News

Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 9/29/2010 6:16pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Dear Guests (those who already have reservations and those who are just curious what we will be serving):
You can now view the menu for the 100 Yard Dinner on our website. This dinner will take place this coming Saturday, October 2nd. We start at 4PM with hors d'oeuvres and then go on from there.  Right now, the weather looks good for Saturday, albeit a bit chilly, so dress accordingly. We plan to dine outside.
To view the menu, go to our website: www.prairiefruits.com then go to "Dinners on the Farm." Then, click on "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations" and go to the "100 Yard Dinner" for all the details.
For those of you who have reservations, we look forward to seeing you here soon.
Posted 9/23/2010 9:29pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Greetings Cheese Lovers:

This week's rain and warm temperatures has revived our vegetable garden just in time for preparation of our upcoming "100 Yard Dinner." This is the dinner where we create an entire five-course menu from foods grown within a 100 yards of the dinner table (we do make allowance for salt, pepper, some sugar and olive oil).  The menu should be on our website by early next week (the dinner is sold out). Our guinea fowl that we have been raising all summer on orchard grasses and grain were taken to Arthur this morning to "meet their feathered maker." True to their difficult guinea nature, one flew away as it was being unloaded at the poultry processing plant! The fall greens we planted are leafing out nicely. Our Jerusalem artichokes flowered this week, signaling that their tubers are sizing up for harvest.  Our bee-keeper, Emil Blobaum, was out harvesting honey this afternoon. He reported that the bees have been EXTREMELY busy harvesting nectar from the golden rod in the prairie--this news brought joy to my ears--another benefit of our gorgeous prairie--fall honey.  In fact, he was astounded at how busy they have been so late in the season; more honey for us, and more honey for them to eat during winter. 
So, back to cheese. This week, Ewe Bloom, Black Sheep and Krotovina return to the cheese repertoire at the farmers' markets after a long summer vacation.  We'll be attending four markets this Saturday--Urbana, Bloomington, Oak Park and Green City.  For those of you not familiar with these cheeses, Ewe Bloom is a soft-ripened sheep milk cheese in the shape of a triangle. It has a wonderful golden interior and subtle buttery flavor right now. Black Sheep is a cousin to Ewe Bloom. We start with the same curd but ladle it into round forms  (instead of squares) and then dust the outside of the cheese with a mixture of salt and vegetable ash. The ash modifies how the cheese ripens and gives it a distinct flavor profile.  Krotovina is a small pyramid that we typically make with half goat milk and half sheep milk separated by a layer of ash. This particular is a throw back to the days (two years ago) when we made the cheese with goat milk only. We're calling this batch "Krotovina Classic." It is nice and creamy with rich dense center. 
In addition to these cheeses we will be bringing our fresh chevre--all four flavors, Moonglo and Roxanne.  The Moonglo will be on sale this week as this batch is a bit drier than usual. It still works great for cooking--melting, grating, shaving--it's just not as creamy as it normally tastes. 
The weather forecast looks good--EVEN for Chicago, so please come out and support the farmers and buy LOTS of cheese. Happy Eating!
Posted 9/16/2010 9:19pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Black Krim Tomato
Farm News
This time of year, the seasons send mixed signals. It's still warm and dry. We're still harvesting lots of tomatoes (and canning and drying and making sauce and making salsa and making tomato jam.....), the girls are still chowing down on lush sorghum Sudan-grass pastures. Yet, the signals of fall are here as well.  Giant black and yellow orb spiders have set up their elaborate webs (with a white zig zag pattern that supposedly helps birds see the web so they don't fly into it--pretty ingenious) between tomato vines, on withering stalks of basil, wherever there a space between any two plants, really
. They're voracious eaters of lingering flies and mosquitos--a joy to watch from my perspective.  The praying mantis females abound and have abdomens swollen with eggs, which means they have already mated and eaten their mates. Our seasonal resident barn swallows have fledged their nests on the porch roof, leaving behind our solitary resident brown bat, Victor, to contribute to the daily accumulation of scat on our porch.  My buck scent indicator (aka my nose) now routinely detects a "9" or "10" on the Richter scale of stinkiness. Our neighbors have begun the grain harvest, spitting corn and soy bean residues into the air and onto our cars, creating dust that hangs in the sky and produces the most amazing firery red sunsets.  Yes, the evidence is overwhelming: fall is here. 
Cheese and Farmers' Markets
We are attending three farmers' markets this Saturday: Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park. Adrianne, our cheesemaking apprentice will be greeting our Urbana Customers, and Katy, another Pastoral Artisan Cheese-whiz, will be attending to our customers at Green City Market. Of course, Adam will be manning the stand at Oak Park.  We have the following cheeses for your late summer-early fall eating enjoyment:
Fresh chevre: plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper and heirloom-dried tomato
Fresh sheep milk ricotta--the last of the season
Sheep milk feta--also the last of the season
Angel Food--our nice and gooey goat milk brie
Little Bloom on the Prairie--creamy camembert style
Moonglo--our raw goat milk tomme washed with Moonglo pear tea
Roxanne-our raw sheep milk brebis
Next week: Ewe Bloom and Black Sheep will return to our repertoire
Farm Dinner News
Speaking of tomatoes, the theme for our farm dinner this Saturday evening is "Ode to the Tomato." The dinner is sold out, but check out the menu on our website: www.prairiefruits.com under "Dinners on the Farm" then "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations" then click on "Ode to the Tomato" dinner details to view the menu.
Posted 9/14/2010 10:13am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
To those of you who have reservations for the Ode to the Tomato Farm Dinner this coming Saturday, the menu is now on the website.  To access it, go to our website: www.prairiefruits.com and click on "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations." Then, click on "Ode to the Tomato" dinner for more details and scroll down the page to view the menu. Remember, the event starts at 4PM with hors d'oeuvres and then a tour of the farm.  Also, remember, it is BYOB, so the menu should assist you in making your wine selections. I'm not sure what the weather forecast is yet, but hopefully this warm dry fall weather will continue.
Posted 9/9/2010 9:45pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
For those of you who have wondered how our farm name came to be, now is the time for explanations. When Wes and I moved to this beautiful land of prairie soils over seven years ago, we decided to build a farm "of this place." So, one of the first things we did was begin the process of restoring the rich (but really beat up) prairie soils with cover crops.  The other thing we decided was we wanted to try to restore some of the farm to its native vegetation--prairie.  We had also decided we wanted to grow fruit, and to try to replicate the flavors and sensory experiences of the Pacific Northwest, since Wes grew up there. He tells everyone that we bought this land so he could grow peaches and go out and pick them dead ripe just like he did when he was a kid. He also wanted to be able to share those tastes and senses with people around here. Well, this summer, we achieved the peach sensory experience in spades. He even acknowledges, begrudingly, that these peaches might taste even better than those in Oregon (but don't tell his parents that!). Maybe it has something to do with these prairie soils.  
Back to the prairie planting. Our second year on the farm, we got a whole bunch of prairie seeds (grasses, forbes) from Spence Farm in Fairbury. They had established almost ten acres of gorgeous prairie on their own farm and were selling the seed. We broadcast the seed heavily in the front of our property that fall, expecting the prairie to emerge the next spring. I waited and waited, and nothing but Canada thistle, Fox Tail and Rag Weed grew there that year.  I later found out that it can take years for the prairie seeds to germinate and grow.  I wanted more immediate gratification than that, but it did not come very quickly.  The following year, some prairie grasses emerged--Big and Little Blue Stem--and then I scouted a Black-Eyed Susan during the middle of that summer. I was encouraged. Two years ago, a very good and beneficent friend purchased 15 acres east and adjacent to our property so we could grow more pasture and hay.  We decided to set two acres of this land aside to plant prairie.  We lucked into more prairie plant seed--lots of different grasses and forbes--prepared the ground well with lots of goat manure compost, drilled in the prairie seed heavily (it was VERY badly eroded from years of corn and soybean cultivation on sloping ground--yes, there is some sloping ground in this flat land)--and waited again.  Well, last Saturday, I decided to take a walk back there to see what was going on, and I was blown away. Yes, there is still some remnant ragweed, but the eight-foot tall Indian Grass and Big Blue Stem was just a little sea of waving grain. Nestled in the tall grasses were bursts of bright yellow Golden Rod, at least three species, and more Black Eyed Susan. I wormed my way into the middle of the prairie, and I swear I felt like I was transported back to 200 years ago when prairie WAS the dominant landscape.
prairie bouquet
We decided to cut some of these magnificent grasses and flowers to adorn the tables at our farm dinner last weekend.  So at last I can say that we have a legitimate prairie for which our farm is named. 
Farmers' Market Cheeses
This week we're attending four farmers' markets: Urbana, Bloomington, Chicago's Green City Market and Oak Park.
We're bringing the following cheeses for your eating enjoyment:
Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked peppercorn and heirloom tomato
Angel Food-our goat milk brie
Little Bloom on the Prairie--our goat milk camembert
Roxanne-our raw sheep milk brebis
We might bring Moonglo, our raw goat milk tomme, if it is ripe and possibly some more Kaskaskia, our Manchego style sheep milk cheese.
Next week, stay tuned for the return of Ewe Bloom, Sheep Milk Feta and possibly Sheep Milk Ricotta (it's a sheep milk cheese bonanza in store for you!)

I know this week's newsletter is longer than usual, but I must tell you about an event that our friends at Blue Moon Farm in Urbana will be hosting next Friday morning, "WEED DATING": Even if you're not single, it sounds like a great time!

Weed Dating Anyone? Sept 17th 10-12ish
Do you want to farm or garden but have been unable to weed out the good from the bad?  Weed Dating might just be the thing for you.  In and effort to help single farmers and gardeners in the CU area Blue Moon Farm is hosting a weedsome spin on speed dating. Weed dating is an opportunity to meet someone interested in being in a relationship who is also interested in farming or gardening and eating well.  Depending upon turn out, you should be able to weed-date up to 10-15 other people, who are serious about farming, gardening and dating.  Each ‘date’ will last 5-10 minutes, enough time to leave your date wanting to learn more if there is interest, and not so long that you’ll run out of small talk.
For more visit http://www.bluemoonfarm.biz/2010/09/07/weed-dating-anyone-sept-17-10-00-1-00/

Posted 9/3/2010 7:12pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
I know it is late. It is nearly 6:30PM on a Friday evening, and those of you who are used to receiving my weekly newsletter are probably wondering what is going on. Why is she so late this week?? Well, I don't have any really good excuses except the need for more hours in the day.  This week we finally got the deluge of rain we were sorely needing. Even the goats tolerated the first drops of rain as they fell on the hard and parched soil.  If it wasn't for growing sorghum-Sudan grass pasture, which tolerates both heat and drought, the girls would not have had much pasture to eat this summer.  Now, with the rain of at least a couple inches, the other pasture plants will start to grow--chicory, birds foot tree-foil are starting to flower in the pastures.  The cooler temperatures that blew in behind the rain clouds should get the cool season grasses to grow as well. 
This week, we're attending three farmers' markets: Urbana, Oak Park and Green City Market in Chicago.  For those of you who patronize the Green City Market, please say hi to Lucy, another Pastoral Artisan Cheese Monger, who will be filling in for Cesar this Saturday. It's her first time selling for us so, please be nice to her (and buy lots of cheese). 
We have the following cheeses for your eating pleasure this holiday weekend:
Fresh Chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked black peppercorn and heirloom dried tomato
Angel Food-our goat milk brie
Little Bloom on the Prairie-our goat milk camembert
Kaskaskia-our raw sheep milk Manchego style cheese-it's hard and dry; excellent for grating or shaving or just cutting a thin slice to enjoy with some grilled peaches or sauteed apples.
FARM DINNER NEWS:For those of you with reservations for this weekend's farm dinner "East Meets West: A Vegetable Love Affair", please remember: it is a SUNDAY afternoon event from 1-5PM.  The menu is finally on the website for your perusal: www.prairiefruits.com under "Dinners on the Farm," then click on "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservation" then click on the "East Meets West" dinner description and scroll down to view the menu. Alisa will be busy cooking up a storm over the next couple of days. The weather should be spectacular-warm, sunny and a slight breeze. We will be dining outside.
Posted 8/27/2010 3:00pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Yes, the Moonglow Pears are harvested and the word on the street is that they are LARGE and LUSCIOUS!

A basket of Moonglow Pears just harvested
A basket of Moonglow Pears basking in the sun
Close Up Moonglow Pear
Look at the size of that pear!

We will be sending some to all FOUR Farmers' Markets this Saturday: Urbana, Oak Park, Chicago's Green City Market and Bloomington. There may be some organic apples too. Come early for the best selection.
Cheese-wise, we have a nice repertoire of fresh and aged cheeses for to select to eat with those pears:
Fresh Chevre: plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper (heirloom tomato will be back next week-no worries)
Mouton Frais--our fresh sheep's milk cheese that has a consistency like Mascarpone--how about a Mouton Frais creme and pear tart for dessert this weekend???
Angel Food--as gooey as ever
Little Bloom on the Prairie--the essence of a soft ripened goat milk cheese--yum
Sheep Milk Feta--nice and tangy--perfect accompaniment to your tomato salad
Roxanne--this batch has a very nice sweetness as well as it's usual buttery flavor--must be all that grass the sheep were eating a couple of months ago.
Kaskaskia--our take on a Manchego style raw sheep milk cheese--the first batch of the season--it has a wonderful nutty flavor--could be used as a grating or slicing cheese.
ENJOY!

Posted 8/27/2010 9:42am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Yes, the Moonglow Pears are harvested and the word on the street is that they are LARGE and LUSCIOUS!

A basket of Moonglow Pears just harvested
A basket of Moonglow Pears basking in the sun
Close Up Moonglow Pear
Look at the size of that pear!

We will be sending some to all FOUR Farmers' Markets this Saturday: Urbana, Oak Park, Chicago's Green City Market and Bloomington. There may be some organic apples too. Come early for the best selection.
Cheese-wise, we have a nice repertoire of fresh and aged cheeses for to select to eat with those pears:
Fresh Chevre: plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper (heirloom tomato will be back next week-no worries)
Mouton Frais--our fresh sheep's milk cheese that has a consistency like Mascarpone--how about a Mouton Frais creme and pear tart for dessert this weekend???
Angel Food--as gooey as ever
Little Bloom on the Prairie--the essence of a soft ripened goat milk cheese--yum
Sheep Milk Feta--nice and tangy--perfect accompaniment to your tomato salad
Roxanne--this batch has a very nice sweetness as well as it's usual buttery flavor--must be all that grass the sheep were eating a couple of months ago.
Kaskaskia--our take on a Manchego style raw sheep milk cheese--the first batch of the season--it has a wonderful nutty flavor--could be used as a grating or slicing cheese.
ENJOY!

Posted 8/24/2010 9:06pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Dear Patrons, particularly those who live in the Champaign Urbana Community or in Central Illinois:
I want to call your attention to an upcoming fundraising dinner to benefit the Flatlander Fund!

On Sunday, August 29 from 6-9PM the Corkscrew Wine Emporium will host a fundraising dinner in their new Buvons! Wine Bar to support Dan Schreiber’s dream of a community kitchen for Champaign-Urbana. The event will feature a 3-course gourmet dinner with wine pairing. Tickets are $100/person and seating is limited. For reservations, contact Laura at 217-778-1687 or donate@flatlanderfund.org. Dinner payments can be made online here (put “dinner” in the memo line, please) or by mailing a check to Prairie Table/Flatlander Fund, 201 W. Green, Urbana, IL 61801. Click here for more details, the menu, and to read more about the Flatlander Fund.
 
HERE IS A MORE DETAILED LETTER OF APPEAL FROM LAURA HUTH OF DO-GOOD CONSULTING WHO IS VOLUNTEERING HER TIME TO ORGANIZE THIS BENEFIT DINNER.
 
Hi all:
As many of you have heard, I am volunteering my time to help establish the Flatlander Fund to honor the memory of Dan Schreiber and to help build a community kitchen in Champaign-Urbana – something Dan deeply supported. (www.flatlanderfund.org)
 
Dan died a couple weeks ago at age 24. He was passionate about local foods, good food, community gatherings, bean-to-bar chocolate, and making the community a better place. He was an entrepreneur, a visionary, full of energy, and always was involved in great things. As we mourn the loss of our friend and colleague, many in the community are also rallying behind Dan’s dream to make the kitchen a reality, and we created the Flatlander Fund to do just that (Flatlander was the name of Dan’s chocolate company – he made REALLY GOOD chocolate).
 
The Corkscrew Wine Emporium in downtown Urbana has graciously opened the doors to their wonderful new wine bar, Buvons! to host a fundraising dinner on Sunday, August 29 to benefit the Flatlander Fund. From 6-9PM that night volunteers will serve an absolutely scrumptious 3-course gourmet dinner featuring local foods accompanied by a wine pairing from the Corkscrew. More information about the dinner, the menu, etc. is at www.flatlanderfund.org.
 
Tickets are $100/person and seating is limited to 40 people (and going fast). For reservations, contact me at 217-778-1687 or donate@flatlanderfund.org.
 
If you’re not able to make the event, I encourage you to support the concept of a community kitchen with a donation, which can be made here: http://rememberingdan.org/in-memoriam/, or by sending a check to Prairie Table/Flatlander Fund, 201 W. Green, Urbana, IL 61801. Dan and I shared a lot of things in common: a love of great local foods, a passion for a better community, an entrepreunurial spirit, as well as a common dream of a community kitchen. Dan’s passing has left a hole in our community, no doubt. But together, we can help create a kitchen that would cultivate food entreprenuers, share great food with the community, help teach others about food, and make Dan’s dream a reality.
 
I have made a contribution to the Flatlander Fund, and hope you will join me in supporting this effort, too.
 
Kindest regards,
Laura Huth
Volunteer, Flatlander Fund
217-778-1687 || donate@flatlanderfund.org || www.flatlanderfund.org
 
Posted 8/20/2010 2:34pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Farm News
This time of year we start to see the signs that summer is fading into fall, despite the hot and dry weather we continue to have and the summer flowers that radiate from our garden.
Cosmos
I can always tell when fall is around the corner by the intensity of buck scent.  When I walk out of the house in the early morning and my nose is hit by the smell of buck, I know that fall can't be too far behind.  When the does start rough-housing and mounting each other, I know they are starting their heat cycles.  Their breeding rhythms are queued by day length and changes in temperature.  The slowly shortening days and the somewhat cooler weather we had earlier in the week sent them signals that it is time to breed.  We humans, however, are not ready for that yet, so we make them wait for another month or so. We did spend several hours this week pouring over our milk records and goat lineage information to begin our match-making plans.  We are finally beginning to have a method to our breeding madness beyond who is most closely related to whom. Turns out that this the least important factor when trying to breed for specific genetic qualities in our next crop of kids. 

The orchard is winding down as well. Last night, the u-pickers picked the last of the peaches.  We have a few apples out there still, but they are not very beautiful, and will likely end up as cider or apple butter.  The Moonglo pears are ripening, and Kris harvested most of them today. They are HUGE!!
Cheese For the Markets this Week: Lov Diversity, High Abundance
We will be attending three farmers' markets this Saturday, August 21st: Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park. Wes will be greeting you in Urbana, I will be serving you at Green City, and Adam will be at Oak Park. We have plenty of chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked peppercorn and heirloom tomato for you.
We have lots of luscious Angel Food (brie) and Little Bloom on the Prairie (camembert). 
Our hard cheeses like Kaskaskia and Roxanne should reappear next Saturday.