News

Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 8/22/2011 2:16pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Tomorrow's on-farm sales from 3-7PM promise plenty of cheese (chevre, black sheep and Roxanne for sure, expect other surprises) and gelato. Hazelnut gelato is back in the lineup as well as Vanilla, Chocolate, Blackberry, Thai Basil (experimental), Watermelon, Cantaloupe Melon, Plum and Nectarine.  As always, we'll be offering both single servings as well as pints to take home. We'll also have some our delicate farmstead honey and maybe some goodies out of our garden.
Blue Moon Farm will be here from 3-6PM with
Salad Mix, Peppers, Eggplant, Cilantro, Parsley, Kale, Chard, Onions, Potatoes, Cucumbers, Tomatoes.

Reminder: I'll be at the Corkscrew Wine Emporium on Vine Street in Urbana from 6-8PM THIS THURSDAY, August 25th tasting four cheeses with four wines. Even though my email from last week stated (incorrectly) that tickets were $15 at the door, they are ONLY $10 at the door!! What a bargain!  You don't have to purchase tickets in advance either--just show up, and we'll have plenty of cheese and wine for you to taste.

UPDATES: New dinner dates and reservations: Many of you were confused about how to access the reservations portio of our website to select seats for the five new dinners I posted last week.  Here's a step by step of how to view the full dinner descriptions and make reservations:
1) go to our website: www.prairiefruits.com
2) go the heading "Dinners on the Farm"
3) click on the subheading "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations." There you will see descriptions of each of the dinners. You need to click on "more details"  for each dinner to see the full description and to purchase seats.  You need to use Paypal to pay for your seats (that means you will need to set up an account with Paypal if you don't have one set up already).

A couple of the dinners that I had posted as "SOLD OUT" were not sold out, in fact. I have reposted the available seats for those dinners. It is VERY important that you only click on "add to cart" ONLY if you are ready to checkout and pay for your seats. If you add a seat(s) to your cart and you don't check out, it confuses our e-commerce system.  Thank you for your patience and understanding.  We are thrilled that so many people want to come to our dinners, and we are trying to improve our system so that it is easy to make reservations. 
Posted 8/18/2011 10:04pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
tomatoes galore
It's the time of year that the garden reeks of abundance of the solaneous kind. I always tell folks that if I could grow only one thing it would be tomatoes.  Every winter as we pour over seed catalogues, I have to restrain myself when it comes to tomato varieties. This year, we are growing at least 20-25 varieties of heirloom tomatoes, many of which will be featured in our farm dinner aptly themed "tomatoes galore." Our gardener, Rachel, has taken them from seed to fruit with a lot of TLC (including watering!!!) to ensure their survival and productivity.  I will post the menu on the website so you can see how our guest chef, Thad Morrow, of Bacaro Restaurant in Champaign has weaved tomatoes into every course. 
For the farmers' markets, we're attending ONLY TWO this Saturday: Urbana and Bloomington. Please note that we won't be at Oak Park this Saturday, and we'll be switching to a twice a month schedule at Oak Park through the end of the season. 
We have a great assortment of cheeses for you this Saturday:
  • Plenty of fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper and heirloom dried tomato
  • Sheep milk feta-goes GREAT on those luscious ripe tomatoes you'll be buying at the farmers' market
  • Angel Food--our goat milk brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-our goat milk camembert--both Angel Food and Little Bloom pair very well with honey
  • Ewe Bloom--a delicate and buttery soft ripened sheep milk cheese--it's on sale this week!! 20% off!!
  • Black sheep-another soft-ripened sheep milk cheese with ash on the rind
  • Krotovina-a delicate pyramid that is composed of half goat milk, half sheep milk with the two milks separated by a layer of ash
  • Moonglo--our raw goat milk tomme--the taste will bring you back to when we had lush spring pastures (not the case right now with this drought we're in)
  • Roxanne--a raw sheep milk brebis --accentuates the buttery, grassy notes of the milk
  • Mollisol Pecorino (just a few pieces available)--excellent grating style cheese
For our Urbana customers, gelato and sorbetto will be in abundance as well. Expect:
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Essence of Mint
  • Blueberry
  • Mixed berry (fruitti di bosco)--raspberry, blackberry and blueberry
  • Cantaloupe Melon
  • Watermelon
  • Golden Plum
  • Very limited quantities of peach and apricot
Don't forget our Tuesday afternoon sales from 3-7PM next week and through September.  Cheese, gelato, fruit, honey, veggies from Blue Moon Farm--all the essentials for great local food eating.
Also, I wanted to let folks know about a special wine and cheese tasting that I'll be doing at the Corkscrew in Urbana on Thursday,August 25th in the evening. We'll be pairing four wines with four Prairie Fruits Farm Cheeses. You can either purchase tickets in advance directly from the Corkscrew ($10) or at the door the day of the event for $15.  To purchase tickets or get more information, visit their website at:
https://www.thecorkscrew.com
Posted 8/15/2011 4:43pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Tomorrow's on farm sales (3-7PM) will include plenty of cheese and gelato as well as honey and some peaches.  Expect vanilla, chocolate, pistacchio gelato as well as blueberry, cucumber-mint, melon, watermelon sorbetto--both pints and single servings available. Blue Moon Farm will be here from 3-5PM only with their gorgeous assortment of tomatoes, salad mix and other vegetables too numerous to mention.

So many of you have been asking about our farm dinners and waiting lists that we have decided to add five more events this fall. You'll see that there is a range of events from wine and cheese to full course meals with or without wine. We are  pleased to announce that we have obtained a liquor license so that we can offer food events with either beer or wine.  With the help of H2Vino, a Chicago-based wine distributor (with a focus on small-winery, sustainably raised grapes) we have created a wine list so that guests who will be coming to the other dinners already planned for the rest of this season can purchase bottles of wines to accompany their meal RIGHT here at the farm. We'll be posting the wine list on the website as soon as it's ready.
Posted 8/11/2011 10:08pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
chino lounging on straw bale
There's a feeling in the air these past couple of days that wasn't there just a few days ago. It's crisp, it's bright (and it's a lot cooler and drier thankfully!) and it beckons you to just slow down a little bit and breath it in.  Chino, our cat, is expert in kickin' back and enjoying a little bask in the dappled sun. With these relatively cooler temperatures he positions himself so he is partly in the sun and partly in the shade--ideally situated for maximum climate control.  There are some subtle hints that the summer is trying to transition into a changing season. The goat girls are starting to come into heat, and the buck odor-meter (intensity of buck scent signaling breeding season) is moving up the dial in response to the girls' friskiness.  The pulsation of cicadas at dusk has reached a sharp crescendo, while the firefly light show is all but gone from the early evening sky. 
On another, more sobering note, a recent article in grist (an online news magazine) asks "Is your cheese killing the planet?" (http://www.grist.org/sustainable-food/2011-08-08-is-your-cheese-killing-the-planet). They discuss recent findings from a report published by the Environmental Working group that evaluated the carbon emissions from large-scale confined dairy operations and industrial scale cheese production. Not surprisingly, the carbon footprint of such enterprises is large. The article does admit that small-scale, pasture-based dairies and farmstead cheese plants likely have a lot lower carbon footprint than their industrial counterparts, so you don't have to feel too guilty when indulging in cheese or gelato from Prairie Fruits Farm. 
This Saturday, August 12th, we're attending THREE farmers' markets: Urbana, Chicago's Green City Market and Oak Park.  We've got lots of great, environmentally-sound cheeses for you to enjoy guilt free:
  • Plenty of fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper and the ever-popular heirloom tomato
  • Angel Food-limited quantiities
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-tasting really exquisite right now
  • Ewe Bloom
  • Baby black sheep
  • Red dawn
  • Moonglo
  • Roxanne
For Urbana patrons, we're heavy on fruit-based sorbettos this weekend--we can't ignore all the great fruit we're getting locally and from Michigan (mostly Klug Farm):
  • our very own organic peach sorbetto
  • Plum
  • Apricot
  • Cucumber-mint-lime
  • Blueberry
  • Raspberry
  • As well as the traditional favorite gelati of chocolate, vanilla and hazelnut
Our Tuesday afternoon on-farm sales (3 to 7PM) are taking off like wild fire (and it might be literal if we don't get some rain here pretty soon)--we'll continue through September as long as the weather and the products hold up.  More cheese, more gelato, more Blue Moon Farm veggies, more, more, more (and of course the draw of the goats is ever present).  We'll send out an update on Monday to give you the details for next week's sales.
Posted 8/8/2011 9:17pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
This Tuesday's on farm sales from 3-7PM will be chock full of delights.
CHEESE: black sheep, ewe bloom, krotovina, a little bit of Moonglo and Roxanne as well as creamy chevre

GELATO/SORBETTO: peach, plum, blueberry, melon, apricot and cucumber mint (and a little bit of chocolate but not many)
HONEY: Our first extraction of the season--it is gorgeously clear and floral tasting
BLUE MOON FARM VEGGIES 3-5PM ONLY: tomatoes,
cherry tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes,  basil, summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, red peppers, green/purple/white peppers, pickling cucumbers, garlic, and onions. Salad mix is taking a break.
Posted 8/4/2011 9:28pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

The wonders of cyberspace allow me to write this week's newsletter from Montreal Quebec Canada. I am attending the annual American Cheese Society Conference. It's the first time it is being held in Canada, and getting all of the 1700 cheeses across the US-Canada border for the cheese competition was quite a feat.  Late last week, our cheeses were shipped to a warehouse in upstate New York and then caravanned in refrigerated trucks to their final destination in Montreal.  They will announce the winners Friday evening, so keep all of your body parts crossed for our cheeses. 
The opening session of the conference was given by a Quebec Agronomist who spoke about the meaning of "terroire" in the New World. For those of you not familiar with the concept of terroire, it embodies the link of food products, particularly wines and cheeses, to specific regions in Europe. It also implies very distinct histories and traditions of how these products must be produced--specific varietals of grapes grown on specific soil types, specific breeds of dairy animals eating very specific kinds of vegetation and their milk collected at certain times of the year to make specific kinds of cheeses.  So, the question is how do you create "terroire" in the "new world" (aka north and south america) when the history is so short in comparison to the old world and the cheese traditions are loosely based on those of immigrants from the old world. The Quebec agronomist presented a series of three examples where several regions and farm families are creating their own unique cheeses, keeping dairy farming alive and reinvigorating a breed of dairy cattle "La Vache Canadienne" whose genetics have french origins, but were modified by the early settlers in Quebec in the early 1600s.  The stories were fascinating and inspiring in their message of renewal and reinvigoration of small-scale artisanal cheese production and its impact on rural economic development. 
The stories made me think about how we can define terroire in our little neck of the woods--the prairies of central Illinois. I believe that our rich black soils are the foundation for our diverse pastures and our luscious alfalfa hay.  Does that count as terroire? Our cheese washes made from pear leaf tea and fruit jams and eaus de vie--don't they impart a connection of land to cheese so essential for terroire?  Is it legitimate for us to claim terroire in our cheeses if we feed our goats forage grown out their back barn door?  Do our Nubian-La Mancha crosses represent a feeble attempt to create dairy goat characteristics that might be better suited for the kinds of cheeses we want to produce on our land? 
And what is our little creamery's contribution to reinvigorating food traditions in a region not known for more than large-scale cash grain agriculture production?  The thing I really like about this idea of "terroire in the new world" is that you don't have to cling to specific and ancient traditions--you can tie your products to the land and the region and it is valid. It's the face to a place mindset. 
What we're bringing to the farmers' markets this Saturday
In my absence of course, we are attending three farmers' markets this Saturday, August 6th: Urbana, Bloomington and Oak Park.  I am not completely sure of the cheese lineup (as I forgot to consult with my trusted cheesemakers before leaving for Montreal), but I will take a guess here:

Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper AND heirloom tomato
Angel Food--gooey is the operative word here
Little Bloom on the Prairie--our spin on an old world tradition of camembert
Ewe Bloom-lovely delicate white rinded sheep milk deliciousness
Black Sheep-lovely ash-covered white rinded sheep milk deliciousness
Red Dawn-smoked paprika dusted goat disc--perfect for a burger
Krotovina--half sheep-half goat with the two halves separated by an ash layer
Moonglo--slightly tangy but nutty, raw goat milk tomme (this is a real terroire cheese --raw milk AND washed with tea from Moonglow pear leaves!)
Roxanne-a raw sheep milk brebis with distinct buttery and grassy notes
Urbana Market goers can enjoy cool and creamy gelato and sorbetto this Saturday as well. We should have:
Vanilla
Chocolate
Sicilian Pistachio
Apricot
Peach
Melon
Blueberry
Plum
Lastly, don't forget to come out and visit us on Tuesday afternoons from 3-7PM. We will be serving our gelato from our new italian dipping cabinet (hopefully)!! No more single servings out of pint containers!!! Of course, there will be plenty of cheese and veggies from Blue Moon Farm. Stay tuned for details next Monday.  In the meantime, enjoy the bounty that Central Illinois has to offer you!  Vive le terroire en Illinois!!

Posted 8/1/2011 7:03pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
In case the heat is beginning to fry your brain cells, I thought I would remind you all to come out to the farm tomorrow afternoon from 3-7PM.  We'll have lots of wonderful cheese, especially some nice n' gooey Angel Food, but we also have plenty of cool, refreshing gelati and sorbetti for you to enjoy and take home. Gelato/Sorbetto flavors include:
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Sicilian Pistacchio
  • Peach
  • Melon
  • Blueberry-Lemon Verbena
  • Blueberry straight up
  • Apricot
We've also got some really tasty farm-fresh eggs for sale, and maybe a few things out of the garden.
Blue Moon Farm will be here from 3-5PM only
with tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Heirloom Tomatoes, Basil, Kale, Chard, Parsley, Cilantro, Zucchini, Cucumbers, Peppers, Garlic, and Onions.
For those of you interested in UPick, we are re-evaluating whether or not we'll have enough peaches and blackberries available for UPick this year. Our crop is not as plentiful as we thought, the blackberries are very slow to ripen, AND we're using a lot more of our own fruit in the gelato.  Stay tuned; however. If we decide to offer UPick, it will probably be for one week only.
Posted 7/28/2011 8:11pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
juliette tomatoes
The tomatoes are coming in by the basket full every few days now, and that means it's drying time AND time for our heirloom dried tomato chevre.  These lovely little roma type tomatoes, called Juliette, are perfect for drying. They're packed with rich tomato flavor. We have used them in our tomato chevre for the past couple of years, and it's a marriage made in food heaven. We've been busy drying Juliettes this week so we can offer you some first of the season tomato chevre.
This Saturday, July 30th, we'll be attending three farmers' markets: Urbana, Chicago's Green City Market and Oak Park.  We have a plethora of bloomy rind cheeses (the white molds have been working overtime these past few weeks) for you along with the chevre. Here's the cheese lineup:
  • Fresh chevre--just plain and heirloom tomato this week (so we can be sure to have plenty of tomato chevre on hand--we know a lot of you have been asking and waiting patiently for this chevre to be ready)
  • Fresh sheep milk ricotta--think drizzled honey and fresh berries... YUM!!!
  • Angel Food--if you love the gooeyness, you'll want to grab up some of these cheeses
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-what can I say?? It's really good, so you should take some home with you this Saturday
  • Ewe Bloom-both the small rounds and the triangles will be available
  • Red Dawn-the smoked paprika disc of barbeque deliciousness
  • Black Sheep--both the "adult" size as well as the "baby" version
Since we have so many wonderful bloomy rind cheeses to offer you this week, we will have limited amounts of Moonglo available at some of the markets. Roxanne and Moonglo will return in full force in August.
The heat and the fruit have inspired the gelatieri (that's gelato makers in Italian, aka: Wes and Stewart) this week. Urbana market goers can choose from:
Simly Vanilla
Lily's Luscious Chocolate (named after one of our customers and one of dark chocolate-colored goats)
Hazelnut
Margot's Fresh Mint
Honey Chevre
Blueberry Lemon Verbena Sorbetto
Peach Sorbetto (limited quantity)
Yellow Plum Sorbetto (very limited quantity-experimental)
Apricot Sorbetto

Stay tuned for details about next Tuesday's on farm sales. We'll be here with cheese and gelato from 3-7PM (and maybe some peaches!!!) and Blue Moon Farm will be here from 3-5PM with there organic vegetables. We may be starting UPICK this coming week too, but we'll let everyone know on Monday.  Also, for those of you who have been asking about dinners and reservations, we will be adding five more events for the fall. I will be posting the event descriptions and reservation spots in early August, so stay posted.  Make peace with the heat--eat some cheese and savor some gelato!
Posted 7/25/2011 6:49pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Take advantage of this temporary lull in the heat "dome" and journey out to our farm tomorrow afternoon. From 3 to 7PM, you can stroll around the farm AND purchase some ofour wonderful cheeses and gelati. This week's gelato flavors include:
  • Vanilla
  • Chocolate
  • Hazelnut
  • Honey Chevre
  • Blueberry-Lemon Verbena Sorbetto
  • Peach Sorbetto (made with the very first of our mouth-watering organic peaches)

Blue Moon Farm will be here FROM 3-5PM ONLY (SO GET HERE EARLY) with plenty of salad mix, heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, squashes and much much more. 
Pekara Bakehouse may be here as well with their breads and cookies.
We hope to see you here!

Stay tuned for U-Pick hours for NEXT week--the peaches and blackberries are just starting to ripen this week.
Posted 7/22/2011 10:49am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
The big news this week is that our 1000th batch of cheese (yes, that's right we're in our 6th year as a farmstead creamery and we make at least seven to nine batches of cheese per week--i'll let you do the rest of the math) is ready for sale this week. We named her "Millie" after one of our best milkers, Millie, who was also our first-born doe (along with her twin sister Tillie) on the farm AND the latin for 1000 (milli).  It is a lovely geotrichum (that's a delicate white mold) rinded log made with 70% goats' milk and 30% sheeps' milk.  It has a creamy mouth feel despite the somewhat drier texture relative to our cheve. It would be wonderful with a cool salad or just slice it and put it on a piece of baguette with a slice of heirloom tomato drizzled with some good olive oil. 
Millie Cheese
"Millie Cheese" (photo by Ben Jarrell--yes, that is Wes' son)

FARM NEWS
I could talk about the heat and all that stress associated with heat, but I know everyone is hot and miserable, so I will spare you.  We are doing our best to keep the goats comfortable with plenty of cool water and fresh forage. The fans are blowing a mile a minute inside the barns.  Tomatoes love this heat, and they are ripening a lot faster than last year. In fact, we harvested our first round of Juliette tomatoes (those wonderfully rich mini-romas) which we dried so we can start making our heirloom tomato chevre next week.  The bright side of the heat is that everyone NEEDS to eat gelato.  We have reinforced our stocks this week so we have plenty for our Urbana Farmers' Market goers. 
FARMERS' MARKETS
We're attending three markets this Saturday, JULY 23RD: Urbana, Bloomington and Oak Park. 
We have a fantastic lineup of cheeses for you:
  • Plenty of cool and creamy fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper
  • Angel Food ---goat milk brie
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie--goat milk camembert
  • Ewe Bloom
  • Baby Black Sheep
  • Moonglo
  • Roxanne--making its 2011 debut--a raw sheep milk Pyrennes style of cheese, semi-hard and slightly sweet-grassy flavor
  • Huckleberry Blue-our spring milk blue--stocks are dwindling, so come and get it before it's gone--think burgers with blue cheese or crumble it on a salad
  • MILLIE CHEESE--our delicate log of deliciousness
Stewart and Wes have been busy spinning gelato this week to keep you all cool with sweetness.  Gelato Flavors include:
  • Simply Vanilla
  • Luscious Chocolate
  • Strawberry (the last of the season)
  • Tart Summer Cherry
  • Black Raspberry
  • Hazelnut (Nocciola)
  • Pistachio Siciliano
  • Essence of Chocolate Mint
  • Honey Lavender
The last two flavors are especially sweet because Wes is making them with his grand-daughter Margot (who is visiting us with her parents this week).  She is an excellent little helper (future farm labor perhaps???)

STATUS OF FRUIT AND ON FARM SALES NEXT TUESDAY JULY 26TH
Many of you have been asking about our peaches and blackberries, and I am happy to report that our peaches are very close to being ready for picking. We will let everyone know next week when we will start up our U-Pick season again. We may even have some to harvest for our Tuesday Farm Sale. Don't forget: It's 3-7PM every Tuesday.  Blue Moon Farm will be here with veggies, we'll have our cheeses and gelato and some of our own veggies. Pekara Bakehouse might be here if the weather isn't too hot. See you then.