2012bazaar.eventbrite.com/#

 Event Website: http://www.msmint.com/ms-mints-holiday-bazaar-2012.html

Facebook Invite:  http://www.facebook.com/events/129958457154399/
Hosts: Kate Gross/ Ms. Mint Trading Post and Goose Island Clybourn
Theme: Holiday Gift Fair/ Local Artisan Vendor Fair, Local Spirits Sampling, Networking, and Gift Basket Making


Posted 11/29/2012 6:47pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News

We had the vet students out this week to ultrasound the does to check for pregnancies.  It has become an annual late fall ritual.  We bring the girls into the milking parlor, they get a little grain, the vet students lubricate the ultrasound wand, and we go in search for signs of pregnancy.  There’s something universally joyous about birth, and witnessing the first signs of future goat babies. No matter how many times I’ve seen an ultrasound or watched the vets view the fuzzy and fast-moving images on the screen, I still get excited about fluid-filled sacs, placentomes and darting fetuses.  It’s also fun to watch the students (and yes, even their instructors) eyes gleam as the images of confirmed pregnancy come into view.  Mind you, the does haven’t really grasped the significance of our excitement.  For them, eating grain at 1PM in the afternoon was all the excitement they needed.  Usually, we’re in a hurry to get as many does check as possible in a short period of time. This year, we’re going a bit slower so the students can learn how use the ultrasound machine, so we were able to see twins and even triplets growing inside their mommas’ wombs.  Based on the number of confirmed pregnancies and the numbers of multiple fetuses to date, it looks like March 2013 is shaping up to be a whirlwind of baby goat births.

Farmers’ Markets and Holiday Bazaar

This Saturday, December 1st, we’re attending two farmers’ markets: Urbana’s Holiday Market and Chicago’s Green City Market.  Now is the time you should be stocking up on chevre to stick in your freezer to get you through the long cold lonely (chevre-less) winter—that’s right; you can freeze the chevre without compromising its texture or taste (I promise).  So, we’ll have:

  • Chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked peppercorn
  • Angel Food Brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie—our silky goat milk camembert
  • Black Goat—our ash ripened goat milk cheese
  • Moonglo—it’s summer raw goat milk encased in a rind bathed with pear leaf tea! How great is THAT!!
  • Roxanne—reminiscent of greener pastures, this raw sheep milk brebis is great for slicing or even shaving. 
  • Sheep milk feta—you may be thinking that feta season is over, but our feta is perfect for topping a homemade pizza or crumbling over some roasted root veggies!!
  • Ichabod—our one-of-a-kind washed rind sheep milk cheese. The rind was washed with Blind Pig Brewery’s Pumpkin-Honey Ale (alas it is no more at the brewery, so you’ll have to enjoy it in cheese form now).  It is known, affectionately, as “stinky” among our cheese makers, but the taste will leave you wanting more and more.

For those of you who live in or around Chicago, I hope you’ll come out to the Goose Island Brew Pub next Tuesday, December for the Ms. Mint’s Holiday Bazaar.  We’ll be there with some cheese gift baskets as well as cheese and honey to make your own holiday gift baskets. It should be a FANTASTIC EVENT, SO CHECK IT OUT:

EVENT INFO:
Ms. Mint’s Holiday Bazaar- 3rd Annual
Tuesday December 4, 2012 4-9:30 pm
Goose Island Clybourn Brewpub-1800 N. Clybourn Ave Free Parking/Vendors-in Baby Gap Lot
General Admission- Free/Donation
Tasting Ticket- $15 at the Door / $12 Online:

Pingg: http://msmint.pingg.com/Dec4Goose2012

Eventbrite: http://msmint2012bazaar.eventbrite.com/#

Event Website: http://www.msmint.com/ms-mints-holiday-bazaar-2012.html
Facebook Invite:  http://www.facebook.com/events/129958457154399/

Hosts: Kate Gross/ Ms. Mint Trading Post and Goose Island Clybourn

Theme: Holiday Gift Fair/ Local Artisan Vendor Fair, Local Spirits Sampling, Networking, and Gift Basket Making

Posted 11/23/2012 7:33pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

As you enjoy your leftovers from yesterday's Thanksgiving Feast, don't forget to come to the Urbana Holiday Market tomorrow from 8AM to 1PM. I'll be there with cheese, honey, jams AND gelato! If they loved your Prairie Fruits Farm cheese board, why not send them home with some "cheesey" gifts.  I'll have:

  • Chevre
  • Angel Food Brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Black Goat
  • more of that beautiful pumpkin-honey ale washed "Ichabod"
  • Roxanne brebis
  • Moonglo tomme

Local foods make wonderful gifts.  I believe tomorrow is "small business" day, so what better way to support your local small businesses than to shop the farmers' market. I hope to see you there!

Posted 11/20/2012 6:32pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
As you begin preparations for your thanksgiving feasts, I wanted to let our local patrons know that we have decided to attend the Urbana Farmers' Market this coming Saturday, November 24th.  If you've got family in town, it's a great place to take them. I will send out details about the market and what we'll be bringing on Friday. HAPPY THANKSGIVING!
Posted 11/15/2012 9:13pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Farm News: Giving Thanks and Thanksgiving

We’ve arrived at the time of the season that begs us to pause, to take stock, to savor the harvests.  We as a community of farmers have come a long way or maybe full circle to the time of the Pilgrims and the Native Americans who helped them survive their first year in the new world.  Their feast was all about local foods-wild turkey, native crops.  Our feast is all about modern day local foods—pastured raised turkey from Triple S Farms, greens from Blue Moon Farm, potatoes and sweet potatoes raised on our farm and of course cheese!  I know. Cheese was definitely not on the Pilgrims’ Thanksgiving table. I did say “modern” day feast, and what better way to give thanks than to start with some locally produced hand-crafted goat and sheep milk cheeses.  Our cheese makers, Nat and Alison, have composed a couple of model cheese boards to whet your appetites.

Nat and Alison

“Ladies and gents, it is again our pleasure to vie for your attentions in Leslie’s weekly tales of goat intrigue with some well-composed fromago-phillic verbiage.  It would be difficult to trump the comprehensive and poetic cheese pitch we made for last year’s holiday cheese board; however, we will have a go at it with two suggested cheese progressions either to begin, end, or, even, to become your Thanksgiving meal. 

Taking a page straight out of classic foodie gifting, we call our first progression, “The Crowd Pleaser.”

first cheese board

It is an all-goat tasting that begins with the ubiquitous “goat cheese”, Chevre.  This pick is a great place to start any cheese course with it’s high acidity that gets your taste buds moving and leaves you wanting more.  Never mind the fact that our chevre is the Bees’ Knees.  Now that you’ve really tickled Grandma’s pickle with your first selection, the second pick is Angel Food.  This fluffy-rinded cheese has an unctuous, mild paste with the aroma of a maitake (that’s mushroom for the uninitiated) meadow glistening in the autumnal sun. (What we are trying to say underneath all this jibber-jabber, is that our brie-style cheese is both approachable and nuanced and a rind that’s outta sight.)  Our final pick for this progression is Moonglo, a raw goat’s milk tomme, aged 4-5 months.  It tastes of brown-buttered grass, with a texture that occupies that sweet space between buttery and crumbly.  If you want to make good even better, put honey to chevre, tart jam to brie and apples and pears to Moonglo. 

Our second selection reminds us that anyone can bring the Green Bean Amandine to the potluck, but is takes a very special person to bring “the funk!”

cheese board 2

  This tasting starts with the ashen lady of the night, Black Goat.  The beauty of this beginning is a wrinkly rind with the complexity of a Rubik’s Cube, and a chalky interior as bright as the noon-day sun.  Batting second is Little Bloom on the Prairie, our homage to the cheese traditions of Normandy.  This Camembert-style cheese’s luscious interior begets a loamy aroma with a finish of dew-kissed hay.  We close with Roxanne, a natural-rind, raw sheep’s milk cheese named after the coolest cat (goat) in the yard.  The flavors of cultured butter are complimented by a firm, open texture and well-balanced salt.  This plate’s best friends would be berries and Black Goat, warming spices and Little Bloom, honey and Roxanne.  Don’t forget some pickles.

Often people will make a big to-do about what to drink with their cheese, but in this instance, you can keep it simple.  Buy a case of off-dry to semi-sweet French white (although dry to off-dry Riesling, old or new world, is a reasonable alternative), and it will make your turkey get up and do the Electric Slide with your cheese.  If you wanted to celebrate with some fermented bubbles, and we think you should, a Cider would be a great bet.  If you need a red, keep it fruity and light. (Bloomy rinds and Big tannins make Bad Bedfellows… nor does it do your stuffing much justice).

That‘s about it from the dark dungeons of the dish pit at Prairie Fruits Farm, but with one final request:  We’ll keep making cheese if you remember to temper it before serving (close to room temperature).  Remember, that you should eat what makes you happy, but that eating is an agricultural act.”

Farmers’ Markets

We’re going all out for the Thanksgiving holiday this year. We’re attending three holiday farmers’ markets this Saturday, November 17th: Urbana (8AM to 1PM), Green City Market (8:30AM to 1:00PM) and the Springfield Holiday Market run by the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (at the Illinois State Fairgrounds from 9AM to 1PM).  We’ve got a great lineup of cheeses (several of them have already been described eloquently by our cheese makers):

  • Fresh chevre---plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Angel Food Brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Black Goat
  • Roxanne
  • Moonglo
  • Sheep Milk Feta

AND…a sneak preview of a special cheese we made to commemorate the fall season. We’re calling it “Ichabod” –a luscious sheep milk wash rind cheese. The name is homage to the Blind Pig Brewery’s pumpkin-honey ale that was used to wash its rind. It was made with one our last batches of sheep milk this year. It’s rich, slightly sweet and “stinky” (in a good way as is the case with most washed rind cheeses). We’re bringing only a small amount to market this Saturday, so come early if you want to try it. Don’t worry though; we’ll be selling more of it in the next couple of weeks, so you should have ample opportunities to try some.

Ichabod

Urbana market shoppers can pick up some gelato for their holiday dessert tables:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Stracciatella
  • Ginger
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Autumn Berry Sorbetto—very lovely and tart

For our Green City Market shoppers, don’t be surprised if I show up with a few pints of pumpkin gelato and Autumn berry sorbetto (bring your coolers!!). 

Stay tuned for details about other holiday markets we’ll be doing over the next few weeks.  We thank you, our patrons, for making this year another one for giving and receiving many thanks.  Chippy, one of our beloved goats reminds you to Eat local—it’s the true spirit of Thanksgiving!

goat love-chippy