We make our goat cheeses from milk that is usually 12 hours old and no older than 3 days. Since most of our cheeses are fresh (less than 1 week old) or aged less than 60 days, we pasteurize our milk first. We use low temperature pasteurization—145°F for 30 min—to minimize chemical alteration. We make all the cheeses in our licensed farmstead cheesemaking facility and we use only the milk from our herd of Nubian and La Mancha goats to make the cheeses. For the cheeses that have herbs or flowers or leaves, we try to use herbs, flowers and leaves grown on our farm. Our raw milk tome-style Moonglo cheese is washed with a ‘tea’ made from Moonglo Pear leaves. Our goal is to create cheeses that are grounded in our luscious prairie soils—a little bit of terroir here in Central Illinois.
Cheese making process for the fresh chevre-style cheese
The steps taken for making delicious Prairie Fruits Farm cheese are highlighted below:
1. Pasteurization (145°F for 30 minutes)
2. Milk is cooled to 72°
3. Once at 70°F, culture is added and allowed to “awaken” for about one hour
(The culture is a mix of lactic acid producing bacteria: these bacteria eat lactose and produce lactic acid as a by-product).
4. A very tiny amount of animal rennet is stirred into the cultured milk (1 drop per gallon). Rennet is an enzyme added to aid in coagulation of the curd. The milk then incubates with the culture and rennet for approximately 20 hours at room temperature of 70°F.
5. After this period, the whey (liquid portion) is tested for acidity using a titratable acidity test (a certain range of acidity indicates when the curd is firm enough to ladle).
6. Then curd is ladled into plastic shopping baskets that are lined with cheesecloth. These then drain overnight at room temperature.
7. The next day, the cheese is removed from the cheese cloth, weighed and salted with sea salt to finish the product.
*After pasteurization, all steps are done at room temperature to aid the lactic acid bacteria in their development and production of lactic acid.
Making Bloomy Rind (white mold ripened) Cheese
These cheeses are called "lactic-rennet" curd cheeses becuse the curd forms by both the action of lactic acid producing bacteria and rennet (an enzyme). We pasteurize the milk first, then add cultures, wait awhile, then add rennet and wait some more. Then curd is ready to cut.
Laddling cheese curd to make Little Bloom on the Prairie--photo courtesy of Kate Arding
Leslie and Alisa flip Little Blooms in cheese molds about one hour after ladling--photo courtesy of Kate Arding
Making "Krotovina," our soft-ripened cheese that is half sheep milk and half goat milk with an ash layer separating the two "milks." This cheese is made in a pyramid mold and the bloomy rind has a different type of white mold compared to Little Bloom on the Prairie. We fill the molds half full with goat milk curd, dust the curd with a thin layer of vegetable ash, and then refill the molds with sheep milk curd so the ash is sandwiched in between two curd layers. This cheese is dry salted the next day and allowed to age for about three to four weeks.