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Homage to the pear, The season for drying, Market offerings, Farm happenings

Posted 8/15/2019 10:15pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Farm News

The moonglow pear, one of the remaining two varieties in our orchard, has been good to us this year. She has blessed us with bows laden with fruit, some so high, it required a fruit ladder to harvest them.  She has provided for us a bounty of pears, the likes of which we haven’t seen in the 15 years of the orchard’s life. It is hard to produce a pear in this country.

For the fruit-o-philes of central Illinois, nature is frequently cruel.  If the winter doesn’t kill the flower buds, a late spring freeze usually does. If the flower buds survive, they might burst open their reproductive parts at a time that the pollinators are flying.  The bees might be strategic enough to transfer pollen from the seckel pear's stamen to the stigma of the moonglow pear flower, setting in motion the formation of a fruit. 

The nascent fruit must withstand the assaults of violent thunderstorms, fungal rots and insect piercings to grow to a size fit for harvest.  In spite of our seemingly endless winter and excessively wet spring, the pears persevered.  The saturated soils must have provided ample moisture for the trees to imbibe, coaxing the fruits to swell. The hot and dry summer must have concentrated the fruit’s sugars, finishing them for ripening, blemishes and all.

The pear is an understated fruit.  Next to the unctuous yellow-orange flesh of the peach or the crisp sweet-tart red & white of the apple, the green-brown mottled skin and the juicy yet sandpapery insides of the  wide-bottomed pear require special appreciation. The pear can be harvested when not quite ripe, and within a few days, it will lighten in color and soften to the touch.  Patience is rewarded when a delicate bite pierces the skin, releasing the sweet essence of pear-ness.  I like to savor my pears unadorned, or with a simple slice of sharp cheese. If I’m ambitious, I might preserve them as pear butter or they might be destined for pear sorbetto.  Hail to this most unglamorous fruit. 

A season for drying

This is the time of year that the food dryer runs incessantly.  I love the low and slow nature of food drying. It has a way of locking in the flavors that make the plants worth growing in the first place. The herb garden is flush with basils and oreganos and thymes and tarragons. The edible flowers, like nasturtiums and geum marigolds, proliferate with repeated harvests.  There are only so many ways to use them fresh (and I am putting them in stir-fries, salads and atop roasted vegetables to beat the band). The food dryer has a way of locking in their flavor and preserving their colors; albeit not as vibrant as when fresh.

The mini-roma tomatoes are reddening on their vines; ready for slicing and facing upward on the food dryer shelves. Drying tomatoes concentrates their flavor, especially the Juliettes.  Knowing just when to pull them from the dryer is the key to a preserving the true essence of tomato-ness.   

Farm Store and Farmers’ Market Offerings

The weather is looking perfect for you farmers’ market shoppers and for those looking for a weekend outing to the farm. We have a fantastic lineup of cheeses this week, including special chevre flavors and our ‘little bloom burgers’:  

Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper

Special summer herb chevre-we’ve got so many wonderful herbs in our herb garden this year that we’ve been drying a bunch and making blends to add to our chevre.  

Tomato chevre-It’s BAACK!! Yes, those lovely dried juliettes are making their way into the chevre this week. My favorite flavor.

Goat Milk Feta in Whey Brine: our goat milk feta is firm and tangy. Bathed in a whey-salt brine for at least one month, the texture is what I call “creamy-crumbly.” LIMITED QUANTITY THIS WEEK, but more on the way next week.

Angel Food-our little crottin style bloomy, it’s compact, firm in the center with a slightly gooey edge as it ages. This batch is tasting really good right now; fudgy texture to the paste, slight softening along the edges with a slight hint of mushroom to the rind.

Little Bloom on the Prairie-a goat milk camembert-style bloomy. This batch is aging nicely, with notes of buttered mushrooms. Slice over roasted summer veggies (squash, eggplant) or enjoy on a burger or with some local dry-cured salami.

Little Bloom “Burgers”—we took several thin little bloom rounds early in their aging process and spread either basil pesto or gooseberry jam on one round and then sandwiched the two rounds together. They have been aging slowly and are just ready for primetime.

Black Goat—our latest batch of ashed rind bloomy is young, but loaded with flavor. 

Enjoy a pint of gelato (3 pint special is still a thing—Buy 3, get $1/pint off): We have some new and exciting flavors for you this week, especially our NEW LINE OF WHEY BASED SORBETTOS:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Peaches & Cream (Mileur Orchard Peaches-Murphysboro, IL)
  • Blackberry Cream (with our very own blackberries)
  • Salted Caramel Swirl
  • Nectarine Sorbetto (Mileur Orchard)

Check out our NEW line of Whey-Based Sorbettos we’re calling “So-Whey-Betto” The whey from our chevre makes is added to the mix, creating a creamery texture and enhancing the flavor of the fruits. Not only are they delicious, they are good for you (the whey contains probiotic cultures and lots of healthful nutrients):

-Red Currant



-Michigan Blueberry

And maybe Black Currant and Pear Frangelico (with our very own pears, of course)

Can’t make it to the market on Saturday morning? Check out our farm store’s “Back to School” Hours: Fridays, 4-8 pm and weekends, Saturday and Sunday, 1-4 pm.

Come out on a Friday after work. If you haven’t had a chance to watch the sun go down while you enjoy a glass of wine/beer and cheese board under our pavilion, you don’t know what you’re missing. Bring the kids too.

We offer a “build your own cheese board.”  You pick out the cheese(s) and accompaniments (jam, honey, pickled veggies or pecans), we provide you with a demi-baguette from Central Illinois Bake House. Complete the experience with a glass of wine or beer. Can’t decide what you want? Ask our staff for recommendations. 

Of course, you can visit with the goats (kids and adults alike), stroll through the orchard, and check out our herb and vegetable garden.  If you’re ambitious, you can walk along the path toward the creek. Come back inside the farm store to shop for other local farmers’ products (meats, eggs, flour, jams, salamis, syrups, etc.) or take home some PFFC “merch” (tea towels, aprons, t-shirts, sweat shirts and….)

Other Farm Happenings   

Goat Walk Happy Hour-August 22nd, 6-8 pm. Time is running out to reserve your spot for the final goat walk happy hour of the season. We’ve changed up the format for the happy hour as well as the price ($35/person includes a glass of wine/beer, cheese and charcuterie platters, the escorted goat walk and a scoop of gelato to round out the evening), so check out the details and book your reservations NOW. We limit the number of guests to 35 so that you can really get a lot of “quality” time with the goats in the prairie. 

Dinners on the Farm Late summer and early fall are the perfect times to experience one of our farm dinners. Check out this year’s take on our “100 Yard Dinner-Follow the Milk” on August 31st. The menu is now posted on our website. While you’re on the website, peruse the other themes and dates coming up this fall.  Make your reservations now, as these are filing up fast.

Fall is gorgeous here on the farm Fall is just around the corner, and we’re planning some great events in October.  We will be doing a special “Fall Fest Pop Up with Pizza M” on October 20th and our “Cider Dayz” on October 27th. Details forthcoming, but for now, save the dates. 

Copyright 2019. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2019. All rights reserved. 4410 N. Lincoln Ave., Champaign, Illinois 61822 Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC is responsible for the content of this email. Please contact Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell with any inquiries.