Cheese Curds Are Synonymous With The Midwest So If You Live Outside That Region How Can You Know If You’re Eating The Real Deal We Asked An Expert
Wisconsin calls itself America’s Dairyland. It’s on their license plates. You’re greeted with fresh cheese at the airport when you land. Fans of the state’s NFL team the Green Bay Packers even affectionally call themselves cheeseheads. In short, Wisconsin knows its cheese.
I had the honor of meeting with several Wisconsin cheesemakers to discuss how they source their dairy, make some of the most awarded cheese in the world, and explain a cheese curd to outsiders. If you, like me, aren’t from the Midwest, cheese curds are a bit of a mystery and often first experienced in deep-fried form. I had heard of them and eaten my fair share, sure. But I didn’t quite understand what made them so unique and so very Wisconsin.
So in honor of National Cheese Curd Day, I asked Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Bob Wills, who I met at his Cedar Grove Cheese plant in Plain, Wisconsin, to talk to me about curds. What are they? How are they made? Why do they squeak? Settle in with a few fresh curds, and read on to find out what makes cheese curds so special.
How Do I Make Cheese Curds At Home Some Tips
- How Do I Make Cheese Curds At Home Some Tips
Where can I buy cheese curds? This is a question many homemakers ask when they are expecting some guests at home. Local grocery shops and online sellers are the right answer to the question where can I buy cheese curds. Yet unfortunately, it is hard to find fresh cheese curds at the local shops or online stores.
According to cheese experts, like most other dairy products, cheese curds do not last longer. They are supposed to be consumed at as early as possible. So it is better to learn how to prepare cheese curds at home rather than spending your precious time searching where can I buy cheese curds.
Cheese curds are the fresh curds removed from the milk in the cheese making process. They have the same firmness that of the cheese. The main thing that differentiates cheese curds from cheese is their texture. Cheese curds have rubbery or springy texture.
How do I know the cheese curds I have are fresh?
The best way to test cheese curds is to take one of them and bite. If it is fresh, it would squeak. In the opinion of cheese experts, this squeaking nature is the defining characteristic of fresh cheese curds. The freshness of cheese curds will last for around twelve hours, even if you keep them in the refrigerator.
Certainly, you cannot find fresh cheese curds that are less than twelve hours old in a supermarket or grocery shop. So, the best thing you can do is to prepare them at home.
Cheese curd making
Where To Get The Squeakiest Cheese Curds In Ontario
For anyone not from around these parts, celebrating how squeaky your cheese is might sound a little odd, a little nuts even.
Squeakiness though, is the tell-tale sign of a fresh, high quality cheese curd. Renowned for its squeak against your teeth, curd has risen to fame mostly due to the very important role it plays in the quintessential Canadian dish: Poutine. This indulgent dish calls for cheese curds to be generously laid over French fries and then smothered with a rich gravy.
Traditionally, cheese curds are made from fresh pasteurized cows milk. When making cheese, after bacterial culture and rennet are added to clot the milk, and pasteurization happens, you get two distinct components: whey and curd. The mixture is then cooked and pressed, creating the final product of cheese curd.
Curd has about the same firmness and density as cheese, but with a pleasantly rubbery texture. Its this distinct texture that creates the squeak, a defining characteristic due to air trapped inside the pressed cheese. The key is to get them the day theyre cut, to maintain the squeakiness!
We dug a little deeper to find out where to get the squeakiest of curds on what days. Youre welcome!
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How To Best Appreciate Them
Fresh curd cheeses are very kid-friendly. They are spreadable, make great desserts, can be incorporated in pastries and are excellent in sauces and stuffings. For breakfast, lunch or dinner, as a snack with fresh cut vegetables or as dessert with fruit or jam, fresh curd cheeses are always a favourite.
Reviews For 16 Oz Natural Cheddar Cheese Curds
Audrey Holmes March 15, 2019
5 star rating for these!! They make a wonderful snack with green grapes that is cholesterol free. Heating them in the microwave for a few seconds as suggested really brings out the flavor!
Carolyn E Byard June 10, 2019
We live in Oregon and these are the best cheese curds I have been able to get in a long time. I grew up in Upper Michigan and we put some curds in our coffee in the am for a little while and spoon them out when warm, not melted. I have a few for breakfast every morning still as long as I can get these. Memories of growing up!
Barbara Kellerman December 2, 2019
Ordering from Vero Beach, Florida. Saw one bag in a local Publix, and hadnt had cheese curds since living in New England. Grabbed the bag and they are oh, so good! I found a cheese store about 10 miles from me, but not sure when I can get there so online it is!
Kathy D. April 19, 2020
These are the best cheese curds ever.. Im addicted to them. Also the people who work here are extra caring and so friendly. Excellent place to visit for gifts too!!!!
Sissy September 26, 2020
These are the real thing!!! I like to put 5 or 6 on a plate , microwave until the edges are brown, the curds will melt together but its fantastic!!
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Flavored Curds Are Increasingly Popular
You won’t find just white and yellow cheese curds anymore. Cheesemakers are becoming extra creative with the variety they offer.
“Flavored cheese curds have also become very popular,” Wills says. “Examples include Cajun, olive, horseradish, garlic, scorpion pepper, and ranch. We have even dipped skewered cheese curds in a chocolate fountain.” Wills even offers pizza-flavored cheese curds.
Frozen Breaded Cheese Curds
If you are looking for more ways to enjoy cheese or are an enthusiast for fantastic farm fresh curds you’re in the right place! We’re cheese enthusiasts ourselves, so we’re always trying to find new and delicious ways to devour the squeaky goodness of our all natural cheese curds. Our Breaded Cheese Curds are great for parties, watching the big game, or whenever you’re looking for a delicious and cheesy dish. Each container contains 1 pound of sublime, cheesy goodness.
Frying Instructions: Heat oil to 375 degrees. Place frozen cheese curds into oil for 50 seconds. Take out and place on paper-towel to let drain and cool. Then enjoy!
If you don’t know what the curd squeak is, you’re missing out! When you bite into a fresh Stoltzfus Dairy cheese curd you are greeted with a friendly squeak and amazing flavor. Our Breaded Curds add another texture and even more flavor to the mix, pop’able delicacies that will be a treat wherever they go.
We use nothing but our family farm’s milk to produce the freshest cheese curds. Not local? You have landed in the right place, you can now order our delicious cheese curds online. If you are looking to buy them in store, view our store locator.
Please take into consideration that our products are shipped out on Tuesday afternoons. All orders that are made after 10 am on Monday will be shipped the following week to ensure that you receive the freshest, squeakiest curds right at your door.
We appreciate your patience in their delivery!
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Old Curds Aren’t Bad They’re Cheese
All is not lost if you somehow don’t finish your curds before they’re no longer curds. “All those cheese curd packages that are vacuum sealed or gas flushed and are over a week old are just plain cheese,” Wills says. “Older cheese curds can still work well in salads, in poutine, in your eggs, or breaded and deep fried.” He adds, “If you know for sure that you are going to have too many curds, they can be frozen. Once thawed, the curds will break down more quickly. Eaten within hours of thawing, they will be almost like new. But if they are breaded fresh tempura, corn meal, seasoned flour, and pancake batter all work and frozen quickly, the deep-fried curds will be chewy, stringy, and delicious.”
Cheese Curds Are Baby Cheddar
A cheese curd isn’t a special kind of cheese. It’s just a young cheddar, one that hasn’t been aged at all. These curds are separated from the whey during the cheesemaking process, and instead of being molded for a future cheese wheel, they’re sliced up and bagged to be sold right away.
“All cheese starts with curds that stick together to form cheese. But, most varieties of cheese start with small pieces between the size of a grain of rice and the eraser on a pencil,” Wills says. “The larger cheese curds that people are familiar with come as a part of the traditional cheddaring process. In that process, the small curds stick together into slabs which are turned and stacked repeatedly to remove excess whey and air that can be entrapped. This results in smooth, homogenous mats that are then milled into larger curds. This cheesemaking process was developed to make cheddar cheese that can age for years. It is a great irony that the curds became a popular snack to be consume within hours.”
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The Cheese Curd Process
Milk from our dairy is first pasteurized before it is ready for cheesemaking. When the milk is at ninety degrees the first ingredient, cheese culture, is added to the milk. Cheese culture, which activates the milk and turns the milk sugars into lactic acid, is also a key ingredient to identifying the cheeses character after aging.
The next ingredient added is rennet. This ingredient is an enzyme that causes the milk to coagulate, a very fascinating part of cheese making, as the cheese sets up like custard in approximately twenty minutes. It is then time to cut the curd.
This is done by placing curd knives into the vat. These curd knives are basically sets of wires that run horizontally and vertically and cut the entire vat from top to bottom into quarter inch cubes. These cubes are very soft and fragile at first but as they cook, they firm up and continue to release more whey.
Cooking the curd is a very delicate process as we heat the vat with steam from ninety degrees to 102 degrees only allowing it to rise two degrees every five minutes. When the curd is completely cooked we will have 600 pounds of curds from 6000 pounds of milk. Approximately ten percent becomes cheese.
Once the curds are cooked and have reached the correct consistency, we push them to the back of the vat and drain off the whey. The whey that has been drained is eventually spread on neighboring farm fields as fertilizer.
Real Wisconsin Fried Cheese Curds
- 2 quarts corn oil for frying
- ¼ cup milk
- 2 pounds cheese curds, broken apart
- Step 1
Heat corn oil in a deep-fryer or large saucepan to 375 degrees F .
- Step 2
Whisk together milk, flour, beer, salt, and eggs to form a smooth, rather thin batter. Place cheese curds, about 6 or 8 at a time, into the batter, stir to coat, and remove with wire strainer. Shake the curds a time or two to remove excess batter. Deep fry the curds until golden brown, 1 or 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels serve hot.
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The First Rule Of Cheese Curds Is Freshness
Cheese isn’t fresh. In fact, cheese is old that’s the point. Cheeses are aged to reach their ideal flavor and texture. But cheese curds should be fresh, and if you aren’t in Wisconsin or in the Midwest, the curds you’re seeing pop up at your grocery store likely aren’t the real deal.
“There are cheese curds, and then there are Wisconsin cheese curds,” Wills says. “Whether in Birmingham or in a Wisconsin service station, cheese curds are distinguished by how fresh they are. Wisconsin works with particular state laws that permit cheese curds to be sold up to one day after production without being refrigerated.”
He continues, “If they have not been purchased by that time, they must be discarded,” Wills explains. “Those warm, fresh cheese curds are the cream of the crop,’ unless you work in the factory and can grab them right from the vat.”
Outside of Wisconsin, the rules aren’t so specific. That means those curds you’re picking up at the store could be not at all fresh.
“Of course, that is a logistical challenge and potentially a source of waste. So, sellers find various ways to extend the shelf life, from refrigerating to gas flushing to vacuum packaging. In all likelihood, the longer the shelf-life, the lower the quality.”
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Learn all about the different classifications of cheeses.
Cheeses are first identified by their type of curd , which in turn places them in different families. The family of cheese dictates how they should be eaten, cooked, served, stored, etc.