If you haven't already made reservations, there are a few seats left for the Vie Restaurant (Western Springs, IL) Farm Dinner tomorrow night featuring our farm products and our cheeses. Check out the menu in my newsletter blog from last Thursday, July 15th (www.prairiefruits.com).
Next Monday, July 26th, we're collaborating with Birchwood Kitchen for another farm-inspired dinner.
Check out the menu: Prarie Fruit Farm Dinner July 26-v02.birchwood.pdf
Lastly, we're starting our U-Pick for organic blackberries and peaches this week. Starting Thursday, July 22nd, we will be open for the following days and hours:
We have blackberries to pick at $3/pint and delicious organic peaches at $1.50/lb. Come to the large white pole barn to pick up picking baskets and instructions on where to pick.
News from the Farm
It sometimes feels like the weeks go by so slowly in late June and early July as we watch and wait on green, green and more green fruit and vegetables. There's the daily inspection to check for any signs of ripeness. "Are they ready yet??" I ask Wes or Kris every other day. "No, still green" is the response I get. Then, all of sudden, it happens; baskets of ripe pears, blackberries appear in the kitchen. A few peaches start to trickle in along with a cherry tomato or two. Tonight Kris, our garden caretaker, went out to the garden and picked a couple of beautifully ripe and lusciously purple Black Krim tomatoes. We savored them for dinner tonight drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt and cracked pepper (and topped with a delicious herb marinated chevre round that Alisa had made for a farm dinner). The other night our neighbor came by with a huge bag of sweet corn that he had just picked. We cooked it that same night-a quick journey in boiling water. My mother, visiting us from Boston, remarked "This is the best corn I have ever tasted in my life." Our prairie soils are show-offs of the highest order, and we feel so fortunate to experience such richness of flavors.
Speaking of abundance, we will start offering hours for u-pick fruit in the next week or so. Stay tuned.
Farmers' Market Offerings
We're attending three farmers' markets this week: Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park.
We have plenty of fresh chevre this week--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked peppercorn
We also have Angel Food and Little Bloom on the Prairie for those of you have been waiting patiently for these gooey little rounds.
Prairie Dropseed will be making a semi-final appearance this weekend as we give our sheep milk bloomy rind cheeses a rest for a few weeks. If you love this little mixed milk ball of creamy-crumbly cheese, you might want to get a couple. I made a pasta dish with it earlier this week, and this cheese really adds wonderful creaminess and flavor to grilled veggies with pasta.
Ewe Bloom, Black Sheep and Krotovina are on summer vacation and should be back sometime in late August.
Our next batches of Roxanne and Moonglo are ready, so we will be bringing those to the markets this week.
Don't let the heat keep you away from the farmers' markets or from buying cheese. Just come with an insulated bag or cooler, and you should be just fine.
Farm Dinners Beyond the Farm
As if our own farm dinners aren't enough to satisfy desires for eating amazingly prepared local foods, we're partnering up with a couple of restaurants in Chicago who will prepare special menus featuring our farm's bounty. The first one takes place next Wednesday evening, July 21st, at Vie Restaurant in Western Springs. Here are the details:
Join us for a 6 course Dinner featuring Prairie Fruits Farm
6:30 reception 7:00 Dinner
$65 per person $30 optional wine pairings
excluding tax and service
apple mint cocktail
swiss chard and gooseberry tart, pickled lily buds
pan-fried fresh chevre and potato terrine, basil and wild greens
ricotta tortellini in hen brodo, kale, italian parsley and pecorino
deep-fried chicken scotch egg, wilted dandelions
a selection of farmstead cheeses, preserves, and sourdough
frozen yogurt and blackberry compote
bartlett pear tart honey ice cream, almond cream
Call Vie for reservations
The second dinner is set for Monday evening, July 26th at Birchwood Kitchen. Located in the Bucktown neighborhood, they plan to offer a four course BYOB dinner featuring our cheese and produce. Go to their website to find out how to make reservations and for forthcoming details about the menu: http://birchwoodkitchen.com/
NEWS FROM THE FARM The cyclic nature of seasons plays tricks on your mind, especially on a farm. In the spring, the worries stem from expectant mother goats to feeding babies to how to process all that milk, to how do I get all those berries planted with all this rain. As the babies are weaned (we just weaned our last group of kids yesterday), the outside temperatures rise, the excessive amounts of rain turn to dry soils needing a soak, the worries transform. Why does their milk production keep dropping, how do we keep the pasture growing so they have enough good forage to eat, when are those peaches going to ripen??? Every year you think you have learned from these transitions and you promise yourself you WILL be prepared next year; you will anticipate these changes and smooth out the peaks and valleys. You WILL be a better, smarter farmer. Then, the new year rolls around and you’re embroiled in the worries of each day. Before you realize it, the transition is upon you and you have completely forgotten that you knew it was coming and should have prepared for it. Such is the predicament of being so tied to the land, the goats, the crops-their rhythms are predictable but you're so entwined in them, you often don't see them.
So, what does this philosophical waxing have to do with cheese and markets, you’re asking yourself? Well, we are in the height of the heat, so milk has become a precious commodity to make into delicious cheese. Nonetheless, we have a respectable assortment of cheeses to offer you this week at the farmers’ markets.
This Saturday, we’ll be attending FOUR markets: Urbana, Bloomington, Green City and Oak Park. For those of you who live in Chicago, don’t forget: you can also get the best selection of our cheeses at a mid-week farmers’ market in the Andersonville neighborhood (Wednesday afternoon-evenings from 3-8PM). Here’s what we have to offer you this week:
- Fresh Chevre—plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn
- Little Bloom on the Prairie-holding up very well in this heat
- Ewe Bloom-the last batch for a while, so get it while it lasts
- Prairie Dropseed-our blended sheep and goat milk ball of creamy yet crumbly cheese with its distinct blue and white mold rind
- Mollisol Pecorino—the last batch of our sheep milk Romano style cheese for the year. It is 14 months old, slightly salty, a bit nutty and great for grating over hot and cold dishes.
We may be bringing a few of some of our other cheeses to select markets including a few Angel Food (there will be Angel Food at all markets next week, I promise), some Roxanne and a few remaining Pear Capri. Get to the market early for the best selection; it’s cooler too.
This week, we are attending three farmers' markets: Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park. I will be in Urbana this Saturday. Cesar, our Green City Market cheesemonger extraordinaire, is out of town this weekend, but we've got Xian (another Pastoral Artisan Cheese person) manning our booth there. If you're in Chicago this weekend, please stop by our stand at Green City and say hi to Xian. Adam, our Oak Park cheesemonger (also extraordinaire), will be offering you the following selection of cheeses:
Fresh chevre---the usual trio of plain, herbs de Provence and cracked pepper.
Angel Food-our goat milk brie style cheese
Little Bloom on the Prairie-our goat milk camembert style cheese (gooey exterior and pasty core)
Ewe Bloom-a soft ripened sheep milk cheese with white and blue molds on the rind. Try this cheese melted on a bun with a burger.
Roxanne-a raw sheep milk brebis (pyrenees style) cheese; aged 2 months. Semi-hard texture, very buttery and fruity flavor. Great slicing cheese.
Moonglo-a raw goat milk tomme style cheese aged 3.5 months. The rind is washed with "tea" made from pear leaves from our orchard. Nice semi-hard texture with nutty flavor. Also great for slicing.
Last but not least--we're bringing back our "Pear Capri" - a blue and white mold ripened goat cheese aged 2-3 weeks. These little pears have a "woodsy" blue exterior and ivory white creamy interior that melts in your mouth. Dazzle your friends and family over the holiday weekend by serving these little gems with fresh berries or a quick berry compote. They are a bargain at $2 each.
Here's to a deliciously INDEPENDENT food fiesta.
Farm Dinner this weekend: For those of you attending our farm dinner this Saturday "Backyard Barbeque" rest assured that you will be fulfilling the declaration of food independence by partaking in five courses of all locally grown foods. The weather should be perfect, so we will be dining outside. If you haven't seen the menu yet, you can view it at our website: www.prairiefruits.com under "Dinners on the Farm and then "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations." We look forward to hosting you!
I realize it is a bit early in the week to be receiving an email from me, but I am so excited about the menu Chef Alisa has dreamed up for our next farm dinner "A Backyard Barbeque" that I had to share it with everyone. I especially want to share with those of you who will be attending the dinner so you can plan your wine and beer selections to accompany the meal. We're featuring chicken and beef from Triple S Farms in Stewardson IL, and farmer Stan Schutte will be our guest of honor that evening.
To view the menu, go to our website (www.prairiefruits.com) and click on Dinners on the Farm, then "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations." Look for the "Backyard Barbeque" dinner and then click on "more details" to find the description and the tentative menu. The house-made veggie pickles are sure to amaze everyone.
I also want to let Chicagoans know that we are now attending a mid-week farmers' market: The Andersonville neighborhood farmers' market, every Wednesday evening from 3-8PM. This week, we should have plenty of fresh chevre (plain, herbs de Provence, cracked pepper), Angel Food (our brie style cheese made with goat milk), Little Bloom on the Prairie (our signature goat milk camembert style cheese), Ewe Bloom (mold ripened sheep milk gooeyness), Black sheep (a soft ripened sheep milk cheese with ash on the rind), Prairie Dropseed (a blend of sheep and goat milk in a delicate mold ripened ball--creamy crumbly texture that is perfect for a salad or to finish a pasta dish), Roxanne (a raw sheep milk brebis-Pyrennes style; aged 2 months; semi-hard with a buttery and slightly nutty flavor) and some of our melt in your mouth sheep milk ricotta. Please come visit Cesar at the market and he will sure to give you a taste of all of these cheeses.
This week's news could easily be about the weather. This time of year, farmers lament the rain, the heat, the weeds, the resultant crop disease, the ritual onslaught of Japanese beetles decsending upon the berry bushes, the drop in milk production due to the weather, etc. However, this week's news is about a birth. A BIRTH, you ask; isn't it kind of LATE in the season for does to be having babies?? Well, Peppermint Pattie, the doe who had to undergo an emergency cesarean (C) section last year when we couldn't extract an enormously large buck kid from her, decided to go into labor Monday night, just as Aaron (our herdsman) was finishing up the milking chores. The kid was presented normally--front legs and head first, that is, but she was clearly having trouble birthing him. So, on go the OB gloves, betadine and OB lube and in I go. The first thing I notice is a ring of extra tissue in the birth canal. I imagine that this might be scar tissue from her operation last year. It is extremely rigid and inflexible. I think, "there is no way she can dilate properly." So, I try the usual tricks of massaging and tugging the kid to no avail. We decide to call our trusted vet to get some advice. She suggests letting Pattie keep pushing and trying to stretch this scar tissue. So, we let her try a bit longer and I go back in to stretch the tissue. All of a sudden, I feel the birth canal expanding and I am able to pull out the kid's head. Out slithers the rest of his seemingly skinny body. It's a healthy boy. We clean him up, milk out Pattie and then she drops back down to the ground to deliver the second kid. This time, we're not so lucky. It's a 3 lb buck kid that takes a breath and then dies. He is much too small to be viable. This happens sometimes. The happy ending of the story is that a doe who we weren't sure would ever be able to get pregnant again and be a productive part of our herd, is now on the milk line with the other does. We have one very cute little buckling to show for her efforts.
We decided to try a few experimental cheeses with our sheep milk last week and this week as we wait out the rogue wild blue molds on our Ewe Bloom and Krotovina. Last week, we made a batch of sheep milk feta (it is aging in brine right now, so stay tuned) and this week we decided to make sheep milk ricotta. So, for those ricotta fans out there who keep asking us to make ricotta more often, your wish has been our command. We're pleased with the results-delicate and delicious--excellent drizzled with some local honey and fresh fruit. We will sell it in the same way we sell the goat milk ricotta--1/3 to 1/2 pound portions.
We are attending four farmers' markets this Saturday: Urbana, Bloomington, Green City Market and Oak Park. The weather forecast sounds good (morning at least) so come on out and shop for some fantastically fresh local foods to accompany the cheeses you'll buy. Here's what we plan to have for you:
Fresh chevre--we made extra batches this week, so we should have plenty--the usual suspects--plain, herbes de Provence and cracked black peppercorn
Angel Food--nice and gooey brie-like--limited quantity, so arrive early if this is your favorite cheese
Little Bloom on the Prairie--continues to have a nice clean milk flavor--goes great with all those local fruit jams you're probably making right now.
Ewe Bloom--beautiful yellow core surrounded by those white, blue and green molds on the rind. It is quite yummy and I have been suggesting to our customers that you try it on a burger--veggie or meat.
Krotovina-the creamy flavor of both goat and sheep milk separated by vegetable ash--delicious!
Roxanne-our raw goat milk brebis style, still reflects early lactation milk but now has notes of pasture in it.
Red Dawn--the soft ripened goat milk disc dusted with smoked paprika--we have VERY limited quantities of these, so again, come early.
HAPPY SUMMER EATING!
We have been growing an experiment this spring--a forage sorghum-sudan grass pasture mixed with a tall-growing legume called "berseem clover." Both grow really fast and tall in warm weather. Since goats like to eat high--they are browsers after all, not true grazers--we have been eagerly awaiting the day we could turn them loose on this new pasture. This week, we let the girls in. The sound of 80 goats intently focused on chewing in unison brought a glow to my heart. Their heads were buried in their food, and I swear I could hear their lips smacking. I was mezmerized by the sounds of them eating with such gusto; I almost wished I were a ruminant myself.
All of that great forage makes its way into their milk and in turn in, into the flavors of our cheeses. The flipside is that the current heat makes their appetites evaporate, and that, in turn, leads to less milk production. Our cheese vats aren't overflowing with milk like they were just a few short weeks ago. The "problem" of too much milk in early spring has transformed into the "problem" of not enough milk for cheese. While this happens every year with the onset of hot weather, I always lament the transformation and wish we could have shade follow them where ever they go in the pasture to keep them cool and hungry.
As a result of the dip in milk production, we don't have as much Chevre available for you this week at the farmers' markets. However, we have lots of Little Bloom on the Prairie and Ewe Bloom. Buy lots now because these cheeses will become scarce too in a few weeks. We also have the debut of this year's Moonglo, our raw goat milk tomme-style cheese. It is quite rich, buttery and delicious-what you would expect from early lactation milk cheese. We also have Roxanne, also quite creamy and tasty. Expect a few other cheeses including Prairie Dropseed and Black Sheep in very limited quanities. If Angel Food is ripe, we'll probably bring some of these gooey goat rounds as well.
Tomorrow morning, we'll be picking berries before the heat sets in. I hope to have raspberries and currants to bring to at least one of the markets on Saturday. I forgot to mention, we'll be attending three farmers' markets this Saturday: Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park. Summer is looming on the horizon--Stay cool and be cool--eat lots of cheese on those salads.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention, for those of you coming to the farm dinner this Saturday, “This little piggy…” expect hot weather and dress accordingly. Unless it is raining, we will be dining outside. The menu looks marvelously porcine. On another note, we have a few seats now available for the "Backyard Barbeque" Dinner on July 3rd. They are posted on our website under "Dinners on the Farm," then "Dinner Descriptions and Make Reservations." First come, first served.
Go to "Dinners on the Farm" then click on "Dinner Descriptions and make reservations" then click on the the "This little piggy dinner" for more detail and scroll down the page to view the menu.
For those of you fortunate to be attending this dinner, it should be a hog wild affair!
I was thinking about the word "ripen" today. We always refer to fruits as ripe when they are at their peak flavor and ready to eat. Those of us in the cheese world, also use the term "ripen" to describe the process of aging cheeses to the point that they are ready to eat. Affinage is the french term for the process of cheese ripening. Inherent in the term is the notion that something is acting on the cheese or the fruit to cause it to change its flavor, texture, etc. In both cases, it is a biologically mediated process (those microbes at it again) that coaxes along the digestion of some compounds and the production of others (sugars in the case of fruits, fatty acids and other flavor compounds in the case of cheese). In both cases too, ripening is a fairly subjective term that lets the eater (and in our case, the producer-eater) determine when the flavor of the food is at its peak. Ripe cheeses and ripe fruits--the joy of eating locally is that you actually get to purchase these foods when their delicousness is at its apex.
It seems like June is the month for ripening. We have had a plethora of soft-ripened (or bloomy rind) cheeses peak this week along with raspberries, currants and maybe even some gooseberries.
We'll be bringing lots of cheese to FOUR farmers' markets this week-Urbana, Bloomington, Green City Market in Lincoln Park, Chicago and of course Oak Park Farmers' Market-- so come visit us and buy some cheese. We might bring berries to a couple of the markets if we have extra. We're bringing the following cheeses:
Chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked peppercorn--come early to get the full selection
Angel Food-goat milk brie--epitomizes "ripeness"
Little Bloom on the Prairie--goat milk camembert-tasting really great this time of year-must be the pasture coming through in the goats' milk
Ewe Bloom-sheep milk bloomy rind-still on sale this week, because, you guessed it, several batches decided to ripen at the same time.
Prairie Dropseed-our blended milk (sheep and goat) little ball with a geo mold rind--someone told me it reminds them of brain coral (it does!)
A new little bloomy rind we're calling "Pear Capri" it is less than 2 oz of white and blue mold coated goat mik creaminess in the shape of a petite poire (little pear in french). We're making this special cheese for Stephanie Izard's new restaurant ("Girl and the Goat" slated to open the third week in June) and she came down to make an experimental batch with me a couple of weeks ago. You get to have a sneak preview of this little gem.
Roxanne will reappear in the lineup next week; maybe even Moonglo. Stay tuned and stay ripe.
Lots of cheese this week too:
Whole goat's milk ricotta is finally here! It's sweet, delicate and delicious
Chevre, of course--stuff those strawberries with some chevre and fresh herbs! Yum.
Limited supply of Angel Food
Little Bloom on the Prairie
Roxanne--nice semi-hard texture
This week, we're running a sale on Ewe Bloom, the "blue" duckling that tastes like a swan. It is $5/lb per pound less than the regular price. As I wrote last week, look past the blue rind and experience the buttery interior, and you'll be hooked on this cheese.
Take advantage of our abundance this week. We'll be attending the Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park Farmers' Market. Happy Local Food eating!