by Sean Keeley, culinary specialist, Lincoln Land Community College
You don’t need cold weather for friends, family or coworkers to gather indoors for cocktails and conversation, but ‘tis the season for the reason to do just that. While a grand meal might not be the focus, the snacks certainly are. And what is a cocktail party without a cheese board? Cheese just makes things better. What’s a cheeseburger without cheese? Well, it’s a hamburger of course, but doesn’t a cheeseburger sound so much better?
Did you know there are several creameries and dairy farms in the area that make great cheese? I’ll list some farms with links to their web pages and if you ever get the notion to go on a farm tour I highly recommend doing just that, especially in the spring when the baby goats and cows are bouncing all around. If a baby goat would remain a baby goat I would have one as a pet for sure! You will notice “Jersey” in the name of a couple of these farms. They are referring to the breed of cow they raise for milking. The Jersey cow is a British breed of small dairy cattle from Jersey, in the Channel Islands. They are popular globally due to their ability to tolerate diverse weather and eat locally produced foods. Also, due to their small size they are easier to maintain and they produce a lot of milk that is slightly higher in fat content, thus producing better cheese. One award winning Jersey cow produced over 55 thousand pounds of milk in one year, that’s nearly seven thousand gallons! Holy cow!
Here are a few farms in alphabetical order:
Ludwig Farmstead Creamery located in Fithian, Ill. produces some fantastic Havarti style cheese. I used to feature their product on the cheese board at Ross Isaac. Good stuff! Their page is www.ludwigfarmsteadcreamery.com
Marcoot Jersey Creamery in Greenville, Ill. Their country store features more than just cheese made locally right there on the farm. They make honey, grass fed beef and “Extreme” ice. Go to www.marcootjerseycreamery.com
Prairie Fruit Farms in Champaign, Il is a tour destination for our culinary students each spring. This is where we see the baby goats! It’s also where we learn about their program, fruit farm and cheese making process. They make a very smooth and creamy gelato from goat milk and you cannot tell the difference. Their page www.prairiefruits.com
Ropp Jersey Cheese in Normal, Ill. They are probably the more recognized name in the local cheese biz and can be easily found at several locations here in Springfield. Their web address is www.roppcheese.com
So, for your next cocktail party make a cheeseboard with some of these local cheeses and match with a couple different style crackers, sweet or savory jams, pickled veggies, dried fruit and toasted nuts. Guaranteed crowd pleaser! And try this cocktail, it sounds really good to me.
Salted Carmel White Russian
1 part Salted Caramel coffee liqueur Bailey’s or Kahlua
2 parts Salted Caramel Vodka
1 part Half & Half
Caramel sauce to garnish
In a cocktail shaker, combine the Kahlua, vodka, and half & half. Stir with a spoon to combine.
Drip caramel sauce down the side of a drinking glass. Add ice until the glass is about three quarters full; then pour in your cocktail. Garnish with a straw and serve.
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.