News

Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 11/22/2010 6:52pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Greetings:
We realize that many of you weren't able to make it to this past Saturday's Farmers' Markets to purchase your Thanksgiving feast foods, so we're opening our doors (or farm gates, rather) to give you one more opportunity to get some of the finest locally produced artisan cheeses and organic vegetables in Central Illinois. This WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 24TH, FROM 12 NOON TO 5PM, WE WILL HOST AN OPEN-HOUSE AND FARM SALE AT OUR FARM.  Directions to our farm can be found on our website: www.prairiefruits.com under "Interact"
We're partnering with Blue Moon Farm who plans to have the following mouth-watering organic vegetables for sale:
  • salad greens
  • sweet and luscious spinach
  • leeks
  • carrots
  • potatoes
  • turnips
We will have our farmstead honey and the following cheeses for you to purchase:
  • Fresh chevre (plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper and heirloom tomato)
  • Angel Food-our gooey goat milk brie-try baking this with dried fruits and nuts, drizzled with some of our honey
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-always a crowd pleaser on the cheese plate
  • Krotovina--this refined little pyramid with an ash layer through the center is sure to dazzle your thanksgiving guests
  • Red Dawn--with a dusting of smoked paprika on the rind reminiscent of bacon, they will be begging you for more
  • Moonglo-a tangy semi-hard raw goat milk tomme well suited for the cheese plate or for our "potato turnip au gratin" recipe (see last week's email for the recipe or go to our website: www.prairiefruits and view it under "The Experience" then "News")
  • Kaskaskia-a lovely nutty raw sheep milk grating style cheese perfect for finishing your roasted root vegetable medley or in our "potato-turnip au gratin" recipe
If the veggies and the cheeses aren't enough to entice you to visit us on Wednesday afternoon, we will also be offering a sneak preview of our very own goat milk gelato. To keep you warm, we'll be serving hot Curtis Orchard Cider. Of course, you can visit the goats inside the barn. They are keeping warm and dry as  little baby goats grow in their bellies.
We hope to see you here on Wednesday. Happy Thanksgiving!
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

 Ingredients:

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

 Steps:

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.....
Posted 11/12/2010 11:55am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Farm and Cheese News
fall sunset
This week feels like study in contrasts. The landscape pallet is reduced to shades of brown, red and pale yellow.  The sky turns black at 5PM.  The chickens alight to their roost by 4PM, and lay fewer and fewer eggs each day (which reminds me that we need to get a light turned on in their nest box area so we can still get a few more eggs over the winter).  The goats are increasingly reluctant to come into the milking parlor for the evening milking; some even leave part of their grain ration! This would be unheard of in the spring.  Every few days, the milk production drops by a couple of gallons, making it harder and harder to meet your demand for cheese. But.... the milk is rich... so rich that I can almost stand a spoon in it BEFORE I add the culture for cheesemaking. This is the milk that brings joy to the cheesemaker because of its taste and its yield. 

We're attending two farmers' markets this Saturday--both have now moved indoors. Urbana's "Holiday Market" is located inside Lincoln Square Mall; most of the food vendors including us are located close to the south entrance to the mall, near Art Mart.  The market runs from 8AM to 1PM.  Chicago's Green City Market has moved to a wonderful circus tent on the grounds of the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum. It too runs from 8AM to 1PM. 
We are very short on fresh chevre this week, especially plain chevre. We hope to make it up to you next week, just in time for the Thanksgiving Holiday.  If you haven't tried some of our other cheeses yet, now is your chance to branch out. In addition to chevre, we'll be bringing:
Mouton Frais-the sheep milk version of our "chevre"; talk about rich!!
Angel Food--if you're a brie lover, this is the cheese for you.
Little Bloom on the Prairie--that rich milk is working it's magic on this cheese as well
Moonglo--creamy, tangy and nutty--great for slicing on a rustic bread
Roxanne--the last of the year; get it while it's still her
Kaskaskia--wonderful grating and shaving sheep milk cheese. We'll be providing a recipe for a potato and turnip au gratin using Kaskaskia and Moonglo at the farmers' market. This dish is simple to make, yet it will impress your friends and family as an all-local side dish for Thanksgiving.
Farm to Table Dinners
This Sunday afternoon (1PM, November 14th), we welcome Stephanie Izard to our farm of "Girl and the Goat" Restaurant, Chicago. She has created a wonderfully creative menu for the meal that you can view on our website: www.prairiefruits.com  The dinner is sold out, but feel free to take a peak at the menu even if you don't have a reservation; you can at least imagine how wonderful it will all taste. 
I also want to remind Chicago residents that there is an upcoming dinner at the Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park, IL featuring our cheeses and other farm products.  It is Tuesday, November 16th, 6-9PM.  There are still some seats left. The menu looks very enticing (see below) and part of the proceeds will go to our "Save Olympian Farmland" campaign to stave off the Olympian Drive road project near our farm.  To make reservations, contact Marion Street Cheese Market at:
708-725-7200 or visit their website at http://marionstreetcheesemarket.com to make reservations on-line through OpenTable.

Here is the dinner menu for the evening:

First Course – Sunchoke Bisque + Sunflower Seeds + Sunflower Sprouts + Black Pepper Chevre

Second Course – A selection of artisanal cheese from Prairie Fruits Farm with seasonal accompaniments

Third Course – Goat “Cheesecake” + Marcona Almond Crust + Mutsu Apple Marmalade + Shaved Radish

Fourth Course – Sweet Potato Gnocchi + Braised Guinea Hen + Toasted Chestnuts + Shaved Kaskaskia

Dessert Course – Krotovina Ice Cream + Poached Figs + Sicilian Pistachio Cake + Banyuls Honey


Posted 11/10/2010 9:58am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Dear Guests (as well as those of you who have purchased other dinners and other products from us):
We now have a tentative menu for this coming Sunday's farm dinner "An Afternoon Dinner with Stephanie" on the website. To view it, please go to www.prairiefruits.com, then click on "Dinners on the Farm." Scroll down to "Dinner descriptions and make reservations" and then click on the "An Afternoon Dinner with Stephanie." You should see the menu there. Please remember that this meal is BYO, so feel free to bring whatever wines or beers that you think would best accompany the food.
I know a number of you have made reservations for this dinner several months ago, so PLEASE check to see if you are signed up for it or not. Recently, we've had some guests forget that they signed up for a particular dinner, given how long ago they made their reservation.  The menu looks fantastic, and I would hate for anyone signed up for it to miss it.  Also, please remember, this is a SUNDAY AFTERNOON MEAL.  We will start at 1PM with hors d'oeuvres, then have a tour of the farm, then sit down to the first course around 2PM.  The meal typically lasts for about four hours. We will be dining inside, but the weather should be pleasant and fall-like. 
Posted 11/4/2010 6:24pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Farmers' Market Update
It's true. Saturday's temperatures will start out in the low '20's in the morning. Thankfully, we're mammals and NOT amphibians. In fact, we're tough pioneers!
Pioneers on the Prairie
We plan to be at the last outdoor farmers' market of the season in Urbana, despite the frigid temperatures.  However, we're slightly modern pioneers (and a bit wimpy), so we're going to arrive a little late on Saturday AM--we should be there by 8AM and set up by 8:30AM at the latest. We want you to come and shop, and we don't want you to have to get out of bed at 7AM and brave those really frigid temps. Come a little later and still get the full selection of what we have to offer you.
Although we'll be braving the outdoor elements down here in Champaign-Urbana, Chicago residents can enjoy comfortable hours and temperatures inside the tent at the Winter Green City Market. This market has moved to the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum through the rest of the fall. It starts at 8AM and runs until 1PM. 
We have the following cheeses to be enjoyed by a fire with some wonderfully crusty bread and a nice glass of whatever warming beverage suites you:
Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper (maybe heirloom tomato next week)
Mouton Frais: this is the sheep milk version of our "chevre." Rich, very creamy with a slight tang. It is an excellent stand in for mascarpone cheese.  It has been frozen previously, but like our chevre, freezing does not alter the flavor or texture of the cheese upon thawing.
Angel Food
Little Bloom on the Prairie (limited quanities)
Krotovina (just a few left)
Roxanne--the raw sheep milk brebis style cheese, aged about three months. This is the last batch of the season, so if you like this cheese, this is probably your last chance to get some
Kaskaskia--our raw sheep milk Manchego X Parmesan style cheese, aged six months. Great nutty flavor; excellent for grating over a nice bowl of stew.
We will also have some of our mid-season farmstead honey for sale as well--$4 for the 8-oz jars and $8 for the 16 oz. jars. It's slightly darker than our first extreaction honey, reflecting the summer nectaries the bees were foraging on: alfalfa, clover, herb flowers, praire coneflower, vegetable flowers, etc... It is still complex and delicious!

Other news: If you haven't signed up already, please come join us at the Marion Street Cheese Market on Tuesday evening, November 16th to share a wonderfully crafted meal with our cheeses and farm products and help us and our farmer neighbors save our precious farmland from development.
For more details, visit the Marion Street Cheese Market's website at: www.marionstreetcheesemarket.com
Posted 10/29/2010 11:33am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
My message to you is late this week, so I'll be brief.  After surviving the rains and high winds earlier this week, we continued our fall harvesting and new barn project. The winds were a good test of the hoop barn's cover--it didn't blow off and it wasn't even fully tied down! 
Kris harvested over 200 pounds of turnips out of the ground yesterday.  Everyone around here is going to have to love turnips since we have so many. They are wonderful simply roasted with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, by the way. Of course, you can finish them by crumbling some fresh chevre on top when they come out of the oven. Roasting brings out the sweetness in them (if you can believe that a turnip has sweetness). 
Anyway, on to markets and cheese: We'll be attending THREE Markets this Saturday: Urbana, Chicago's Green City Market and Oak Park. This is the LAST weekend for Outdoor Green City Market and the Oak Park Farmers' Market.  PLEASE remember that Green City Market will be moving to the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum starting Saturday November 6th. The market will run from 8AM (more civilized for this time of year) to 1PM once it moves to the Nature Museum.  If you're an Oak Park resident, tomorrow is your last chance to shop the farmers' market and stock up on our cheeses. Of course, Marion Street Cheese Market will continue to carry our cheeses through the rest of the fall and holiday season.  Weather forecast sounds beautiful-fall-like temperatures and sun.   Even though Halloween isn't exactly associated with cheese, why not surprise the guests at your halloween party with a beautiful tray of Prairie Fruits Farm cheeses.  They're easy to eat through any costume.  We have the following cheeses for your eating enjoyment:
Fresh Chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper and the return of the heirloom dried tomato
Angel Food
Little Bloom on the Prairie
A few Ewe Bloom--last of the year
Krotovina-last of the season with half sheep and half goat milk
Kaskaskia--perfect for grating over a nice hearty vegetable or beef stew
A few wedges of Moonglo (but not many)
Posted 10/26/2010 2:54pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Greetings again (two emails from me in one day--not my usual level of communication, but there's so much great food news I have to send it out in two emails):
The menu for our upcoming "Pioneer on the Prairie" Farm Dinner is now on the website for your viewing--go to www.prairiefruits.com click on "Dinners on the Farm," then "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations" and scroll down to view the menu.  Chef Alisa and her trusty sous-chef, Sarah, did a lot of research for this dinner. They even took a trip to the McLean County Historical Museum to see the exibit entitled "What we ate." The museum curators were so impressed that they were taking notes while viewing the exhibit that they offered to give them the recipes for real "pioneer food." So, we have lots of hearty fare for you to enjoy on a late fall evening. The weather is looking good so far (typical fall temps, partly sunny), so plan to dress accordingly (even if you're wearing a halloween costume). We will be dining inside. Guests should plan to arrive at 4PM.  Remember, it is BYOB as we don't have a liquor licence. 
For those of you planning to attend, please make sure you have the dinner marked on your calendars. I know it has been a long time since you signed up and received confirmation from Google Checkout (your only confirmation), so please don't forget to come if you already have a reservation.
If you don't have a reservation, read on:

Due to some last minute cancellations, we now have THREE seats open for this dinner. I have just posted them to the website. First come, first served. 
Posted 10/26/2010 1:56pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
For those of you who live in the Chicago area and love great food and a great cause, we have the perfect event for you.  We are partnering up with Marion Street Cheese Market in Oak Park on Tuesday, November 16th for a very special "Cheese Maker's Dinner."  Chef Leonard Hollander will be preparing a five course meal featuring many of the foods we raise here on the farm as well as our cheeses. The event will also serve as a fundraiser for our fight against the Olympian Drive road project. As many of you are aware, we and our farmer neighbors have been trying to provide alternatives to a proposed road that would come within yards of our farm and bisect our neighbors' farms.  We hope you'll come to feed your soul and your concience. For more information about the event and how to make reservations, please take a look at this flyer:
http://sfc.smallfarmcentral.com/dynamic_content/uploadfiles/167/pff%20cheesemaker%20dinner_call%20to%20action_102020101.pdf
Posted 10/22/2010 7:52am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
This is the time of year we begin peeling off outdoor farmers' markets. This week, it's Bloomington--we will be there this Saturday, but not their final outdoor market on October 30th. The following week, it will be Oak Park and Green City Market in Chicago. Then, November 6th will be Urbana's last outdoor market. No worries for Champaign-Urbana and Chicago shoppers, however; we will be moving indoors to complete the farmers' market season in a more comfortable environment right up to the 18th of DECEMBER. 
Most people associate fall as a time of year when frosts kill crops and farmers put their vegetable beds to "bed" for the winter with mulch or cover crops.  However, the irony is that there is an abundance of foods still to be had for the avid local food shopper for most of the fall.  The cool season greens are growing with abandon (at least they are on our farm-we have a mini kale forest going on in one of our garden beds); there are winter squashes of many colors and sizes; potatoes, carrots, turnips, salad greens.... I could go on and on with vegetables alone. But not only that, there are still plenty of locally raised meats and poultry, eggs and of course cheese. Let's not forget cheese.
While we are a seasonal dairy (the goats will be dry in January and February), we still have plenty of milk to continue making most of our cheeses into early to mid December. I emphasize the abundance of local food to entice you to shop the farmers' markets even if the weather is less than ideal (cold and rainy, perhaps). 
This week's offerings include:
  • Fresh Chevre-plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper
  • Angel Food--stil gooey as ever
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie-late lactation milk is starting to make this cheese nice and rich tasting
  • Black Sheep-our wonderful soft ripened sheep mik disc with an ash coating
  • Krotovina--the last of the season with half goat milk and half sheep milk (we are making the Krotovina classic all goat version so you can serve it during the holiday season and impress your friends with its pyramidal elegance)
  • Moonglo--nice nutty and tart flavor notes coming through in this batch with a creamy finish
  • Kaskaskia-golden color and great nuttiness--perfect for grating over all those roasted root veggies you're going to buy this weekend.
So, please come out and visit us at the farmers' markets this weekend.  We farmers have a lot to offer you. 
Posted 10/14/2010 9:27pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
chino hittin the hay
If this doesn't say "lazy," I don't know what does. Chino, our beloved blind cat is the master of the late morning snooze. Here he is "hittin' the hay" on one of the glorious warm fall days we've been having lately.  The trees along the creek are finally beginning to turn color, but I'm afraid that the drought is going to dampen the intensity of fall colors this year. 
Kris harvested our sweet potatoes this past week, and we think we have some record breakers in size.
Kris and his sweet potatoes
How 'bout them sweet potatoes! We'll be serving some of these beauties at the farm dinner this Saturday.
Cheese-wise, we have a nice selection of cheeses for you to taste and buy at the farmers' markets this Saturday. We'll be attending three markets this Saturday: Urbana, Oak Park and Chicago's Green City Market. Remember, there are only a few outdoor market Saturdays left, so please come out and support your local farmers and pick up some amazing locally-grown foods.  What do we have for you?
  • Fresh Chevre-plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper for sure; maybe dried tomato too
  • Angel Food-it is really rich tasting these days
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Red Dawn-our soft-ripened goat milk disc dusted in a bath of smoked paprika YUM!
  • Last of the Sheep Milk Feta--last batch of the season and it is REALLY creamy!
  • Moonglo--our luscious raw goat milk tomme; has a sweet-tang flavor right now
  • Roxanne-our raw sheep milk brebis
Come early and buy lots! It's a great time to catch the remants of solar warmth.