News

Welcome to Leslie's Blog.
Posted 11/12/2009 12:37pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
There's lots to report on this week.  Here's the lineup:

Market Cheese
We'll be attending two farmers' markets this Saturday--Urbana's "Holiday Market" which is held inside Lincoln Square Village from 8AM-1PM and Chicago's Green City Market at the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum (Cannon Drive), also from 8AM to 1PM. 
We'll have the following cheeses for you to enjoy:
Fresh chevre--now is the time to start stocking up on the fresh chevre--remember, you can freeze it.
Little Bloom on the Prairie
Roxanne
Moonglo
Kaskaskia--our second batch of this raw sheep milk grating style cheese is ready, just in time for garnishing your cold weather soups, stews and pasta dishes.
NOTE: We will be attending Bloomington's Thanksgiving Market on Saturday, November 21st, along with Urbana and Green City Market, so stay tuned to our offerings for those holiday markets next week.
Chevre Cheesecakes
By popular request, we are offering a limited number of 9" chevre cheesecakes for you to pre-order for pickup on Saturday, November 21st at one of three farmers' markets: Urbana, Bloomington (Thanksgiving Market inside the Colliseum in Downtown Bloomington) and Green City Market.
The cost for a 9" chevre cheesecake is $30.  These cakes are made simply (and with love) with fresh chevre, local pastured eggs, Kilgus Farmstead cream, organic sugar and a graham cracker crust. We are also offering two fruit sauces to accompany the cakes: a Prairie Fruits Farm blackberry-black currant and lemon balm sauce and an Illinois blueberry-pecan conserve--both are $5/half pint jar.
We only have about 15 jars of the blackberry sauce, so that will go to the first 15 people who request it.
To pre-order a cheesecake with or without fruit sauce, please send me an email with your name, number of cakes, number and type of fruit sauce jars, phone number and location where you will pick up your order.  Since these cakes will be baked to order from scratch in our little farm kitchen, you must send me your order by MONDAY, November 16th, 5PM. You can pay either with cash or check when you pick up your order. Orders not picked up by 12noon will be sold to market shoppers at large.

Winter Beer and Cheese Fete set for Saturday December 12th, 7-10PM
We have decided to hold one more feast at Prairie Fruits Farm to celebrate the end of a very good season.  For this special occasion, we're partnering with Champaign's FIRST local brewery, The Blind Pig. We will serve four of their beers (some brewed just for this event) along with our cheeses and local food tapas. The cost per person (includes all the beer and food you can consume) is a bargain at $40/person. You can make reservations for the fete through our website, under "Dinners on the Farm" Then, click on "Buy Dinners." For more information about the Blind Pig, check out their website: 
 http://www.blindpigco.com/index.html
Posted 11/5/2009 8:26pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

This is the week that the remaining leaves blew off the trees. I was able to capture on film our maple tree ablaze in yellow and orange “flames” before she was denuded.  The backdrop of standing corn stocks in late afternoon haze also hints at the unusual fall we have had. It IS November, yet the corn is still standing.  Maple tree leaves ablaze with color
As I write, the combines are out and the crop residue dust hangs in the air, so the fields will be bare pretty soon too. It appears that our goat breeding season is winding down. The bucks are relaxed-lots of lounging and cud chewing going on, very little jealous snorting through the fences. The girls seem “settled” (the livestock term for being “knocked up.”) We are probably going to have a VERY busy March.

Market Offerings
This Saturday is our last outdoor market in Urbana. Ironically, the weather is supposed to be warm (in the mid 60’s) and sunny—a fitting end to a frigid fall market season. It also marks the return of the Green City Market to the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum on Canon Drive in Chicago, just north of Fullerton.  We’ve also decided to offer a very limited supply of our cheeses to the 61st Farmers’ Market at the Experimental Station on Chicago’s South Side. Dennis Ryan, the 61st Market Manager, will have a table set up with our cheeses. Both Chicago Markets continue until mid to late December, and we plan to have cheese available for our Chicago customers right up to the holiday season.

This week we will have the following cheeses available:
Fresh Chevre: the usual suspects of plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn
Limited supply of Angel Food
Lots of wonderfully creamy Little Bloom on the Prairie—this cheese is part of the Pastoral-William Sonoma holiday gift selection of American Midwest Cheeses check it out:
http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/fd772/?pkey=ccheese
last of the Ewe Bloom—it’s really ripe and ready to eat—on sale at 50% off the regular price—gooey, stinky cheese lovers rejoice

Krotovina—also the last of the season; not quit as ripe as the Ewe Bloom, but it is best if enjoyed this week
Roxanne
Moonglo
In addition to cheese, we will be selling some beautiful beeswax candles that Molly has hand crafted. They smell of warm honey—delicious!
Given the rave reviews of our goat cheesecakes, we are going to offer these for Thanksgiving.  Stay tuned for details about placing pre-orders. 

Posted 10/29/2009 2:40pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

This week marks the last outdoor markets at Oak Park and Green City Market. It’s also Halloween. In the spirit of the season, we have a couple of special treats for our valued customers: fresh ricotta and pumpkin butter. To inspire you to buy lots of ricotta, we’re providing you with a relatively simple recipe for ricotta gnocchi. If you’ve never made these delicate, delicious little pasta pillows (ESPECIALLY with OUR goat milk ricotta), now is your chance.  This is the last batch of ricotta for the season. 
The pumpkin butter is made with our home grown, organic banana squash—looks like a giant torpedo pumpkin.  Molly is busy in the kitchen cooking down the pumpkin as I write this week’s newsletter. 
Also back by popular demand at the Urbana Market (and maybe our Chicago Markets if we make enough) are the goat cheesecakes. Molly has taken over kitchen duty while Alisa awaits the arrival of her baby (and boy is she ready!), so Molly has made a slightly different recipe for her Chevre Cheesecakes—it’s pretty much all Chevre, eggs and sugar with a graham cracker crust.  They should be as delicious as the ones that Alisa made. We will also have a limited number of jars of our house made blackberry sauce to accompany the cheesecakes.

Cheeses Available This Week

  • Fresh chevre
  • Angel Food
  • Little Bloom on the Prairie
  • Ewe Bloom—last of the season
  • Krotovina—last of the season
  • Roxanne
  • Whole Goat Milk Ricotta

Ricotta Gnocchi Recipe
(Recipe from Epicurious website; Gourmet Magazine, April 2008)

  • 2 cups whole-milk ricotta (1 pound)
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 ounces), divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 (2-inch) rosemary sprig

    Preparation

1.Stir together ricotta, eggs, 1 cup cheese, nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add flour, stirring to form a soft, wet dough.
2.Shape dough on a well-floured surface with lightly floured hands into 2 (1-inch-thick) ropes. Cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces with a lightly floured knife. Put in 1 layer on a lightly floured parchment-lined baking sheet.
3.Cook gnocchi in 2 batches in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (3 tablespoons salt for 6 quarts water), adding a few at a time to pot and stirring occasionally, until cooked through (cut one in half to check), 3 to 4 minutes per batch. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain in colander.
4.Meanwhile, cook butter with rosemary in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat until golden brown, about 5 minutes.
5.Toss gnocchi with brown butter in skillet and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Season with salt.
Enjoy!

Posted 10/22/2009 9:45pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Jerusalem Artichoke FlowersKale & BeetsRainbow Chard Closeup
Fall Vegetables: Jerusalem Artichoke, Kale, Beets and Rainbow Chard

With the farm dinners over and several fall vegetables still abundant in our garden, we've decided to harvest some to sell at select farmers' markets this Saturday. So, for those of you attending either the Urbana or Bloomington Farmers' Markets, we will have Jerusalem Artichoke (also known as "sunchoke"), kale, beets and rainbow chard for sale. If you're unfamiliar with Jerusalem artichoke, it is a tuber native to north america in the sunflower family. 
Molly Rygg, one of our chefs and tender of the garden, has prepared a couple of recipes to inspire you--a creamy jerusalem artichoke soup and a roasted beet salad.  She prepared the soup for our Native American Harvest dinner a couple of weeks ago.

Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
 5 pounds Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed clean of all dirt
12 oz. potatoes, peeled and cut into large “dice”
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
1 head garlic, cloves peeled
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 C white wine
4 oz. butter
Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Toss cleaned Jerusalem artichoke tubers with a little vegetable oil (safflower, olive oil), salt and pepper. Spread on a metal sheet tray. Roast in a 400oF oven until golden brown.
2. In a medium pot, melt butter; add onions and garlic and a couple of pinches of salt.  Sautee until translucent (about 5 minutes).
3. Add roasted Jerusalem artichokes and potatoes to pot. Add white wine and bring to a boil. Let wine reduce slightly.
4. Add enough cold water to cover all vegetables with 2” of water. Add thyme. Bring to a simmer and let simmer for 30 minutes.
5. Take soup off the heat and let cool for 30 minutes.
6. Blend soup in a blender (or with a stick blender) until smooth.
7. Push blended soup through a chinoise or fine mesh strainer.
8. Return soup to pot to heat. Salt and pepper to taste.
Garnish with fresh Chevre or crème fraiche if desired.

Roasted Beet Salad with Walnut Vinaigrette and Chevre Crostini
Walnut Vinaigrette
3T Dijon mustard
½ C red wine vinegar
1 ½ C walnut oil
Salt & pepper to season
Mix together mustard, vinegar and salt & pepper in a bowl.  Add walnut oil to mixture and whisk vigorously until well blended.
Beet Salad
W
alnut Vinaigrette
Walnuts (approximately 1/2C)
Mixed local salad greens
Baguette style bread
Fresh Chevre
Beets, washed and trimmed—fun to use mixture of several varieties like red, chioggia, golden, white
Apple, thinly sliced
1. Toss whole walnuts in a pan with a little vegetable oil and salt. Toast in a 350oF oven until golden brown (approximately 10 minutes).  Set aside.
2. Place washed beets on a piece of aluminum foil. Toss with vegetable oil and salt. Wrap the foil around the beets and place in a baking pan. Roast in a 350oF oven until tender (for small to medium size beets, this should take 45-60 minutes). Remove from oven and let beets cool.  Peel off skin with a pairing knife. Cut into wedges.
3. Slice baguette into ½” slice. Spread a generous amount of fresh Chevre on each slice of bread. Place onto a metal baking tray and bake in a 400oF oven until the Chevre appears browned on top. 
4. In a bowl, toss together toasted walnuts, beets, sliced apples, salad greens and walnut vinaigrette.  Dish salad onto serving plate and place Chevre crostini around the edge of the plate. ENJOY!

Cheese News
This week at the Markets (Urbana, Bloomington, Oak Park, Green City Market) we have a limited repertoire of cheese.
Chevre--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked black peppercorn
Ewe Bloom (our supply is dwindling down, so get it while it lasts)
Roxanne
What?? Just three types of cheese, you say?? Well, we have plenty of each type. We do have a few pieces of Little Bloom and Angel Food for those who get to the markets early. Next week, we will have more Little Bloom and Krotovina. 
For those lucky folks in Urbana and Bloomington, I will be bringing a very limited number of goat cheesecakes and our very own red raspberry sauce.  If they go as fast as they did last week in Urbana, you'll really have to get up early--try it; it's invigorating once you've got some coffee flowing through your veins.
As a consolation to our Chicago area customers, I will be sending up jars of red raspberry jam for your enjoyment. 

Happy Fall Eating!

 

 



Posted 10/16/2009 10:58am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.

♫ “The weather outside is frightful, but the cheese is so delightful. “♫ We hope you will be singing this refrain as you make your way to the farmers’ markets this Saturday.  Don’t be intimidated by thanksgiving temperatures. We farmers still have wonderful products to offer you.  This week, we will be attending three farmers’ markets: Urbana, Oak Park and Chicago’s Green City Market.  There are only three weekends left for the outdoor markets in Oak Park and Green City.  Since we won’t be attending the Thanksgiving Market in Oak Park, now is the time to begin stocking up on fresh Chevre for the remainder of the year. It freezes very well with no detectable loss in flavor or texture (all my chef customers concur). 
This week we have the following cheeses for your enjoyment:
Fresh Chevre—plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn
Angel Food—limited supply
Little Bloom on the Prairie
Ewe Bloom
Krotovina
Red Dawn—our soft ripened goat cheese dusted with smoked paprika. According to Adam, our Oak Park Farmers’ Market cheesemonger “It tastes like bacon!”
Roxanne
Kaskaskia
Ewe Bloom and Krotovina will only be available for another few weeks, so get them while you can. We also have a few jars of honey that we will be bringing to the market. 
For Urbana market goers, we will be bringing a special treat: goat cheese cheesecakes with a honey goat cheese-sour cream topping.
Chef Alisa, who is very large with child, has been busy in the kitchen making her delicious cheesecakes before she goes into labor.  She has made a 4” cake perfect for sharing with someone special (or not). We are offering these cakes at $4 each—a real steal. I have taste tested them (to make sure they were good), and they are delicious!
Prairie Fruits Farm had a brief bout with fame when celebrity chef Stephanie Izard (2008 Top Chef winner) came down to our farm to make cheese and milk a goat. She and her crew made a sweet little video about their goat adventure. To view it, go to her website: www.stephanieizard.com

Posted 10/9/2009 9:58am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
fall at Prairie Fruits farm

This time of year I am struck by a sense of urgency. Urgency to harvest the last tomatoes off the ground for canning; urgency to dig up our sweet potatoes so we can cure them for winter storage, urgency to plant a cover crop blanket over our vegetable garden and urgency to get the barn ready for winter and make sure our hay supply keeps dry.  The does have a sense of urgency to breed (as do the bucks by the way).  They are also sensing the inevitable slide toward winter as their coats get thicker with onset of cold weather. For them, the silver lining of cool fall weather is munching on dried leaves as they fall from the trees--I call them "goat potato chips."
Our grain farmer neighbors have a frustrated sense of urgency to get their corn and soybeans harvested between the onslaught of rain and the threat of frost.  Delayed harvest means grains begin to rot in the fields. This is a year that we will worry about mold growth in feed grain and the potential for mycotoxins that can cause severe health problems. 
As the does' milk production begins their annual decline, I also feel a sense of urgency to make as much cheese as we can. Every drop of milk and every ounce of curd becomes precious.  We received our last batch of sheep milk this week from the Plank Family. They will now dry off their ewes and give them a well-deserved rest.  We made our last batch of Ewe Bloom yesterday, so we have this cheese through the end of November.  The same holds for Krotovina, since that cheese is half sheep and half goat milk. 
Many of our customers probably sense the changes of the season as well.  Despite the cooler weather, we still have plenty of wonderful cheeses to offer you at farmers' markets this weekend and well into the remainder of the fall.
This week we are attending four farmers' markets: Bloomington, Urbana, Oak Park and Green City Market. 
We have the following for your eating pleasure:
Fresh chevre--nice and creamy--plain, herbs de Provence, cracked peppercorn
Angel Food--rich and plentiful
Little Bloom on the Prairie--back in the saddle and really yummy
Ewe Bloom-as good as it always is
Roxanne-notes of summer grass
Kaskaskia--perfect for grating over a hearty fall stew


Krotovina and Moonglo are taking a break this week, but should be back in the line up next week. 

For those of you attending our last farm dinner on Sunday afternoon (October 11th), please remember it starts at 1PM.  The weather forecast calls for SUN (Yeah), but cold (boo). Please dress for the weather. We will be dining inside the barn (with heaters) and we will probably have our chimeneas going.  We're also planning to do a hay ride for the tour of the farm. It should be a lot of fun. If you haven't seen the menu yet, check it out on our website.

Lastly, I want to thank all of you who have signed our i-petition and sent letters to legislators regarding the Olympian Drive road project.  The large number of folks who have signed both the hard copy and electronic version is a testament to the strength of the community that supports family farms and local foods agriculture. I will be sharing these signatures with our local government leaders in the coming weeks.  THANK YOU!!

Posted 10/5/2009 2:42pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Dear Friends of Prairie Fruits Farm:
Thank you to those of you who have already hand signed our petition at the Urbana Farmers' Market to stop the proposed extension of Olympian Drive through our beautiful farmland.  I have now posted the petition on a website called "IPetition."  The url is:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/stopolympiandrive/

This project is NOT a done deal as many have been lead to believe. If we can demonstrate oppostion to both local and state government politicians and elected officials, we may be able to redirect their development energies toward more positive and environmentally sound endeavors. If you are a resident of the state of Illlinois, please go to the IPetitions website and sign the electronic petition.
It is important that we garner lots of signatures in the next few weeks before state and federal budget decisions are made. If you are highly motivated and you want to send a note or make a call to either Senator Richard Durbin or Congressman Tim Johnson, their contact information is below:

The Honorable Senator Richard Durbin
309 Hart Senate Bldg.
Washington, DC 20510
9 am to 6 pm
(202) 224-2152 - ph
(202) 228-0400 - fx

The Honorable Congressman Tim Johnson
1207 Longworth House Office Building 
Washington, D.C. 20515 
Phone: 202-225-2371 
Fax: 202-226-0791

On another note, for those of you attending our last farm dinner of the season, please don't forget it is a SUNDAY afternoon affair (October 11th from 1-5PM). The menu is now on our website under "Dinners on the Farm" "Buy Dinners" "October 11th"

Posted 10/2/2009 8:51am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
It's that time of year when we play "matchmaker." We pair up our bucks with groups of does based on who they are or are NOT related to, and what combinations we hope will produce doe kids with milk production and quality even better than their mothers.' It's been amazing to watch the transformation of our buck kids over seven short months from sweet little balls of fluff to mature males who know exactly what to do with the ladies. The air on the farm is filled with the smells of buck must; the does in heat wave their tales excitedly to signal their readiness; the mating ritual begins.  Five months from now, we will go into birthing mode.
With breeding season comes late lactation milk. For me, this is the best milk for cheese making.  Already, we are seeing increases in our chevre yield (more butterfat--more cheese).  The taste is rich and creamy; a perfect compliment to amorous atmosphere on the farm.
This week we will be attending three farmers' markets: Urbana, Oak Park and Green City Market. The weather guy is forecasting rain, but don't let that deter your quest for some great cheese.
We have the following:
Fresh chevre--plain, herbs de Provence and cracked black peppercorn (heirloom tomato season is over).
Angel Food
Very limited quantity of Little Bloom on the Prairie--I know you are missing this cheese, but it will be back in the repertoire over the next few weeks.
Ewe Bloom
Krotovina

Kaskaskia--if you're looking for a really flavorful grating cheese, check out this raw sheep milk cheese
Roxanne
Moonglo
Update on the Olympian Drive Road Extension
If you haven't had an opportunity to sign our petition at the Urbana Farmers' Market, we will still have it there for you to sign.  The road is NOT a done deal. If we can demonstrate signficant urban constituents' opposition to this road to nowhere, we may be able to convince the local politicians it is unwise to proceed. If you aren't familiar with this issue, you can read the petition on our website under "News." I have archives of all of my newsletters and it is embedded in a newsletter sent a few weeks ago.  For those of you who live in Champaign, Urbana or Champaign Co., I urge you to contact your representatives either on the City Councils or County Board to express your opposition to this project.  The more voices they hear, the more they will begin to question the faulty logic of their decision.  As always, we thank you for your support.
Posted 9/25/2009 9:44am by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
The Garden
The Prairie Fruits Farm Herb Garden in a more orderly state this summer

The time has arrived for our 100 Yard Farm Dinner
. We have been tending our vegetable garden all spring and summer and raising our guinea hens to bring you a dinner fabricated from 98% of the food grown right here on our farm. The menu has been posted on our website under "Dinners on the Farm" "Buy Dinners" then click on September 26th "The 100 Yard Dinner."  Although the weather man threatens intermittent rain (which probably means we will be dining inside the barn), we will be giving our guests a complete tour of the vegetable and herb gardens as well as regaling them with guinea fowl tales. If you are coming to the dinner, please bring a raincoat or umbrella for the tour.
Market Offerings
We will be attending three markets this weekend: Urbana, Oak Park and Green City Market. For those you expecting us in Bloomington, I am sorry to say I won't be able to be there this Saturday. I will return there on October 10th.

Here's what we have for sale this week:
RICOTTA is back and is as delicate as ever.  We stuck to our tried and true recipe and it came out really nice. For those of you waiting patiently for ricotta's return, come early to make sure you get as much as you want.
Fresh Chevre--its that time of year when the milk is shifting over to late lactation--higher butterfat. The chevre is creamy and rich.  All four types are available: plain, herbed, cracked black peppercorn and heirloom tomato.
Ewe Bloom
Krotovina
Moonglo
-very nice taste/texture
Roxanne--think butter and grass
Kaskaskia--our latest hard sheep milk cheese--farmhouse style; great substitute for parmesan.

We don't have any Little Bloom on the Prairie or Angel Food this week, but they should be making an appearance next week.
As always, we appreciate your support and patronage. As fall descends on us, we are thankful for all we have here.

Posted 9/18/2009 12:16pm by Leslie Cooperband or Wes Jarrell.
Science is in my blood, so I can't help myself in trying to make either new styles of cheese or variations on the cheeses that we already make. Las week we debuted an "experimental" soft ripened goat cheese called "Prairie Drop Seed." Our customers seemed to really like that cheese, and we may consider adding it to our repertoire next year.  This week we have two more "experiments" to share with you.  The first is a hard, raw sheep milk farmhouse cheese that we have been aging for about six months. We made this cheese when we were flush with sheep milk in the spring. The texture is dry and firm, and it makes for an excellent grating or shaving cheese. The taste has hints of pineapple and vanilla as well as a slight nuttiness.  We've named this cheese "Kaskaskia," after the Kaskaskia river that has it's headwaters just south of Champaign and runs right through Arthur--very close to Plank Sheep Dairy Farm where we get our sheep milk. We've cut the large wheels into small wedges for you to try.
Kaskaskia in early stages of aging
Kaskaskia in early to mid stages of aging
The next "experiment" is an apple-wood smoked Little Bloom on the Prairie. We're calling it "Smokin' Little Bloom."  The texture is totally different than our regular camembert style Little Bloom on the Prairie--much more firm.  The applewood smoke flavor is subtle to moderate.  The cheese is excellent for slicing and melting as a gourmet grilled cheese. Go ahead and indulge.
This week we will be attending three farmers' markets: Urbana, Oak Park and Green City Market. In addition to the experimental cheeses, we will be bringing the following:
Chevre--plain, herbed, cracked pepper and heirloom dried tomato
Mouton Frais--the fresh sheep milk cheese that is a creamy cousin to our chevre
Angel Food
Krotovina
Ewe Bloom
Roxanne--it is very buttery and grassy tasting right now.
Moonglo--bright as the harvest moon.


For those of you awaiting our honey, we will have limited quantities at each of the markets this week. Emil, our bee keeper, tells me that June is the critical month for making honey. If the weather is cloudy or rainy, the bees won't fly. Add to that a very cloudy and rainy July and part of August, and you can see where the honey supply is going this year.  So, everyone should pray to the rain gods next year to hold off in June.  What little we have is a true work of bee art, so try to get to the markets early to get some.

Update on our petition to stop the Olympian Drive Extension road project
We received tremendous response from many of our patrons at the Urbana Farmers' Market. We will have the petition at our market stand again this Saturday if you didn't get a chance to sign it.
Thanks for your support!!