A new vendor this season at Springfield's Old Capitol Farmers Market is Ropp Jersey Cheese, a 450-acre farm in Normal that has 60 hormone-free, antibiotic-free Jersey cows.
A new vendor this season at the Old Capitol Farmers Market is Ropp Jersey Cheese, a 450-acre farm in Normal that has 60 hormone-free, antibiotic-free Jersey cows.
Run by Ray and Carol Ropp, their son, Ken, and his wife, Becky, the Ropp farm produces milk, ice cream and 60 types of artisanal cheese.
“We were selling milk and started making cheese as a value-added product. It turned out to be a hit,” said Ken, who was manning the Ropp Jersey Cheese booth last Wednesday, opening day of the downtown Springfield market.
The family — which has been farming for five generations — will sell about 20 cheese varieties there, including muenster, Colby, smoked gouda, Swiss, cheddar blue, green-olive cheddar, pizza cheddar, jalapeno cheddar, raw-milk cheddar, cheddar with cranberries and fresh cheese curds. Each comes in half-pound packages that run from $4 to $6.
“I like the hot habanero (cheddar). I like spicy stuff,” said Ken. He melts chunks of it in scrambled eggs for a flavor kick.
For a snack, he puts a piece of dill cheddar on a cucumber slice and heats it briefly in a toaster oven. Bacon-garlic-horseradish cheddar, he says, makes a mean grilled cheese sandwich. And he suggests putting the tomato-basil-garlic cheddar on a baked potato and mixing green-onion cheddar into mashed potatoes.
The Ropps sell at farmers markets in Bloomington, Frankfurt, Peoria, Champaign and plan to be at the new one starting next month at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Their cheese is on the shelves of Springfield retailers Food Fantasies, Friar Tuck and both Schnucks supermarkets.
But their main retail outlet is the family farm, 2676 Ropp Road, Normal. Go to Web site www.roppcheese.com for directions.
In the 600-square-foot store, there’s a cheese-slicing room with viewing windows. Children’s groups often take field trips to the farm to see how cheese is made in the cheese processing plant. For information on farm tours and field trips, contact Carol Ropp at carol@roppcheese or (309) 452-3641.
The Ropps get up about 4 a.m. to get to the Old Capitol Farmers Market, which runs from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays on Adams Street just west of the Old State Capitol. They will be there on Wednesdays only.
Ken Ropp enjoys talking with customers at farmers markets.
“They ask a lot of good questions. They want to talk to the producer and know how the cheese is made.”
Food editor Kathryn Rem can be reached at email@example.com.