Kidding season has begun. Twelve out of about 60 does have had their babies and what a cute crop of kids we have. I never tire of seeing them take their first leaps into the air after only two days out of the womb.
With kids come milk and with milk comes the first fresh cheeses of the season.
We are pleased to offer our first on farm sale and open house starting THIS Saturday, March 21st (spring equinox for those of you who follow the seasonal calendar) from 9AM to 12 noon.
We will be hosting farm sales-open house every Saturday from now until the first farmers' market in Urbana (May 2nd), so check the website for details about what offerings we will have each weekend.
In addition to our selection of cheeses, we will be offering you a few surprises in celebration of spring.
We will also have the following items from other neighboring farmers and artisan producers:
Farm fresh eggs from Tomahnous Farm
Certified organic spinach and kale from Blue Moon Farm
Artisan breads and bagels from Stewarts Artisan Breads and Pastries.
Come see the kids perform their antics. You may even be lucky enough to witness a doe giving birth.
For directions to the farm, check out our website.
Also, finally, I know many of you have been waiting with baited breath for the dates of the 2009 Dinners on the Farm. At last, they are now posted on the website under "Dinners on the Farm" "Buy Dinners." You can make reservations directly on the website. Let me know if you have any questions. I recommend you reserve soon as last year's dinners sold out within three weeks of posting on our website.
Hello cheese fans:
We received our first batch of sheep milk from our Amish sheep dairy this week, and we thought "what better way to say 'It's Spring', than some fresh cheese." So, we made a sheep "chevre"--a fresh sheep milk cheese very similar in texture to our goat chevre, but a bit more tangy. We will have it for sale this weekend at the Green City Market in Chicago and at a couple of stores in Urbana-Champaign: Common Ground Food Cooperative in Lincoln Square Village and World Harvest on University Avenue. It comes in the same containers as our regular chevre and we are offering plain or with Herbes de Provence.
We also have Moonglo, our raw milk, washed rind tomme-style goat cheese, aged about 4 months. It's as pungent and delicious as ever.
Other news: We have begun the kid watch and are expecting our first does to deliver this weekend. Even though this is our fifth year of kidding, we still have tremendous excitement and anticipation.
Stay tuned for notices about on farm cheese sales and the Dinners on the Farm.
All the best.
Leslie Cooperband & Wes Jarrell
The weather outside is indeed frightful--glassy ice coats our trees and our driveway, but inside our house you'll find a warm fire, hot mulled local cider, cheese for tasting and purchasing and a special holiday treat--goat milk chocolate truffles.
We hope you will brave the weather tomorrow and come out for a visit to the farm. You can even visit with the goats and the chickens all snug and warm inside their barn. They are especially puffy right now.
We look forward to seeing you. Directions to the farm are on the website.
It seems like we plunged into the depths of winter abruptly this year. Thankfully, the frigid temperatures, snow and ice haven't slowed down our goats too much. They are still producing respectable amounts of milk. Nonetheless, now is the time to dry them off and let them lounge around the barn all winter getting nice and plump for their spring "deliveries."
Because of their milk bounty this late fall and early winter, we still have lots of cheese to bring to our last farmers' markets of the season. Now is the time to really stock up on the fresh chevre because we will be making our last batch next week, and the fresh stuff won't be available again (unless you freeze it) until mid to late March next year.
We also have lots of Little Bloom on the Prairie. It will be on sale this week--$2 off the marked price. Impress your friends and relatives over the holidays by wrapping the Little Bloom in puff pastry and baking it like a "brie en croute." Or just decorate it with chopped nuts and dried fruits and warm it in the oven. Either way, they will think they have been transported to France.
We still have a few pieces of our whole milk ricotta available as well. You'll need to use it up in the next few days, so to help you out, I have asked Paul Virant and Nathan Sears of Vie Restaurant to share their recipe for goat milk ricotta "gnudi."
Here it is:
Vie Restaurant Recipe for Prairie Fruits Farm Goat Milk Ricotta Gnudi
“Gnudi” are little ricotta –semolina flour dumplings. The Italian name literally means “naked” and it refers to the dumplings as “naked raviolis.” Here is the simple recipe provided by Paul Virant and Nathan Sears inspired by the gnudi served at the "Spotted Pig" Restaurant in NYC.
1. Smooth out the ricotta in a blender or mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper until it tastes properly seasoned.
2. On a tray or baking sheet pan, pour about a half inch layer of semolina to cover the whole tray. Place the cheese in a piping bag and pipe long logs, or tubes, of the cheese onto the semolina about the thickness of a quarter.
3. Using scissors cut the cheese into small even sizes and roll into balls with your hands.
4. Place the balls on another sheet pan with more semolina on the bottom of the pan. When all the balls are formed, bury them in semolina and leave in the fridge for two days.
5. As they sit in the frig, the liquid in the ricotta will hydrate the semolina creating a "pasta skin" that will be soft and delicate. 6. Cook in gently boiling salted water until they float; approximately 1 minute or less.
Paul and Nathan have tried this with our ricotta, so they know it works, “you just need a lot of semolina.” When finished, store extra semolina in the fridge or freezer.
Another simple but delicious dish you can make for friends and family over the holidays.
The weather may be frightful, but we hope you can come visit us at the last farmers' markets. We will be at the Urbana Market at the Suare (inside the mall) and the Green City Market (inside the big top tent at the Notebart Nature Museum) from 8AM to 1PM.
Our milk and cheese production season is winding down, but we still have lots of cheese and delicious farmstead products like our honey, preserves and canned organic vegetables. Please come visit us at the last farmers' markets of the season and adorn your holiday tables with Illinois Farmstead cheese:
- URBANA'S HOLIDAY MARKET AT THE SQUARE IN LINCOLN SQUARE VILLAGE (SATURDAYS FROM 8-1 UNTIL DECEMBER 20TH)
- CHICAGO'S GREEN CITY MARKET AT THE PEGGY NOTEBART NATURE MUSEUM (SATURDAYS FROM 8-1 UNTIL DECEMBER 20TH)
- CHICAGO'S 61ST MARKET IN HYDE PARK NEIGHBORHOOD (SATURDAY DECEMBER 13TH IS THE LAST MARKET)
For the week of December 13th we will feature the following:
- fresh, whole milk (goats' milk) ricotta--the last of the season
- "Uva Ewe"--an "experimental" washed rind sheep milk cheese. The wash includes concord grape marc (fermented juice); aged three months
- herbal Angel Food--dried lavender buds, sage and parsely atop the ever gooey angel food.
In addition, we have our regulars like fresh chevre (stock up and buy several containers as you can freeze this cheese without incurring any change in texture or flavor), Little Bloom on the Prairie, Angel Food, Krotovina and Moonglo.
All of the cheeses are especially rich and creamy right now due to the richness (high butterfat and protein) of the late lactation milk.
Fall Farm Picnic Updates
Our last farm dinner is this coming Sunday afternoon, October 26th from 1-5PM. Given the weather forcast (cold and windy), we will be eating inside our barn for the first time this year. It will be very cosy with a strong farm feel--we're building walls of hay and we will have heaters to keep everyone warm. Of course, the menu features some outstanding warm fall foods--check out the menu in the "Dinners on the Farm--Buy Farm Dinners--October 26th" for all the delectable details. Since we will be expecting a cooler day, please dress accordingly, especially for the farm tour. As usual, we will start the day off with hors d'oeuvres and a special beverage and have a tour before the meal. The tour will probably start around 1:30PM. We look forward to seeing those of you who have signed up for the dinner.
Farmers' Market News
All though the outdoor market season is winding down, we still have plenty of cheese. In fact, our girls are still producing milk in respectable quantities, and we expect to keep making cheese into mid December. The chevre is as creamy as ever and we will be bringing lots of chevre to the markets this coming Saturday, October 25th. We will also have Little Bloom on the Prairie, Angel Food, the last of the Prairie Blazing Star banon as well as Moonglo, Aeolian Dust and Dent de Leon. There are a few pieces of Everett Lee's Wicked Dry Blue--the last of the bunch, so if you like that cheese, get it while it lasts.
The Urbana Market at the Square continues outdoors through November 8th and then it goes inside Lincoln Square Village (hours change from 8AM to 1PM once it goes indoors). We will be there through the end of the Holiday Market (December 20th). We hope to see you there.
The Green City Market in Chicago's last outdoor market is this coming Saturday, October 25th. Please come visit us if you live or are visiting Chicago this weekend. After that date, it goes indoors to the Peggy Notebart Nature Museum. We will be doing four of the holiday markets this year--November 15th, November 22nd, December 13th and December 20th. Hours are 8AM to 1PM.
Seasonality of our cheeses and availability
Please come by the markets to stock up on fresh chevre (it freezes beautifully) and our other cheeses while the supply lasts. Remember, we are a seasonal dairy. Our girls will go dry in about mid December and we won't be making cheese until they have their babies in March and start producing milk again. We will continue to have our aged cheeses into January and Februarym, and we will give you updates about where you can purchase them.
Report from the orchard
We are enjoying an amazing fall this year. If any of you were lucky enough to purchase some of the few certified organic apples we had for sale at the farmers’ markets this past weekend, we hope you are enjoying them as much as we are. Maybe you noticed that in addition to their crisp texture and sweet-tart taste, there were no insect holes or little worms in the core. Maybe the thought crossed your mind that “these sure don’t look like organic apples.” Well, I believe their visual beauty is attributed in large measure to our successful biological control of the notorious insect pests of apples—coddling moth, plum curculio and oriental fruit moth. This year, we used pheromone disruptors and traps. The disruptors are little twist ties containing the pheromones (chemical scents) specific to each insect pest. They are tied onto tree branches in the orchard and emit the pheromones into the air. This confuses the males and female insects such that they can’t find each other and mate. No mating, no egg laying and no larvae (worms) hatching inside the fruit. Our apple crop is small this year, but I am happy to report it appears to be possible to grow a beautiful and delicious organic apple in central Illinois. Let’s hope our success continues next year.
The goats and the cheese
As the days get shorter, our does are beginning to come into heat. We will start the breeding process next week. It’s a raucous and exciting time for all concerned. It’s also fun to match make, although some of the does don’t like our mating choice and make a big fuss until we pair them up with the “one they want to be with” (instead of loving the one they are with). Their milk is changing too. As we enter into the late phase of their lactation (milk production), their milk becomes more rich in butterfat and protein. That translates into some amazingly creamy fresh Chevre and higher yields on our other aged goat cheeses. Make sure you come by the markets this fall to taste the richness of late lactation milk.
At the market this weekend (October 11th)
- Our usual array of fresh Chevre (plain, Herbes de Provence, cracked peppercorn and heirloom tomato)
- Angel Food (the delicate brie-like soft ripened cheese)
- Little Bloom on the Prairie (our American Cheese Society award-winning goat milk camembert-style cheese)
- Dent de Leon—excellent for grating over the pasta dishes so appropriate for this time of year
- Moonglo (the raw milk washed rind tomme that is part of the Slow Food Presidium of American Raw Milk cheeses—AND is on its way to Turin Italy for the whole world to taste in the Slow Food International’s Terra Madre “Salone del Gusto”)
- Our new “Aeolian Dust” a natural rind tomme style
- Organic apples (if we have more)
- Organic fall red raspberries (YUM)
- Our farmstead honey extracted with care by Emil and Melvin Blobaum
News on the Farm Dinners
If you are signed up to attend our farm dinner this coming Saturday October 11th, the menu is now available for your viewing. Just go to the Farm Dinners Section of our website and then to the “Buy Farm Dinners” Section. If you click on the October 11th dinner, you will see the menu. We will be posting the menu for the final October 26th dinner soon. Also, stay tuned for 2009 farm dinner dates and on line reservations.
We're happy to announce that we actually have enough of our first organic apple crop to sell at the Farmers' Markets this Saturday, October 4th. We have three varieties: Liberty, Winesap and Sun Fugi. They are all crisp and delicious.
We are also introducing an experimental raw milk tomme style cheese with a natural unwashed rind called "Aeolian dust." Aeolian refers to the wind-blown soil particles that formed the rich prairie soils of central Illinois. We pay tribute to our soil's heritage in naming this cheese "aeolian" because of the wind-borne natural molds that colonized the rind. Aged four months, the taste is mellow and milky. Come visit our stand at the farmers' markets to try some.
This week at the farmers' markets we will be offering the following cheeses:
- Fresh goat cheese: plain, herbes de Provence, cracked pepper or heirloom dried tomato.
- Angel Food
- Little Bloom on the Prairie
- Dent de Leon
- Prairie Blazing Star Banon
- Aeolian dust
We now have the menu set for the dinner on September 27th. Please take a look at it under the "Buy Dinners on the Farm" part of our website.