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Thanksgiving just wouldn't be the same without cheese

Posted 11/18/2010 11:13pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Cheese is far from a traditional thanksgiving food group. So, how can we justify a cheese course during the festive thanksgiving meal? Well, my justification is that the pilgrims probably brougth with them some dairy animals along with some of their modest European traditions for preserving milk through cheese-making. I know. You're thinking, they surely didn't bring dairy goats with them or make goat cheese. Just indulge me. Why not cheese along with that heritage, free-range turkey you'll be buying at the farmers' market this weekend? Why not grate some Kaskaskia over those roasted root vegetables as them come out of the oven? Why not top your salad with some fresh chevre? Why not squeeze in cheese to nourish your guests as they arrive at your home or before they sink their teeth into your heirloom apple pie?
To get you in the mood, I'm including some photos from our most recent farm dinner with Stephanie Izard of "Girl and the Goat" Restaurant.  Her menu was cheese infused, including a first course of Kilgus Farmstead Veal, Mass Bay Scallop, butternut squash puree and shaved Kaskaskia. Her cheese course was work of art, playing Angel Food and Little Bloom on the Prairie against each other with mushrooms, fresh greens, pancetta and other delicacies.  The photos were taken by one of our guests, Sheena Beaverson (she's a VERY good photographer, it turns out!)
First Course
The first course-it all comes together with shaved Kaskaskia
The cheese plate
The cheese course--Angel Food on the Left; Little Bloom on the Prairie on the Right

This Saturday, we're attending THREE FARMERS' MARKETS-Bloomington, Urbana and Chicago's Green City Market.  Both Urbana and Green City Market run from 8AM to 1PM.  The Bloomington Thanksgiving Market, located in the US Cellular Colliseum, Downtown Bloomington runs from 10AM to 1PM.  They are also hosting a local foods breakfast before the market opens. The menu sounds wonderful--check it out at: http://www.downtownbloomington.org/index.php?id=6
We have the full gamet of cheeses for you to select for your holiday meals:
Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked peppercorn and yes, Heirloom dried tomato
Angel Food (think composed cheese plate or baked brie)
Little Bloom on the Prairie--try plating it with some honey comb
Krotovina Classic-the all-goat milk version of our soft-ripened pyramid with an ash layer in the center
Red Dawn-soft ripened goat round with smoked paprika dusted on the rind
Moonglo--the raw goat milk tomme is tasting slightly creamy with a nice sharpness
Kaskaskia-- raw sheep milk, hard cheese; aged 6 months: shave it, grate it-savor the nuttiness.  
We'll be bringing a recipe for an all-local potato-turnip au gratin using both our Moonglo and our Kaskaskia cheeses.  It would make an excellent side dish for the turkey.  If you forget to pick it up at the farmers' market, here it is:

A Cheesy Recipe from Prairie Fruits Farm

Potatoes and Turnips Au Gratin

 Yield: Ten Servings


1.25 lbs. locally grown potatoes-russet variety preferred or other high starch variety-peeled and sliced about 1/8 inch thick

1 lbs locally grown turnips, peeled and sliced about 1/8 inch thick

1 Pint local milk (e.g. Kilgus Farmstead)

1 Pint heavy cream (e.g. Kilgus Farmstead)

Salt to taste (approx. ½ teaspoon)

Pepper to taste (approx. ¼ teaspoon)

Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

Approx. 5 oz (a little more than ½ Cup) grated Moonglo cheese

Approx. 4 oz (about ½ Cup) grated Kaskaskia cheese

Approx. 1/3 to ½ cup fresh bread crumbs

3 oz. butter—locally sourced if possible-cut into small chunks


1. Add sliced potatoes and turnips to milk and bring to a boil.  Simmer until potatoes and turnips are par-cooked.

2. Add heavy cream and season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

3. Layer potato-turnip milk-cream mixture in a butter baking dish (oblong ceramic or glass pan or casserole dish works best), alternating them with the grated cheeses. Finish with cheese on top and then sprinkle final layer with bread crumbs. Dot the top with chunks of butter.

4. Bake the gratin in a slow oven (approx. 300-325 degrees F) loosely covered until the potatoes are cooked (about 30 to 45 minutes).  Remove the cover and bake again until the cheese is browned and a crust has formed.

We have a lot for which we give thanks this year--a wonderful staff of hard-working, dedicated folks, a bountiful harvest of peaches, berries, poultry and veggies, a strong herd of gorgeous loving goats who continue to produce some of the best milk around and a farm that continues to bring us so much joy.  We also thank all of you who continue to support us and nourish us with your feedback.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.....