… and now you can, too!
By Deena Siegelbaum
I came to work at Murray’s Cheese because of my love for slow food â€“ and my work at Slow Food. For many years I worked for the sustainable food-loving organization, thrilled at every chance to meet food producers along the way — cheesemakers being no exception. A few years ago, while on a US tour with the organization’s founder Carlo Petrini, I fell in love with goats (and goat cheese) during a visit to Prairie Fruits Farm, the first farmstead cheesemakers in Illinois — whose cheese you’ll now find on our NYC and online cheese counters.
The Petrini entourage drove down to Central Illinois from Chicago on a warm May day. Having been on the road hosted in restaurants and lecture halls for days, a farm day was a welcome stop, and we were about to be hosted by farmers who had been making and selling cheese for less than 2 years. We arrived to meet Leslie Cooperband and Wes Jarrell and their kids â€“ I mean their goats â€“ who were joyfully running and playing on the lawn safely inside of a little fence. Named for the fruits on the property, Prairie Fruits grows apples, peaches, pears and berries in addition to cranking out farmstead cheeses using milk from their goats, and also sheep’s milk from a neighboring farm.
What I remember from that day four years ago: tasting the most exceptional, sweet and creamy chevre; cuddling with goats; touring their small, well-run cheesemaking house; and savoring a farm-fresh meal with the inspired cheesemakers. Leslie and Wes left academia to make cheese and to help build a vibrant food community in Central IL — they were welcoming, knowledgeable, and had the cutest kids on the planet.
Flash forward a few years, and Leslie and Wes have continued expanding their operation. Their cheese is available in fairly limited quantities, so we’ll be selling a variety as we’re able to get â€˜em. The two all-goat, gooey bloomy rinds are Angel Food and Little Bloom on the Prairie. Angel Food is 3 weeks old with a thin, edible white rind â€“ it’s a ladled curd cheese. A bit stronger, Little Bloom is a cut curd that has ripened for four weeks. Turning to sheep, we’ve got Ewe Bloom, a Camembert-style square cheese that’s pleasantly pungent. Black Sheep is ash-covered and soft-ripened, reminded us of Selles-sur-Cher. Not surprisingly, Prairie Fruits picks are really enjoyable with fresh or dried fruit. Perfect for your summer picnic of a fun way to end your next BBQ!
Murray’s Cheese currently has select Prairie Fruits cheese in limited quantities in our New York City stores and online. Not all styles are available at all times, so check back soon or give us a call if you don’t find what you’re looking for.