News

Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 8/21/2009 4:50pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Sheep at Plank Farm
This week we have some sad news. Leroy Plank, our Amish sheep dairy farmer in Arthur from whom we buy the wonderful sheep milk to make our sheep milk cheeses, passed away last week from cancer at the very too young age of 35.  He leaves behind his kind and strong wife, Rhoda, and their young children.  His wife and brother are committed to maintaining the sheep dairy through the end of this season, and hopefully beyond.  Leroy was a very special person. He and his brother-in-law, Leander Stutzman, had the foresight and courage to buy some dairy sheep in 2007, approach us about buying the milk if they put in a licenced dairy and then they went ahead and did it.  They are the first licensed sheep dairy in the state of Illinois!! Three years ago, when we attended a meeting in Arthur to discuss the possibilities of farmers acquiring goats and sheep for milking, no one in the Amish community there had even heard of milking sheep.  It was Leroy and Leander's vision and determination that made it happen (and our "craziness" to take them on). Leroy installed a beautiful little milking parlor on his farm. His sheep are very well tended with ample lush green pastures for them to graze.  We will miss him.

This week we are attending three farmers' markets: Green City Market in Chicago, Oak Park and Urbana.  We are bringing an assortment of cheeses including:
Fresh Chevre--plain, herbed and cracked pepper
Angel Food (limited quantity)
Little Bloom on the Prairie (limited quantity)
Ewe Bloom
Krotovina
Moonglo
Roxanne

The menu for the farm dinner on Saturday August 22nd  "Local Game" is posted on the website for those of you who will be coming. The weather promises to be fall-like--in the mid '70's and clear.  Should be a fantastic evening. 

Posted 8/14/2009 9:19am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Just another summer sunset at Prairie Fruits Farm
Sunset over Prairie Fruits Farm


There is not much new to recount this week from the farm. Our Fiesta Mexicana dinner was a huge hit--the flavors of the turkey mole and pork pipian were out of this world. One our guests remarked "it was the best mexican food I have ever had."  On to "Local Game" for the 22nd of August. The menu for that dinner should be up on the website this weekend. Perhaps our biggest news is the arrival of our new Nubian buckling. He is gorgeous (reddish color with white spots) and sweet--traits totally compatible with the rest of the herd at Prairie Fruits Farm.

Our blackberries continue to put out, so we may have some at select farmers' markets this weekend. We are attending four farmers' markets this Saturday: Urbana, Bloomington, Green City Market and Oak Park.
Cheesewise, we're bringing the following cheeses;
Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn--put some on heirloom tomato and basil salad drizzled with some balsamic vinegar and olive oil
Mouton frais--our fresh sheep milk cheese; tastes like slightly tangy mascarpone--great blended with honey and served with fresh fruit or a fruit tart
Angel Food-very limited supply
Little Bloom on the Prairie--also, limited supply
Ewe Bloom--our soft ripened sheep milk cheese
Krotovina--our pyramid with a split personality--half sheep and half goat separated by a vegetable ash layer
Moonglo--our raw goat milk tomme, washed with a tea made from the leaves of our Moonglo pear.

All of the aged cheeses pair extremely well with the fruits of the season--peaches, nectarines and pears. 
As always, we thank you for your patronage. Savor the full flavors of this wonderful summer season.


Posted 8/6/2009 7:47pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Moonglo Pear
Moonglo Pears Hanging Lusciously from the Tree

Angelica and Palmera with Pear Harvest
Angelica and Palmera Show off some of their Pear Harvest

Pears, pears, regally delicious pears. 2009 is the year of the pear at Prairie Fruits Farm, because it is one of the few fruits we have to offer for sale this year. We have a very nice crop of Harvest Queen (a Bartlete variety) and maybe a few Moonglo that we will be bringing to the markets this coming Saturday.  We may also have some blackberries for sale if we don’t use them all for the farm dinner this Saturday.

We will be doing three markets this coming Saturday, August 8th: Green City Market, Oak Park and Urbana.  Cesar, our head “cheese-whiz” at Green City is away this weekend (attending the American Cheese Society’s Annual Conference in Austin, Texas), so we please welcome Ava Friedman to the Prairie Fruits Farm farmers’ market team on Saturday.  It is her first farmers’ market, so be nice to her. 

We are bringing a somewhat tailored assortment of cheeses this Saturday as we wait for several to age:

Fresh Chevre—plentiful, creamy and delicious with those fresh tomatoes and basil you might be buying.
Angel Food
Little Bloom on the Prairie
Krotovina
Moonglo—great with some of those pears we will be selling. 

Ewe Bloom and Roxanne likely will be back in the line-up next weekend.

Farm Dinners
The menu for the “Fiesta Mexicana” dinner is on the website now. If you’re coming, you might consider bringing your favorite beer or tequila to enjoy with this meal.  It is expected to be hot, but it IS august after all—perfect weather for some “comida piquante.” Dress accordingly as we will be dining outdoors.
The menu for the September 12th “Illinois Fish Tale” is also on the website to tempt you into signing up for that dinner. There are only a few seats left. 


Posted 8/3/2009 10:10am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
News Flash:
Due to a last minute cancellation, we have TWO seats available for the Fiesta Mexicana dinner on the farm this coming Saturday.  The cost is $70 per person and of course it is BYOB (feel free to bring the tequila or mexican beer of your choice as most folks don't typically drink wine with Mexican food). 
The menu will be posted on the website later today, but I can tell you that we have two native Mexicans helping to prepare several dishes from their respective home regions of Mexico--tamales from Michoacan and Turkey Mole from Puebla.  Other delectables include enchiladas con huitlacoche (a mushroom that grows on corn kernels) and chiles en nogada (prepared with fruits and cheese--typical of Puebla). 

The seats are now posted on our website under "Dinners on the Farm" then "Buy Dinners" then click on August 8th "Fiesta Mexicana."
You will need to reserve using Google checkout.  Obviously, this is first come first served, so when they are gone, they will disappear from the website.
If you've been trying to get a reservation for one of our dinners, now is your chance.
Posted 7/30/2009 10:49am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Kids
We're entering the lazy days of summer. The yearlings love to hang out in their hay feeder and eat while they lounge.  The ultimate in decadence.
We just cut our third cutting of alfalfa hay yesterday, which means that Aaron, our herdsman, and his brothers will likely be baling over 1000 bales this weekend.  The garden keeps "burping" up cucumbers by the dozens every DAY, so it will be pickle making time here pretty soon.  Last Saturday's farm dinner was a beef extravaganza--our guests enjoyed both grass-finished and small-farm grain fed beef along with a medley of potatoes and veggies from our garden.  The sweet corn gelato and blackberry cobbler finished off the evening as everyone watched a fire-engine red sunset and waxing moonrise over the 10 foot tall cornfield to the west.  When the prairie shows off, it doesn't hold anything back!

This week we will be attending four farmers' markets: Urbana, Bloomington, Oak Park and Green City Market. 
We have a nice variety of cheeses for you to enjoy:
Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn
Angel Food
Little Bloom on the Prairie
Dent de Leon--
these delicate little aged chevre balls with a natural mold rind are wonderful crumbled over salad, roasted veggies or pasta.
Ewe Bloom
Red Dawn--a variation on our Little Bloom dusted with smoked paprika
Moonglo
Roxanne
Also, since it is the end of the month, we will be bringing a limited supply of our fresh whole goats' milk ricotta

We look forward to seeing you there.
Posted 7/23/2009 9:34pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

This week’s cool weather tricked the goats into thinking it was time to breed.  Out in the pasture, they were head butting and mounting each other—behaviors reserved for much later in the fall.   Their pastures are pretty lush, and there’s nothing more satisfying than watching goats enjoy their forage. If the weather gets hot again, they'll surely resume their summer lounging.

Our garden continues to offer up harvestable gems—all purple, all red and fingerling potatoes, patty pan squash, beets of several colors and red, purple and orange carrots. Our farm dinner this Saturday ("Steak, Smoke and Fire") will feature all of these delectable veggies along with a bovine homage  (check out the menu on our website under Dinners on the Farm, Buy Dinners, July 25th—it will knock your socks off).

This week at the markets we will be bringing the following to Urbana Market at the Square, Green City Market and Oak Park Farmers’ Market:

Lots of fresh Chevre—plain, Herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn
Little Bloom on the Prairie
Angel Food
Roxanne
Ewe Bloom
AND the 2009 season Moonglo—our raw goat milk tomme washed with a “tea” made from the leaves of the Moonglo pear found in our orchard.
This early lactation version of Moonglo is a bit drier than you may remember if you tried the late lactation truer-to-a-washed rind cheese. It has a nice sharp flavor and would be excellent paired with some fresh or poached peaches.

We will also have more of the early season honey in both 8 and 16 oz. jars.
A few blackberries might make a surprise appearance if we harvest enough on Friday.
As always, we look forward to seeing you at the markets on Saturday.

Posted 7/17/2009 1:43pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

This week at the farm and markets

We’re riding on the heels of another successful farm dinner (see the wonderful write up and photos in Lisa Morgan’s Champaign Taste blog): http://champaign-taste.blogspot.com/2009/07/prairie-fruits-farm-goes-whole-hog.html
Fertile things happen when Paul Virant (of Vie Restaurant) visits our farm. The last time he was here in late April, three does kidded simultaneously, one with quadruplets.  On this occasion, one of the does that we thought had not been bred kidded with a single little buck kid.  We decided to keep him as a breeding buck and we named him “Paulie” in honor of Paul. 

 Paulie, our newest addition
Things were relatively quiet this week on the farm. The garden is growing and we are beginning to harvest its bounty—peas, squash, beets, carrots and our new potatoes of varied shapes and colors.  It’s hard to describe the joy of growing your own food—walking out to the garden pick your dinner becomes a divine experience.  Our blackberries are starting to ripen and the pears on a couple of varieties of pear trees (Harvest Queen and Moonglo) are looking like they will be ready to harvest in a few weeks.

 
 Tuber bountyThe herb and flower garden















This Saturday, July 18th, we will be attending FOUR farmers’ markets: Urbana, Green City Market, Oak Park and Bloomington.  We have lots of cheese for you this week, but no berries or honey. 
Cheeses include:
Chevre Frais (the usual suspects—plain, herbed and cracked black peppercorn)Mouton Frais—our fresh sheep milk cheese. If you like Mascarpone, you will love this cheese
Little Bloom on the Prairie
Angel Food
Krotovina
Ewe Bloom---on sale this week (we have lots)
Roxanne
Prairie Blazing Star Banon (this week only probably)
For those of you anxiously awaiting the Moonglo, it should be ready for next week’s farmers’ markets.
Farm Dinner Happenings
For those of you attending the farm dinner on July 25th, Chef Alisa is putting the finishing touches on the menu, and I will have it posted on the website no later than Monday, July 20th.  We do have waiting lists for the dinners that are sold out, so if you want to get on the list, send me an email with the date(s) and the number in your party. There are still a few spots left for the Illinois Fish Tale dinner. If you’re asking “what kind of fish does Illinois have??,”  you will be pleasantly surprised.

 

Posted 7/9/2009 10:16pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
This week I had the priviledge of extracting the first of our farm's 2009 honey with our bee keepers, Emil and Melvin Blobaum. It was a simple, sticky and delicious affair.  First, we took the comb and cut the wax cap off using a hot double bladed knife designed especially for this purpose. This was my job, along with Emil's son Paul who was visiting from the Chicago area to help out his dad and uncle. The benefits of this job were that you could take the cut wax and suck out the remaining slightly warmed honey--a truly exquisite experience.  Next, Emil placed the uncapped combs in the honey extractor--a low speed centrifuge, essentially. The centrifuge spins for 30 seconds, then you flip the comb over to extract/spin the other side for another 30 seconds. The honey extracted in the centrifuge is collected in a bucket at the base.  This honey is then strained through cheesecloth to collect any remaining pieces of wax. The honey is never heated to retain its full nutritional and health benefits.

farmstead honey

I am happy to report that this year's early season honey is as clear,floral and delicate as it has been in past years.  We will have some of this honey available for you to purchase at the farmers' markets this weekend in both 8 and 16 oz. jars. 

Farmers' Market Offerings
This week we are attending THREE Farmers' Markets: Urbana, Green City Market and Oak Park. We will be bringing the following cheeses:
Little Bloom on the Prairie--on sale again this weekend; it tastes really great but has a bit of blue on the rind--love this cheese for its inner core!
Angel Food--nice and gooey
Red Dawn--a mold ripened cheese coated in smoked paprika--great to serve along size your barbeque fare.
Krotovina-half sheep & half goat separated by an ash layer
Ewe Bloom--our soft ripened sheep milk cheese
Roxanne-our raw sheep milk brebis style cheese with a subtle tang and creamy mouth feel.
AND Last but NOT least--our fresh as it comes chevre, available in plain, herbs de Provence blend and cracked peppercorn blend.

We will be sending a few pints of black currants to the Green City Market, so if you love to make black currant jam or juice them for a summer afternoon cocktail, get them while the limited supply lasts.  These berries are loaded with anthocyanins--purported to prevent cancer among other health benefits. They are tart, but a some honey or raw sugar can clear that up, no problem.

Farm Dinners
This Saturday, we welcome Paul Virant, from Vie Restaurant in Western Springs into our farmstead kitchen.  He will be cooking up an ode to the heritage pig feast.  Check out the menu on our website under "Dinners on the Farm" "Buy Dinners," then click on July 11th "The Whole Hog." The dinner is sold out, and we are praying to the rain gods to hold off for awhile. Central Illinois has had enough rain these past few days, thank you very much.  The corn around us is growing practically a foot per day (or so it seems), but we really would love to be able to dine outside with our guests on Saturday, July 11th. No worries if the rain gods ignore me--we have a beautiful backup space for the dinner.

Happy Local Food Eating!!

Posted 7/1/2009 2:07pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

Independence Day isn't exactly known for cheese feasting, but it is definitely the time for outdoor feasting and picnic fare enjoyment. Why not shake up your 4th of July festivities by serving an all Prairie Fruits Farm cheese plate along with your local burgers and brats? 
This Saturday we will be attending THREE Farmers' Markets: Urbana's Market at the Square, Oak Park Farmers' Market and Downtown Bloomington Farmers' Market.  For those of you who live in Chicago, please note that we won't be atteding the Green City Market this Saturday.

We will be bringing a limited selection of cheeses this weekend, and we have some cheeses on sale.  The extreme heat took its toll on our aging rooms last week, resulting in uneven aging of our bloomy rind cheeses, "Angel Food" and "Little Bloom on the Prairie." The Angel Food ripened too fast and it is VERY runny. If you love to eat brie style cheese with a spoon, your ship has come in this week. Alternatively, the Little Bloom on the Prairie is more firm than normal. The taste is still wonderful, but the outer edges don't have their normal gooey deliciousness. Both of these cheeses are on sale this week.

Other cheeses available this week:
Fresh chevre--plain,herbed and cracked pepper GREAT FOR DOTTING A FARMERS' MARKET SALAD OR ROASTED BEETS
Limited availability of our whole goat milk ricotta--remember, we only make ricotta once per month. Once you taste it, you'll be hooked.
Roxanne, our raw sheep milk brebis style cheese
Ewe Bloom, our soft-ripened sheep milk cheese

Happy 4th of July!!

Posted 6/26/2009 10:55am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Yes, the lament this week is the heat. The goats are hot, the chickens and the guinea fowl are panting, simple chores like feeding the kids or walking in the garden result in sweat soak clothes.  Even our cheeserie's air conditioning compressors are working over time and not able to keep our rooms cool enough for aging some of our cheeses! Nonetheless, we're adapting to the weather, trying to weed the vegetables and the berries in the early morning and bringing the goats in from the pasture in the early afternoon. We set up a whole bunch of fans inside their barn and they all stand in front of the fans to cool off! They are so much like people sometimes it's scary. 

This week at the farmers' markets
We won't be attending the Oak Park Farmers' Market this Saturday, but we will be trying a new market-Downtown Bloomington's Farmers' Market. If you live in or near Bloomington Normal, this is your chance to come try our full repertoire of cheeses.  Of course, we'll be doing the Urbana Market at the Square, Green City Market and 61st Street Market in Chicago this Saturday as well.  If you're concerned about the cheese not holding up to the heat, I would recommend you come early to the markets or bring a bag with an ice pack to transport your cheeses home safely. 
We have the following cheeses available this week:
Fresh chevre
Little Bloom on the Prairie
Ewe Bloom
Krotovina
Roxanne
THIS WEEK ONLY: our sweet and delicate whole goats' milk ricotta!!  It is great drizzled with some honey and fresh berries as a simple, cool dessert. 

For those of you coming to the farm dinner this Sunday, we are relishing in the weather forecast: sunny, dry and 84 degrees.  Since it is an afternoon affair (1-5PM), we will be dining under the trees--plenty of shade and cool breezes. It should be very pleasant. We're very excited about the menu that our guest chefs from Naha and Prairie Grass Cafe have planned for us. Check out the menu on our website.