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Posted 6/17/2010 9:30pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
goats in new pasture
We have been growing an experiment this spring--a forage sorghum-sudan grass pasture mixed with a tall-growing legume called "berseem clover." Both grow really fast and tall in warm weather. Since goats like to eat high--they are browsers after all, not true grazers--we have been eagerly awaiting the day we could turn them loose on this new pasture. This week, we let the girls in. The sound of 80 goats intently focused on chewing in unison brought a glow to my heart. Their heads were buried in their food, and I swear I could hear their lips smacking. I was mezmerized by the sounds of them eating with such gusto; I almost wished I were a ruminant myself.
All of that great forage makes its way into their milk and in turn in, into the flavors of our cheeses.  The flipside is that the current heat makes their appetites evaporate, and that, in turn, leads to less milk production.  Our cheese vats aren't overflowing with milk like they were just a few short weeks ago.  The "problem" of too much milk in early spring has transformed into the "problem" of not enough milk for cheese.  While this happens every year with the onset of hot weather, I always lament the transformation and wish we could have shade follow them where ever they go in the pasture to keep them cool and hungry. 
As a result of the dip in milk production, we don't have as much Chevre available for you this week at the farmers' markets. However, we have lots of Little Bloom on the Prairie and Ewe Bloom. Buy lots now because these cheeses will become scarce too in a few weeks. We also have the debut of this year's Moonglo, our raw goat milk tomme-style cheese. It is quite rich, buttery and delicious-what you would expect from early lactation milk cheese. We also have Roxanne, also quite creamy and tasty. Expect a few other cheeses including Prairie Dropseed and Black Sheep in very limited quanities.  If Angel Food is ripe, we'll probably bring some of these gooey goat rounds as well. 
Tomorrow morning, we'll be picking berries before the heat sets in. I hope to have raspberries and currants to bring to at least one of the markets on Saturday. I forgot to mention, we'll be attending three farmers' markets this Saturday: Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park. Summer is looming on the horizon--Stay cool and be cool--eat lots of cheese on those salads.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention, for those of you coming to the farm dinner this Saturday, “This little piggy…” expect hot weather and dress accordingly. Unless it is raining, we will be dining outside. The menu looks marvelously porcine.  On another note,  we have a few seats now available for the "Backyard Barbeque" Dinner on July 3rd. They are posted on our website under "Dinners on the Farm," then "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations."  First come, first served.

Posted 6/14/2010 5:27pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Thad Morrow will be our guest chef this coming Saturday June 19th for the "This little piggy.." dinner. As promised, he has created a menu that makes full use of the pastured hog raised by the Kilgus Farm Family in Fairbury Illinois.  You can view the menu on our website: www.prairiefruits.com
Go to "Dinners on the Farm" then click on "Dinner Descriptions and make reservations" then click on the the "This little piggy dinner" for more detail and scroll down the page to view the menu. 
For those of you fortunate to be attending this dinner, it should be a hog wild affair!
Posted 6/10/2010 10:56pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
berries yes
I was thinking about the word "ripen" today. We always refer to fruits as ripe when they are at their peak flavor and ready to eat. Those of us in the cheese world, also use the term "ripen" to describe the process of aging cheeses to the point that they are ready to eat.  Affinage is the french term for the process of cheese ripening.  Inherent in the term is the notion that something is acting on the cheese or the fruit to cause it to change its flavor, texture, etc. In both cases, it is a biologically mediated process (those microbes at it again) that coaxes along the digestion of some compounds and the production of others (sugars in the case of fruits, fatty acids and other flavor compounds in the case of cheese). In both cases too, ripening is a fairly subjective term that lets the eater (and in our case, the producer-eater) determine when the flavor of the food is at its peak. Ripe cheeses and ripe fruits--the joy of eating locally is that you actually get to purchase these foods when their delicousness is at its apex.
It seems like June is the month for ripening. We have had a plethora of soft-ripened (or bloomy rind) cheeses peak this week along with raspberries, currants and maybe even some gooseberries.
We'll be bringing lots of cheese to FOUR farmers' markets this week-Urbana, Bloomington, Green City Market in Lincoln Park, Chicago and of course Oak Park Farmers' Market-- so come visit us and buy some cheese. We might bring berries to a couple of the markets if we have extra. We're bringing the following cheeses:
Chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked peppercorn--come early to get the full selection
Angel Food-goat milk brie--epitomizes "ripeness"
Little Bloom on the Prairie--goat milk camembert-tasting really great this time of year-must be the pasture coming through in the goats' milk
Ewe Bloom-sheep milk bloomy rind-still on sale this week, because, you guessed it, several batches decided to ripen at the same time. 
Prairie Dropseed-our blended milk (sheep and goat) little ball with a geo mold rind--someone told me it reminds them of brain coral (it does!)
A new little bloomy rind we're calling "Pear Capri" it is less than 2 oz of white and blue mold coated goat mik creaminess in the shape of a petite poire (little pear in french).  We're making this special cheese for Stephanie Izard's new restaurant ("Girl and the Goat" slated to open the third week in June) and she came down to make an experimental batch with me a couple of weeks ago. You get to have a sneak preview of this little gem. 

Roxanne will reappear in the lineup next week; maybe even Moonglo. Stay tuned and stay ripe.
Posted 6/4/2010 10:09am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
This week's word is abundance. Our berries are finally starting to ripen, and first in line are the strawberries. We actually have enough to send to the farmers market this Saturday--maybe only Urbana, though. Kris is picking berries like a mad man as I write, so we'll see how many pints we get.  The sun has been plentiful enough that their taste is pretty exquisite. As Wes says, "They taste like Oregon berries" (dry summers produce sweet berries in Mediterranean climates like Oregon and California). 
Lots of cheese this week too:
Whole goat's milk ricotta is finally here! It's sweet, delicate and delicious
Chevre, of course--stuff those strawberries with some chevre and fresh herbs! Yum.
Limited supply of Angel Food
Little Bloom on the Prairie
Krotovina
Ewe Bloom
Roxanne--nice semi-hard texture

This week, we're running a sale on Ewe Bloom, the "blue" duckling that tastes like a swan.  It is $5/lb per pound less than the regular price. As I wrote last week, look past the blue rind and experience the buttery interior, and you'll be hooked on this cheese.
Take advantage of our abundance this week. We'll be attending the Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park Farmers' Market. Happy Local Food eating!
Posted 5/31/2010 7:18pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
For those of you attending the Tres Leches dinner this coming Saturday, June 5th, you can now view the tentative menu on our website. Just go to www.prairiefruits.com, then click on "Dinners on the Farm," then go to "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations", and lastly click on the "Tres Leches" dinner for more detail. The menu is at the bottom of the page, so please scroll all the way down. 
We look forward to seeing you soon.
Posted 5/28/2010 11:53am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
This week we have a limited repertoire of cheeses available for you at the farmers' markets. Our other cheeses are ripening away, and we should have more diversity next week. We will be attending Urbana, Bloomington, Green City and Oak Park Farmers' Markets.
We have:
Fresh chevre (plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper)
Angel Food --nice and gooey
Ewe Bloom--tastes great right now!
Limited amount of Roxanne-raw sheep milk brebis style
Mollisol Pecorino-our raw sheep milk Pecorino Romano style--sharp, slightly salty--great for grating over some roasted veggies or a beet salad.

A little insight about farmstead cheese and seasonality: milk and cheese are affected by the weather and the environment. Take our Ewe Bloom, for example. We are having an explosion of wild blue mold on these cheeses right now. It turns out that sheep on pasture produce milk that is friendly to the growth of this wild blue mold. It also turns out that when farmers' plow their fields and plant their crops this time of year, that lots of blue mold spores are cast into the air and make their way into our cheeserie. This mold is natural, it is not harmful to people, it has a mild and slightly earthy, almost non-detectable taste, yet its appearance is jarring to the human eye. Most people think that blue mold on cheese means it's spoiled. I assure you we wouldn't bring these cheeses to market if they were spoiled.  I encourage you to not judge this cheese by the color of it's "skin." Rather, close your eyes and take a taste. If then you're not convinced, you can pass it by. 
As spring fades into summer, I encourage you to be adventurous--eat some moldy cheese today!
Happy Local Food Eating!
Posted 5/21/2010 11:02am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Freedom Ranger chicks
The "Freedom Ranger" chicks arrive
Guinea Keets
The guinea "keets" are here too
This is a week of several season "firsts."  Our "Freedom Ranger" day-old broiler chicks arrived at the Post Office this morning along with our guinea keets (this is what guinea fowl babies are called).  The Freedom Rangers chickens were developed in France under the name of  "Label Rouge" and are designed for pasture raising. They have sturdy legs and love to eat grass and forage for insects.  We are very excited to try them.  Our guineas will be featured in the 100 yard dinner later this season. We learned a lot about how to raise them last year (how to keep predators away from them and prevent them from escaping in general), so we hope to have plenty to serve to our guests come October.
We harvested our first respectable crop of strawberries, and they are mighty tasty (not enough to sell yet, but for those of you coming to the first farm dinner, you'll get to experience them).  We picked our first bunches of spring greens--kale, collards, baby swiss chard, beet greens.  We will host our first farm dinner of the season on Saturday. If you haven't seen the menu, go to our website, click on "Dinners on the Farm," then "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations." Then, click on the "Spring Hopes Eternal" dinner and scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the menu.  For those of you signed up to attend this dinner, the weather is forecast to be in the low '80's and sunny. We will be dining outside, so dress accordingly. It should be a spectacular evening.
We start selling our cheeses at the Oak Park Farmers' Market this Saturday, bringing our market total to three (Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park). Next Saturday, we'll add Bloomington to the farmers' market repertoire.  Our first raw milk cheese of the season is ready to eat--Roxanne, our raw sheep milk brebis style cheese wil make it's 2010 debut at the farmers' markets. It's firm and creamy with a hint of nuttiness. Great for a grilled cheese sandwich or just slice a piece and eat it unadulterated. 
We will also have the following cheeses at the markets this Saturday:
Fresh chevre-the usual flavors
Angel Food--goat milk brie
Little Bloom on the Prairie-goat milk camembert style
Ewe Bloom--the little triangles of sheep milk gooeyness
Krotovina-the pyramid of the best of both milks
Roxanne--raw sheep milk brebis
Happy Eating!
Posted 5/18/2010 7:21pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Dear Prairie Fruits Farm Dinner Guests (and others, I realize):

The tentative menu is now on our website (www.prairiefruits.com) for the May 22nd Farm Dinner. You can find it under "Dinners on the Farm," then "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations," then click on the May 22nd "Spring Hopes Eternal" dinner.
 For those of you who will be coming to this dinner, please take a look so you can choose your wines or other beverages accordingly. For everyone else, feel free to take a look and imagine the deliciousness.

Stay tuned for future menus as the dinner dates approach.
Posted 5/14/2010 10:11am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Greetings cheese lovers:
It's the time of year we start adding farmers' markets to our repertoire. This Saturday--yes that is TOMORROW--we'll be attending the Urbana Farmers' Market and the Chicago Green City Market. Both start at 7AM and Urbana ends at noon, while Green City continues until 1PM.
We'll be offering you the following cheeses:
  • Our wonderfully fluffy chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked peppercorn
  • Angel Food--the brie style goat cheese
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie --our goat milk camembert style cheese
  • Krotovina--a lovely pyramid mold-ripened cheese that has a layer of sheep milk curd and a layer of goat milk curd separated by a very thin layer of vegetable ash
  • Ewe Bloom--our soft ripened sheep milk cheese
  • Prairie Dropseed--our blended milk geo-mold rind cheese--looks like a little snow ball.

We look forward to seeing you tomorrow.
Thank you for your patronage.
Posted 5/6/2010 9:30pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Mothers' day means a lot to me here on the farm. I have become the surrogate "mother" of over 100 baby goats this year.  Each one has his/her personality, some stronger than others, some with markings that make you marvel at genetics and some so fiesty that they make you laugh.  This is the great thing about having a goat dairy. Every year we get two plus months of "mothers' day." Well, all those babies have brought an abundance of milk, and we've been busy transforming that milk into an array of different cheeses for you to enjoy at the markets. 
little fawn baby
We're debuting a new bloomy rind cheese this weekend at the Urbana Farmers' Market. We call it "Prairie Dropseed," named after that beautiful prairie plant with a delicate raceme of seeds blowing in the wind.  Some of you may recall a cheese by that name that made the roster last year. Well, this one is different: it's our first true "mixed milk" cheese-blending sheep and goat milk in the cheese vat, adding a bit of geo white mold to the milk, ladling it like our chevre and then forming it into beautiful balls that develop a thin crinkly ivory rind after about 10 days. It is aged for a total of two weeks and has a nice creamy texture reminiscent of our chevre, but is more crumbly. Try it on a salad of local spring greens or crumble it on top of your favorite pasta dish. It makes an excellent Mothers' Day gift.
Prairie Dropseed
We also have the following other cheeses for you to enjoy:
Chevre of course--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
Black sheep--another "experimental" cheese-soft ripened with ash coating on the outside--all sheep milk. It is more firm and mild compared to Ewe Bloom. You can really taste the milk in this cheese.
Angel Food-gooey as ever
Little Bloom on the Prairie--what can I say--it's becoming a classic
Krotovina-the best of two milks separated by ash in a lovely little pyramid
Mollisol Pecorino--our raw sheep milk Pecorino Romano style cheese that we have been aging patiently for about one year. It's got a nice nutty and sharp flavor-excellent for grating or shaving over some roasted asparagus or rapini (Blue Moon Farm has some killer good rapini right now).
We also have a few very ripe Red Dawn--get them while supplies last.
For those of you in Chicago, don't despair. We will starting the Green City Farmers' Market next Saturday, May 15th. I look forward to reconnecting with our Chicago customers soon.
We have been graced with some amazing warm sunny spring days these past few weeks. The bees have been very busy pollinating our fruit, and if all goes well, we're expecting an excellent berry and tree fruit crop this year. Stay tuned.
Happy Mothers' Day and Happy Spring!