Chicagoist's Cheese Of The Month: Prairie Fruits Farm Fresh Chevre
By Erika Kubick in Food on Apr 6, 2015 3:35PM
Spring has arrived. Flowers and plants are sprouting up from the ground, the air is moist and warm, and we’re in the middle of kidding season— the time of year when nanny goats give birth to adorable, frolicking babies. The only thing better than baby goats is the creamy, fresh chevre that results. Wonderful silken chevre— if there are clouds in cheese heaven, they’re made of you. After speaking with Leslie Cooperband last week for Raw Milk Cheese Appreciation Day, we couldn’t resist featuring her fresh chevre as our April Cheese of the Month.
Prairie Fruits Farm keeps a small herd of about 100 goats, who spend the majority of their days roaming the pastures, which they occasionally break out of to loot the various orchards and vegetable gardens on the farm. The herd is Animal Welfare Approved, meaning the farm’s goats are raised to the highest animal welfare and environmental standards. “It forces us to really think about welfare in a really holistic framework,” says Cooperband, “It’s not just about how much space they have. It’s about giving animals the opportunity to express their natural behaviors. It’s about letting them be goats.”
Clearly this approach is working because the happy goats at Prairie Fruits Farm make outstanding chevre. Production begins in March and runs through early December, when the goats cease milk production and dry off. The chevre is sensitive to the changes of the seasons. In the spring it's the start of the goat’s lactation period and the fresh chevre boasts a sweet, lavender essence with a charming lemon tartness and silken mouth feel. In the summer, the chevre becomes grassy.
Once the cold weather returns, the chevre becomes richer and a little gamey. “I like to eat it with eggs,” says Cooperband, “either a poached egg or fried egg. I spread some chevre on a really nice piece of toast and let the egg run all over it.” Cooperband recommends layering sautéed spinach or kale with the egg over the toast too. “That’s kind of a marriage made in heaven,” she says. In addition, we recommend using the chevre as a healthier substitute for cream cheese in frostings and cheesecakes. Or you could eat it right out of the tub with a spoon.
You can find it at Pastoral, Whole Foods, Eataly and restaurants across the city. Visit Prairie Fruits Farm to meet the goats and attend one of their farm dinners or their Saturday Spring open house and breakfast, which is going on now through April 25.