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Reflections on cheese flipping, pickling ramps, pasturing goats and FINAL "Babies and Breakfast"

Posted 4/27/2017 9:58pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

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Cheeserie time: I spend most of my evenings flipping cheese of one type or another.  “Gotta go flip cheese” is a common refrain I utter, usually after the evening kid feeding chores are winding up.  I imagine most of the folks who’ve never made cheese, have no idea what “flipping cheese” really means and how many different iterations of cheese flipping happen in our little creamery.  There’s an art to flipping the bloomy rind cheeses, each with its own nuance.  Some require lots of bending and lifting racks full of heavy curd-filled molds; others, in their conjoined block molds, make the chore lickity split.  The zen of the repetition and successful completion of each flip give the cheese maker a strange sense of satisfaction. 

Black Goat, made with very high-moisture curd, requires a single flip in the evening, once the pH has reached a certain point. It’s the flip I like the least, mostly because it takes so long and requires a lot of attention to detail. First, I must tuck the curd that has spilled over the sides of the molds during ladling back into each mold before flipping. Once flipped, I give the molds a little turn to release some of the whey that might build up and push the curd out from under the mold’s lip later on. There’s nothing more frustrating than finding curd oozed out of its mold the next morning. Then, I must restack each successive rack of flipped molds and cover them with a plastic sheet just so, ensuring that the whey drains off the plastic sheet and not onto the cheese-filled molds below. 

I play mind games with my cheese flips.  I race myself to see how fast I can clean up excess curd on each rack.  I remind myself to bend at the knees when I lift the heavy racks.  I cringe as I try to place the last rack on a very tall stack, hoping it won’t tilt or crush the rack below it. I rejoice when I’m bending over the bottom rack, because I know my task for the evening will be completed soon

Pickling ramps: I’ve been pinning for some canning time over the past couple of weeks. Ambitiously, I bought close to 10 pounds of ramps over the past two weeks, hoping for a break in my routine to do some pickling.  Given how little time there has been to do even the most routine home chores (laundry, making dinner), I am not sure where this ambition had come from. As I watched the green tops wilting in my refrigerator, I realized I better seize the day this afternoon.  Wes helped cut the ramps, while I prepared the vinegar brine and sterilized the jars.  After a quick blanch of the oniony bulbs, I fitted them snugly, bottoms down into the jars and poured the amber pickling liquid to just cover their tops. Into the boiling water the jars went. Ten minutes later, they were out, followed by the reasuring pop of lids sealing.  Ahh, the pride of preservation. 

Weaning kids and learning how to pasture:  Our first group of kids born in early March (seems like a lifetime ago now) was weaned this week.  It’s hard to believe that over 70 kids that hit the ground in a blur was now ready to fledge the milk “nest” and act like an adult ruminant—eating forage and pasture for most of their nourishment (with a little grain to keep them growing).  I’ve watched them discover the pasture over the past couple of weeks. Slowly one or two would venture past their play ground and realize that all that tall green stuff was just a luscious salad bar of fresh forage. Ocasionally, you’d hear a little yip and watch the group run back to the barn for safety, when they tested the hotwire fence.  The protestations from pulling their nipples were deafening this morning, but by this evening, their heads were buried in the hay manger. 

Babies and Breakfast-LAST ONE OF THE SEASON!

Come to the farm on Saturday, April 29th for the final “Babies and Breakfast” of the season (9-12). The forecast is calling for rain, but don’t let that stop you from visiting. We have plenty of seating in our barn dining room and the first group of weaned kids (they grow up so fast) is likely to serenade you. 

We’re pulling out all the stops for the final breakfast:  

  • Doughnuts [Cardamom Glaze; Cinnamon Sugar]
  • Cinnamon Rolls with Ginger Chevre Icing
  • Lamb, Potato, and Carrot  Savory Turnovers (our take on a Cornish pasty)
  • Biscuits with Homemade Jam and Butter
  • Breakfast Burritos (Meat) - Pork, Caramelized Onion, Rice, Egg, Chevre and a Beet Salsa on the side
  • Breakfast Burritos (Vegetarian) - Potatoes Spinach, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Egg, Chevre and a Corn Ramp Salsa on the side
  • Goat Yogurt Parfait with Local Grains Granola
  • Hard-boiled Chicken  or Duck Eggs 

Beverages: Hot and iced coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cold goats’ milk

Farmers: Bane Family Meats, Blue Moon Farm, Caveny Farm, Cow Creek Farm , Kilgus Farmstead, Severson Farm, Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery

We have so many great local foods for you to pick up from our farm stand, “The Real Stand” this week.  Our cheese repertoire is full again this week

  • Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie—our goat milk camembert-style cheese
  • Angel Food-our little “crottin” style bloomy
  • Black Goat-our ash-ripened bloomy rind cheese
  • Moonglo
  • Huckleberry Blue
  • Little Red-our special, raw-milk (cow milk) cheese with a smoked paprika, olive oil rind
  • Goat Milk Yogurt in pints and quarts

We have pints and single servings of gelato too:

  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Local Strawberry
  • Spiced Pecan
  • Hazelnut
  • Espresso
  • Salted Caramel Swirl

In addition to selling our products, we’ll have two guest farmers again this weekend. Cow Creek Farm will be here with spring ramps (wild leeks harvested from their woods-$10/lb.) and Tomahnous Farm will be here with first of the season asparagus

Don’t forget our great selection of meats, eggs and sausages from Bane Family Meats, Caveny Farm, KD Ranch and Piemonte Sausage.  If you’re looking for unique gifts, check out our goat milk soaps, “Chippy the Goat” tea towels and our wide selection of PFFC t-shirts and hoodies.  Check out our new baseball style t-shirt too and our new colors of our regular PFFC t-shirts. We also have a “bargain bin” of select toddler and women’s style tees.  Everyone loves a bargain!  

PLEASE NOTE the detour on N. Lincoln Avenue . Best to follow directions on our website.


Last call for our CSA--The deadline for signing up for our 2017 Cheese and Gelato CSA season is end of Day, Sunday, April 30th. We have had a great response to our calls for new members. Thank you NEW MEMBERS.   We’d love to get a few more signed up before we close the membership for this year.    There are still plenty of tickets to our

Dinners on the Farm series. It’s not too early to book reservations for some of the dates later in the season.  We have such interesting themes and superb guest chefs this year. Check them out and book your reservations NOW.   

Farmers’ Market Season starts Saturday May 6th. We will be attending both Urbana’s Market at the Square and Chicago’s Green City Market on that day. Details coming next week.   

Stay tuned for information about summer farm hours and new activities at the farm.

Copyright 2017. Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. 2017. 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.