Prairie Fruits Farm was founded in 2003 by the husband and wife team of Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband, who left academic and urban lives in Madison, WI to run a farm in Champaign Urbana, IL. With a focus on organic and sustainable farming, Wes and Leslie set about restoring the 7-acre farm’s soils that had been previously used for cash grain crops. A task that in 2004 led them to plant 350 fruit trees, 600 berry plants, and the purchase of their first Nubian goats. In 2005, they were licensed as a Grade A goat dairy and farmstead creamery. Since then, Wes and Leslie have grown the farm to more than 40 acres and expanded their goat herd to around 70 milking does of both the Nubian and La Mancha breeds. While the couple uses milk from their own herd, they also purchase sheep’s milk from the only licensed sheep dairy in the state. With the goat and sheep’s milk cheeses that Prairie Fruits Farm produces, they are dedicated to highlighting the terroir of Central Illinois. Named after a particularly precocious and endearing baby goat born on Prairie Fruits Farm, Black Goat is a small puck of hand-ladled goat cheese. The day after the curd is ladled into its mold and it has drained, each newly formed cheese is coated with a mixture of salt and vegetable ash. Cheese are aged for 3 weeks before release and during this time, each round develops a rind comprised of geotrichum mold.
The result is a cheese with a chalky and dense, but still mousse-like texture. It has a bright lemon-like tang with a touch of sour cream behind. On the finish, Black Goat has a fresh grassy character with gentle yeasty notes.
Black Goat is best paired with a dry white wine such as a Sauvignon Blanc. For those who prefer beer, Belgian Style Ales are the best, and Dry Hard Cider is still another alternative that is lovely with this cheese.