FARMSTEAD & ARTISAN CHEESES
Goat Cheese galore! At Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery we offer a variety of farmstead and artisan cheeses!
OUR GOATS & THEIR MILK
A few general comments about our goats and their milk: The goats are seasonal breeders and lactators. They are all bred in the fall (October/November) and kid (have babies) in the spring (March/April). They lactate (produce milk) for 9-10 months and are dry (not lactating) from late December through February.
Since their milk is seasonal, and their diet also affects flavor and components (butterfat and protein), the flavors and textures of our cheeses vary with the seasons. This is part of the beauty of seasonal, farmstead (using the milk from our own herd to make our dairy products) and artisanal cheeses.
Our chevre is made using a traditional slow fermentation process. The fresh milk, usually 12-24 hours old, is pasteurized using a low temperature pasteurization process (145 degrees F for 30 minutes), cooled to room temperature and then cultured with a starter culture. The cultured milk ferments for 20-24 hours to achieve the proper acidity. During this time, the curd (solids that become cheese) separates from the whey (the liquid that drains off). After 20-24 hours, the curd is hand ladled into cheese-cloth-lined baskets, where it is allowed to drain overnight. The next day the cheese is salted by hand and packed into containers for sale. We make chevre several times per week, and it is super fresh! It’s a very versatile cheese—you can cook with it, put it in a salad, top it over a pizza or just enjoy it on a slice of bread with jam or honey.
The chevre flavor changes with the seasons and the diet of the goats. In early spring, when the goats have just kidded and the milk is rich, the chevre is very dense and creamy with hints of lemony flavor. In the summer, when the goats are mostly eating fresh forage (pasture, prairie plants, browse), the milk is leaner. Summer chevre has a light texture and mouthfeel. It still has the lovely lemony taste. In fall, as the weather cools and the goats approach breeding season, the milk solids go up (butterfat and protein), and the cheese becomes super rich again, with more sweet cream notes to the flavor.
This is another type of bloomy rind cheese with a different species of white mold added to the milk. This mold has crinkly growth habit, forming a “brain coral” pattern on the rind. Unlike the mushroom notes of little bloom and angel food, the rind on black goat has a yeasty, bread-dough flavor profile. The color of the rind is due to a fine charcoal ash that is dusted on the cheese after it is salted in a brine bath. As the cheese ages, the white mold grows over the ash, given the cheese a grey hue. When young, the yeastiness dominates the flavor. As the cheese ages, it has a lot of meaty-umami flavors with hints of cooked cabbage. This cheese pairs well with hard salamis or chutneys. Its strong flavor can hold up to medium bodied red wines (Pinot Noir, Montepulciano or Cabernet Franc, etc.).
LITTLE BLOOM ON THE PRAIRIE
This cheese is modeled after a camembert with a delicate white mushroomy rind. This cheese is in the family of “Bloomy Rind” cheeses, because the rind is formed by the growth or bloom of added white mold. The milk is pasteurized similar to our chevre, then cooled to 95 degrees. At this time starter cultures and ripening cultures are added to the milk, along with rennet (an enzyme that helps the milk coagulate and form the curd). The white mold that forms the rind is added to the milk and only starts to grow once the cheese goes into an aging ‘cave’ (cool temperatures and very high humidity). The white mold breaks down the proteins and fats in the cheese, giving it a gooey consistency as it ages. The rind is meant to be eaten. The cheese can be enjoyed “young” (very little breakdown of the paste) or at various stages of ripening. The longer it ripens (at refrigerator temps), the more gooey the cheese becomes. Dominant flavor notes are mushroom, tangy (when young) and savory (brothy, umami notes) when it becomes more ripe. This cheese pairs well with jams, honey, fresh fruit (apples, pears) and a light crisp white wine or rose. It can also be served warm (a la baked brie) with toasted nuts, a drizzle of honey and fresh herbs or dried fruits.
This small bloomy rind cheese is modeled after a “crottin” when eaten young or more like a mini-brie when it is more aged. A crottin is a French bloomy rind cheese with a thin mushroomy rind and firm, tangy paste. The shape of this cheese dictates how it ages—it will retain a firm paste longer than the little bloom on the prairie. Like little bloom, this cheese pairs well with jams, honey, fresh fruits or pickled veggies. Also pairs well with crisp dry white wines, lighter ales or bubbly wines.
FLEUR DU PRAIRIE
The newest addition to the PFFC line up of bloomy rind cheeses, this delicate bloomy has the same type of white mold species as black goat, minus the ash. It is inspired by a Corsican sheep milk cheese called “brin d’amour.” We make the cheese in square molds, and once the white mold starts to bloom, we adorn the squares with a mixture of dried herbs (thyme, fennel) and edible flowers (nastursium, hyssop flowers, geum marigolds, calendula, etc.). This cheese ages for at least three weeks before it develops a mild-earthy flavor. The herbs and edible flowers impart their flavor to the cheese as well. It’s perfect with a dry white or rose or even a sparkling wine. It would also go very nicely with an IPA or pilsner beer.
GOAT MILK FETA
Our feta is made in a traditional Greek style-firm blocks that age in brine containing the whey (liquid part of cheese making) from the feta make itself. Our feta is made with pasteurized milk, and ages in the whey brine for at least one month before we sell it. We sell it in containers with the whey brine, which acts as a natural preservative. Our feta has a lovely “creamy-crumbly” texture and a nice goat tang. It is perfect for dressing up salads, crumbled over soups or stews or even on its own, drizzled with olive oil and adorned with fresh herbs.
WHERE TO GET OUR PRODUCTS
We sell our products through local markets in Central Illinois including Urbana’s Market at the Square, as well as several restaurant and retail locations in Champaign-Urbana - Common Ground Food Cooperative, Strawberry Fields-World Harvest Foods and Harvest Market.
Not in C-U? Look for our products in Bloomington-Normal at Common Ground Grocery and the new Greentop Grocery. Our cheeses are also available in select Chicago and Chicagoland locations, including numerous restaurants, and small retail specialty food and grocery shops such as Local Foods, Pastoral Artisan Cheese Bread and Wine, Standard Market, Eataly-Chicago, sweetgreen River North and Dearborn-Madison , Potash Market and select Whole Foods stores in Chicago.
We also offer On-Farm Sales throughout the season, where you can come out to the farm! Gelato pints and scoops are available as well as our cheese. Since farm hours vary by season, check out our newsletter or the main page of our website for the most current store hours.