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Experimenting in the cheese vat, cheese for the holiday weekend, farm happenings

Farm News

Every once in a while, we get to make something completely new to our cheese repertoire, something that takes me out of my comfort zone. This week, we experimented with making a halloumi style cheese. Halloumi is a DPO (protected name) cheese from Cyprus. Traditionally, it is made from either sheep or goat milk, but more modern versions use cow milk. The cheese style is a hybrid between a stretching cheese (pasta filata; e.g., mozzarella) and a brined cheese (e.g., feta). What makes it unique is that the newly formed cheese is bathed in near-boiling whey until it floats. This process denatures the milk proteins and makes the cheese firm on the outside and slightly “squeaky” like cheese curds on the inside. It also permits the cheese to be subjected to direct heat, especially grilling or pan frying, without melting. The heat and caramelization of the cheese are the keys to its surprising deliciousness.


When we make something new for the first time, we always start with a small batch of milk, just in case the project ends up in the compost pile. We settled on a composite recipe after reading several recipes and scientific papers on the cheese (I was surprised how many peer-reviewed papers there were on Halloumi!! Who knew??) as well as viewing a few u-tube videos. As with all of our experiments, we took lots of measurements and wrote copious notes (can’t take the scientist out of me). The process involves coagulating the milk with rennet (a natural enzyme) alone—no starter cultures—because the cultures would be killed by the near-boiling whey. Once the curd has set, the curd is cut into small cubes and stirred and heated. Once the curd has the right consistency, the whey is drained off and collected and the curd is collected into a cheesecloth to form a large slab. It’s pressed for awhile to expel whey and then cut into lovely rectangles. Their resemblance to halibut fillets is remarkable. The whey is heated to near boiling and then cheese rectangles are submerged in the hot whey until they float to the surface. I was worried that our little old cheese vat would not be able to heat the whey to near boiling, but she performed beautifully, creating a steam bath in the entire make room.


Once removed from the hot whey, the cheeses are salted and then they are ready to eat! The true proof of experimental success came after we fired up the grill and threw a few slabs on. The grill marks were text-book. The taste buds did not lie—the cheese was subtly sublime—slight squeak on the teeth, sweet milk flavor and hint of salt. More please…yes, we will make more.

Urbana’s Market at the Square: Featured Items Going to Market This Saturday-7 am to 12 noon


Celebrate Independence Day weekend by creating a feast from local ingredients. The market is teaming with amazing fruits—peaches, berries and veggies—early tomatoes, cukes, maybe even sweetcorn?? All are perfect vehicles for showcasing our cheeses. We have a great weather forecast in store for this weekend. No excuses to make a Saturday morning foray to the Urbana Farmers’ Market (unless you’re out of town, of course).


NEWS FLASH: OUR RAW MILK “PELOTA ROJA” IS BACK IN THE CHEESE LINEUP! Come grab a wedge of this 2021 Good Food Award winning cheese, inspired by Spanish style raw goat milk cheeses.

Come try our latest cheese “experiment” a halloumi style cheese we’re calling “Gidget’s Grillin’ Cheese” (named in loving memory of one of our early “rock star” milkers named Gidget). It’s a fresh cheese that is designed to withstand direct heat (grilling, pan frying, broiling) without melting. We recommend grilling 5-7 minutes on each side and serving with a warm, crusty baguette, a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of local honey.


Can’t make it to the market? No worries! Order from our online store for farm pick up either Saturday or Sunday afternoon. Here’s the line-up of offerings for this weekend:

  • Fresh chevre

    • Plain

    • Herbs de Provence

    • Cracked peppercorn

    • Last chance for seasonal flavor: chevre with rhubarb compote!

  • Gidget's Grillin' Cheese: our Halloumi-style fresh grilling cheese-limited offering this week

  • Angel Food-goat “crottin” style bloomy (nice ‘n ripe, brie-like)

  • Fleur de la Prairie—2021 Good Food Award winner!-bloomy with dried herbs and edible flowers-getting’ gooey and loaded with flavor

  • Black goat-ash-ripened bloomy-it’s got the funk (in a good way)

  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-our goat milk camembert-we have a few that are super ripe and easy for slathering on crusty bread as well as a batch that is younger and loaded with notes of buttered mushroom

  • Pelota Roja-raw goat milk Manchego style cheese with a guajillo-olive oil chile rub—so good for shaving over a tomato and basil salad!

  • Goat Milk Feta aged in Whey Brine-try with grilled peaches and a drizzle of honey (sweet and salty and sublime)

  • Goat Milk Yogurt—it makes a great smoothie or enjoy with your favorite granola and fresh berries-now available in both pints and quarts!

  • Goat Milk Gelato by Pint (vanilla, chocolate, fresh mint, strawberry and hazelnut for sure; may bring some Mexican lime whey-betto (sorbetto made with whey); more flavor options out at the farm)

If you’re interested in buying fresh raw goat milk, you can either order from our online store for farm pick up on the weekends, or just visit our farm store during open hours—now offering both quarts and half gallons in our refrigerated display case.


Goats for Sale

Looking for a family milking goat or a 4-H project for your kids? Looking to build a small herd to make some goat milk soaps and skin care products? Looking to expand your commercial dairy goat herd? Want some goats to keep your invasive plants at bay? How about a few goats to take on hikes? We have what you’re looking for! Our goats are certified “Animal Welfare Approved,” registered through the American Dairy Goat Association AND super happy and healthy. Send us an email (prairiefruitsinfo@gmail.com) and we’ll let you know what we have available.


Farm Open Hours

Enjoy some peace and tranquility at the farm this weekend. The farm is open to visitors Saturdays and Sundays, 1-4 pm, even on July 4th. You can visit with the goats, shop in the farm store “The Real Stand” or enjoy a cheese board with a glass of wine or beer or cup of gelato under the pavilion. Check out our new “merch:” Chippy the Goat embroidered ball-caps, t-shirts and sweatshirt too! They’re made from recycled fabric and feel GREAT!

We are working hard to get the farm ready for our “Grand Re-Opening” on Saturday July 17th. This will be a ticketed event featuring a light meal and live music!! Thereafter, we’ll be expanding our open hours and offering a regular menu of local “small bites,” cheese boards, wine flights, wine and beer tastings and much, much more. It’s a big leap for us, but we are excited to welcome guests to enjoy our farm in a new way.


Lots of folks are asking about our Farm Dinners! We are still working on an abbreviated season, depending on availability of guest chefs. We hope to announce a few dates/chefs/restaurants and themes in the next couple of weeks. We encourage everyone to get vaccinated as soon as you’re able. This will make our communal dinners even safer! Thank you.

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