It has been a long cold winter, and we are beginning to see the subtle signs of spring peak through the melting snow. I actually picked some hardy survivalist spinach on Thursday. I couldn't believe it made it through the entire winter, although it was insulated by a thick blanket of snow. It was sweet and delicious, albeit a bit frost bitten.
I will be sending out more frequent emails describing happenings on the farm, but for now, I wanted to let everyone know that the dinner dates, themes, reservation ability are now posted on our website for your perusal and purchase (go to www.prairiefruits.com then click on "Dinners on the Farm," then "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations." You must click on each dinner date individually to see the detailed description and to purchase reservations. I would also encourage you to read the general description of our farm dinners (under "Dinners on the Farm"), so you have a basic idea of what to expect (start times, weather-related issues, cancellation and refund policy, etc. ).
Based on the number of inquiries I have received over the past several months, I know many of you have been eagerly awaiting this moment. Thank you for your patience. I believe we have put together a diverse and interesting set of 13 dinners that will reflect the seasonality and exquisite tastes of our region's local foods. Enjoy!
This is the time of year when we finally pull the plug on milk production and take a break from making cheese. The girls have given us some great milk this year, and we thank them. I feel both a sense of sadness and relief as we approach this time of year, every year. Sadness because I won't be making cheese for awhile; relief because I now get to rest, as do the goats. The seasonality of goats, goat milk and cheese is perfect for northern climes such as Central Illinois. It's too cold to coax them out of the barn to milk them, anyway. I went out to the barn to visit them this morning as Aaron was trimming their hooves, and Madeline, Ava and Ingrid strolled to the fence, put their feet up and pushed their heads towards me to be petted. I wished I had grown at least another pair of hands for all those heads clamoring for my affection. Their coats are puffed up to protect them from the cold, exagerating their plumpness.
Our last two farmers' markets of the season will be held this Saturday, December 18th from 8AM to 1PM: Urbana's Holiday Market inside Lincoln Square Village and Chicago's Green City Market at the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum. We'll have a respectable amount and assortment of cheeses for you to enjoy over the holidays as well as our gift size (5.5 oz.) farmstead honey and half-pint jars of the goat milk cajeta (caramel sauce). For the best selection, I highly recommend arriving early to the markets. Cheese-wise, we'll have:
Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper and heirloom tomato
Angel Food--think baked brie for New Year's eve
Little Bloom on the Prairie--enjoy with some sliced apples or pears
Krotovina classic --the all-goat version of our mold-ripened pyramid with an ash layer
Moonglo (very limited amount)--just slice it and eat it on some rustic bread
Kaskaskia--sheep milk grating style cheese--great for soups, stews, pasta, pizza-so versatile!
ANOTHER GREAT GIFT IDEA FROM PFF: We'll be selling $25 gift certificates this Saturday at the farmers' markets that can be used to purchase cheese, fruits, honey or any of our other fine farm products either at the farmers' markets or at our farm next season. They can also be used toward the purchase of our farm breakfasts next spring. What they CAN'T be used for is our farm dinners (sorry....). We will be posting the dinner dates in early March, so if you're signed up on our mailing list, you will ge the notice.
Happy Holidays to Everyone. The Prairie Fruits Farm family thanks you for your patronage.
It was fitting since this was the photo on the menu. We kept everyone warm with spectacular pairings of food and beer (you can see the menu on our website) and thankfully propane heaters. We were regaled by tunes played by my high-school buddy, David Hershey-Webb, who was visiting us (with his family) and gave a concert in Chicago that same weekend. Bill Morgan, Brew Master of Blind Pig fame, crafted some really fine beers from Saison to Stout. The belgian beef stew (prepared with meat from a steer we raised on the farm last year) was the piece de resistance, but the guests were left beyond satiated with a dessert of Flatlander chocolate-little bloom truffles, Missouri pecan and Flatlander chocolate "turtles" and chocolate malt goats' milk gelato "balls" rolled in crushed pretzels.
Sorry for making you all salivate, but the good news is that we made extra truffles and turtles so that we could share them with you at the farmers' markets this weekend. Here's the cornucopia of what we're bringing to the farmers' markets this Saturday, December 11th--Urbana's Holiday Market inside Lincoln Square Village and Chicago's Green City Market at the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum (both run from 8AM to 1PM):
Cheese (in very limited quantities this week, so get to the markets early for the best selection)
- Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked peppercorn and a few heirloom dried tomato
- Angel Food
- Little Bloom on the Prairie
- A few very ripe Red Dawn
The last of the Flatlander (local, artisanal dark chocolate produced by the late Dan Schreiber) chocolate in two forms: a little bloom on the prairie (camembert style) chocolate truffle and a caramel-missouri pecan turtle with dark chocolate drizzle.
Back by popular demand (your emails do work!): goats' milk cajeta (mexican style caramel sauce very similar to dulce de leche)--half pints and pint size jars will be available.
Lastly, we have a few of our Community Supported Goat Organic Cotton T-Shirts left (mostly XL size but maybe one or two larges left). We've reduced the price to $12--they do shrink some, and they make a very attractive night shirt with all those beautiful goat heads on the back (a selection of the "girls" of Prairie Fruits Farm") to lull you to sleep.
Lots of people are asking about the schedule of farm dinners for the 2011 season. If we decide to offer gift certificates again this year, they will appear on our website some time next week. If not, then the dates for the 2011 will go live on our website in early March 2011. Stay Tuned.....
December seems to be a month that we crave cheese. Maybe because eating cheese is so much more satisfying when eaten communally, and December is a month of sharing food. It's also a month of sharing drink, and what better way to enjoy cheese than with hand-crafted beers. We have two beer and cheese events scheduled for this coming week: Our final farm dinner "A Winter Beer and Cheese Fete" on Saturday, December 4th. You can see the menu and the beer pairings on our website: www.prairiefruits.com under "Dinners on the Farm." Then click on "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations" and then "Winter Beer and Cheese Fete" to see the menu. It is sold out.
The other event is a Beer and Cheese Tasting at Crane Alley in Urbana. There are seats still available; see the details below:
Beer & Cheese Tasting
Wednesday December 8th @7pm
In the Crane Alley Mezzanine.
We’ll be featuring the locally hand crafted
cheese of Prairie Fruits Farm. Paired along
with the world renowned brews of Merchant Du
Vin. Such as: Rochefort, Westmalle, Orval,
Samuel Smiths and Lindemans.
Hosted by: Brian Van Zandbergen of
Merchant du Vin and Leslie Cooperband
of Prairie Fruits Farm.
Tickets are $20 per person and are
available at the bar or through your
server. Space is limited.
For More Information or to Make Reservations: Contact Aaron at (217) 384-7526
115 West Main St # 1
Urbana, IL 61801-2722
We'll have an array of our cheeses, our farmstead honey and our organic-cotton Prairie Fruits Farm T-Shirts (large and X-large sizes only). The shirts have a photo montage of some of our favorite goats on the back. It makes an excellent stocking stuffer for the goat or cheese lover in your family or circle of friends. We've reduced the price to $12 each.
Cheese-wise, we'll be bringing the following:
Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
Little Bloom on the Prairie
Red Dawn (last of the season)
Krotovina (limited supply)
Moonglo (limited supply)
Happy Communal Cheese Eating and Fermented Beverage Drinking
We realize that many of you weren't able to make it to this past Saturday's Farmers' Markets to purchase your Thanksgiving feast foods, so we're opening our doors (or farm gates, rather) to give you one more opportunity to get some of the finest locally produced artisan cheeses and organic vegetables in Central Illinois. This WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 24TH, FROM 12 NOON TO 5PM, WE WILL HOST AN OPEN-HOUSE AND FARM SALE AT OUR FARM. Directions to our farm can be found on our website: www.prairiefruits.com under "Interact"
We're partnering with Blue Moon Farm who plans to have the following mouth-watering organic vegetables for sale:
- salad greens
- sweet and luscious spinach
- Fresh chevre (plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper and heirloom tomato)
- Angel Food-our gooey goat milk brie-try baking this with dried fruits and nuts, drizzled with some of our honey
- Little Bloom on the Prairie-always a crowd pleaser on the cheese plate
- Krotovina--this refined little pyramid with an ash layer through the center is sure to dazzle your thanksgiving guests
- Red Dawn--with a dusting of smoked paprika on the rind reminiscent of bacon, they will be begging you for more
- Moonglo-a tangy semi-hard raw goat milk tomme well suited for the cheese plate or for our "potato turnip au gratin" recipe (see last week's email for the recipe or go to our website: www.prairiefruits and view it under "The Experience" then "News")
- Kaskaskia-a lovely nutty raw sheep milk grating style cheese perfect for finishing your roasted root vegetable medley or in our "potato-turnip au gratin" recipe
We hope to see you here on Wednesday. Happy Thanksgiving!
To get you in the mood, I'm including some photos from our most recent farm dinner with Stephanie Izard of "Girl and the Goat" Restaurant. Her menu was cheese infused, including a first course of Kilgus Farmstead Veal, Mass Bay Scallop, butternut squash puree and shaved Kaskaskia. Her cheese course was work of art, playing Angel Food and Little Bloom on the Prairie against each other with mushrooms, fresh greens, pancetta and other delicacies. The photos were taken by one of our guests, Sheena Beaverson (she's a VERY good photographer, it turns out!)
The first course-it all comes together with shaved Kaskaskia
The cheese course--Angel Food on the Left; Little Bloom on the Prairie on the Right
This Saturday, we're attending THREE FARMERS' MARKETS-Bloomington, Urbana and Chicago's Green City Market. Both Urbana and Green City Market run from 8AM to 1PM. The Bloomington Thanksgiving Market, located in the US Cellular Colliseum, Downtown Bloomington runs from 10AM to 1PM. They are also hosting a local foods breakfast before the market opens. The menu sounds wonderful--check it out at: http://www.downtownbloomington.org/index.php?id=6
We have the full gamet of cheeses for you to select for your holiday meals:
Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked peppercorn and yes, Heirloom dried tomato
Angel Food (think composed cheese plate or baked brie)
Little Bloom on the Prairie--try plating it with some honey comb
Krotovina Classic-the all-goat milk version of our soft-ripened pyramid with an ash layer in the center
Red Dawn-soft ripened goat round with smoked paprika dusted on the rind
Moonglo--the raw goat milk tomme is tasting slightly creamy with a nice sharpness
Kaskaskia-- raw sheep milk, hard cheese; aged 6 months: shave it, grate it-savor the nuttiness.
We'll be bringing a recipe for an all-local potato-turnip au gratin using both our Moonglo and our Kaskaskia cheeses. It would make an excellent side dish for the turkey. If you forget to pick it up at the farmers' market, here it is:
A Cheesy Recipe from Prairie Fruits Farm
Potatoes and Turnips Au Gratin
Yield: Ten Servings
1.25 lbs. locally grown potatoes-russet variety preferred or other high starch variety-peeled and sliced about 1/8 inch thick
1 lbs locally grown turnips, peeled and sliced about 1/8 inch thick
1 Pint local milk (e.g. Kilgus Farmstead)
1 Pint heavy cream (e.g. Kilgus Farmstead)
Salt to taste (approx. ½ teaspoon)
Pepper to taste (approx. ¼ teaspoon)
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
Approx. 5 oz (a little more than ½ Cup) grated Moonglo cheese
Approx. 4 oz (about ½ Cup) grated Kaskaskia cheese
Approx. 1/3 to ½ cup fresh bread crumbs
3 oz. butter—locally sourced if possible-cut into small chunks
1. Add sliced potatoes and turnips to milk and bring to a boil. Simmer until potatoes and turnips are par-cooked.
2. Add heavy cream and season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
3. Layer potato-turnip milk-cream mixture in a butter baking dish (oblong ceramic or glass pan or casserole dish works best), alternating them with the grated cheeses. Finish with cheese on top and then sprinkle final layer with bread crumbs. Dot the top with chunks of butter.
4. Bake the gratin in a slow oven (approx. 300-325 degrees F) loosely covered until the potatoes are cooked (about 30 to 45 minutes). Remove the cover and bake again until the cheese is browned and a crust has formed.We have a lot for which we give thanks this year--a wonderful staff of hard-working, dedicated folks, a bountiful harvest of peaches, berries, poultry and veggies, a strong herd of gorgeous loving goats who continue to produce some of the best milk around and a farm that continues to bring us so much joy. We also thank all of you who continue to support us and nourish us with your feedback.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.....
This week feels like study in contrasts. The landscape pallet is reduced to shades of brown, red and pale yellow. The sky turns black at 5PM. The chickens alight to their roost by 4PM, and lay fewer and fewer eggs each day (which reminds me that we need to get a light turned on in their nest box area so we can still get a few more eggs over the winter). The goats are increasingly reluctant to come into the milking parlor for the evening milking; some even leave part of their grain ration! This would be unheard of in the spring. Every few days, the milk production drops by a couple of gallons, making it harder and harder to meet your demand for cheese. But.... the milk is rich... so rich that I can almost stand a spoon in it BEFORE I add the culture for cheesemaking. This is the milk that brings joy to the cheesemaker because of its taste and its yield.
We're attending two farmers' markets this Saturday--both have now moved indoors. Urbana's "Holiday Market" is located inside Lincoln Square Mall; most of the food vendors including us are located close to the south entrance to the mall, near Art Mart. The market runs from 8AM to 1PM. Chicago's Green City Market has moved to a wonderful circus tent on the grounds of the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum. It too runs from 8AM to 1PM.
We are very short on fresh chevre this week, especially plain chevre. We hope to make it up to you next week, just in time for the Thanksgiving Holiday. If you haven't tried some of our other cheeses yet, now is your chance to branch out. In addition to chevre, we'll be bringing:
Mouton Frais-the sheep milk version of our "chevre"; talk about rich!!
Angel Food--if you're a brie lover, this is the cheese for you.
Little Bloom on the Prairie--that rich milk is working it's magic on this cheese as well
Moonglo--creamy, tangy and nutty--great for slicing on a rustic bread
Roxanne--the last of the year; get it while it's still her
Kaskaskia--wonderful grating and shaving sheep milk cheese. We'll be providing a recipe for a potato and turnip au gratin using Kaskaskia and Moonglo at the farmers' market. This dish is simple to make, yet it will impress your friends and family as an all-local side dish for Thanksgiving.
Farm to Table Dinners
This Sunday afternoon (1PM, November 14th), we welcome Stephanie Izard to our farm of "Girl and the Goat" Restaurant, Chicago. She has created a wonderfully creative menu for the meal that you can view on our website: www.prairiefruits.com The dinner is sold out, but feel free to take a peak at the menu even if you don't have a reservation; you can at least imagine how wonderful it will all taste.
I also want to remind Chicago residents that there is an upcoming dinner at the Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park, IL featuring our cheeses and other farm products. It is Tuesday, November 16th, 6-9PM. There are still some seats left. The menu looks very enticing (see below) and part of the proceeds will go to our "Save Olympian Farmland" campaign to stave off the Olympian Drive road project near our farm. To make reservations, contact Marion Street Cheese Market at: 708-725-7200 or visit their website at http://marionstreetcheesemarket.com to make reservations on-line through OpenTable.
Here is the dinner menu for the evening:
First Course – Sunchoke Bisque + Sunflower Seeds + Sunflower Sprouts + Black Pepper Chevre
Second Course – A selection of artisanal cheese from Prairie Fruits Farm with seasonal accompaniments
Third Course – Goat “Cheesecake” + Marcona Almond Crust + Mutsu Apple Marmalade + Shaved Radish
Fourth Course – Sweet Potato Gnocchi + Braised Guinea Hen + Toasted Chestnuts + Shaved Kaskaskia
Dessert Course – Krotovina Ice Cream + Poached Figs + Sicilian Pistachio Cake + Banyuls Honey
We now have a tentative menu for this coming Sunday's farm dinner "An Afternoon Dinner with Stephanie" on the website. To view it, please go to www.prairiefruits.com, then click on "Dinners on the Farm." Scroll down to "Dinner descriptions and make reservations" and then click on the "An Afternoon Dinner with Stephanie." You should see the menu there. Please remember that this meal is BYO, so feel free to bring whatever wines or beers that you think would best accompany the food.
I know a number of you have made reservations for this dinner several months ago, so PLEASE check to see if you are signed up for it or not. Recently, we've had some guests forget that they signed up for a particular dinner, given how long ago they made their reservation. The menu looks fantastic, and I would hate for anyone signed up for it to miss it. Also, please remember, this is a SUNDAY AFTERNOON MEAL. We will start at 1PM with hors d'oeuvres, then have a tour of the farm, then sit down to the first course around 2PM. The meal typically lasts for about four hours. We will be dining inside, but the weather should be pleasant and fall-like.
It's true. Saturday's temperatures will start out in the low '20's in the morning. Thankfully, we're mammals and NOT amphibians. In fact, we're tough pioneers!
We plan to be at the last outdoor farmers' market of the season in Urbana, despite the frigid temperatures. However, we're slightly modern pioneers (and a bit wimpy), so we're going to arrive a little late on Saturday AM--we should be there by 8AM and set up by 8:30AM at the latest. We want you to come and shop, and we don't want you to have to get out of bed at 7AM and brave those really frigid temps. Come a little later and still get the full selection of what we have to offer you.
Although we'll be braving the outdoor elements down here in Champaign-Urbana, Chicago residents can enjoy comfortable hours and temperatures inside the tent at the Winter Green City Market. This market has moved to the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum through the rest of the fall. It starts at 8AM and runs until 1PM.
We have the following cheeses to be enjoyed by a fire with some wonderfully crusty bread and a nice glass of whatever warming beverage suites you:
Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper (maybe heirloom tomato next week)
Mouton Frais: this is the sheep milk version of our "chevre." Rich, very creamy with a slight tang. It is an excellent stand in for mascarpone cheese. It has been frozen previously, but like our chevre, freezing does not alter the flavor or texture of the cheese upon thawing.
Little Bloom on the Prairie (limited quanities)
Krotovina (just a few left)
Roxanne--the raw sheep milk brebis style cheese, aged about three months. This is the last batch of the season, so if you like this cheese, this is probably your last chance to get some
Kaskaskia--our raw sheep milk Manchego X Parmesan style cheese, aged six months. Great nutty flavor; excellent for grating over a nice bowl of stew.
We will also have some of our mid-season farmstead honey for sale as well--$4 for the 8-oz jars and $8 for the 16 oz. jars. It's slightly darker than our first extreaction honey, reflecting the summer nectaries the bees were foraging on: alfalfa, clover, herb flowers, praire coneflower, vegetable flowers, etc... It is still complex and delicious!
Other news: If you haven't signed up already, please come join us at the Marion Street Cheese Market on Tuesday evening, November 16th to share a wonderfully crafted meal with our cheeses and farm products and help us and our farmer neighbors save our precious farmland from development.
For more details, visit the Marion Street Cheese Market's website at: www.marionstreetcheesemarket.com