What Are Cheese Curds and Why Do They Squeak?

If you have a friend from the Midwest, you know they have a particular way of doing things. It’s a peculiar place with its own distinctive customs and language. What the heck does “ope” mean? While we may never fully understand the ways of the Midwesterner, there is one culinary tradition that must be shared with the world: cheese curds. What is a cheese curd? What is in cheese curds? How are cheese curds made? Let’s chow down on some squeaky clean cheese curd facts!

What are cheese curds?

If you’ve ever spent any time in Wisconsin or Montreal, you probably ate cheese curds. You may have even seen fried cheese curds on a menu or two, especially if you’ve ever stopped to eat at a Culver’s. But what is a cheese curd? The simple answer is cheese curds are fresh cheese. Yep, they are incredibly fresh little pieces of squeaky cheese. Most cheese curds are from the cheddar cheese making process, so that would make them baby cheddar. If you want to say it in the most unappetizing way possible, cheese curds are moist pieces of curdled milk. Hmmm, that still makes me hungry. 

Where did cheese curds originate? 

Where do cheese curds come from? As the old legend goes, a traveler making his way across a desert in the Middle East discovered the fresh milk he packed had become curds. Ta-da! Cheese curds. In the mid 1800s, Wisconsin became the cheese making powerhouse of the U.S. and cheese curds began their American journey. 

How are cheese curds made?

Cheese curds are made when a cheese culture and rennet (enzymes from animal stomachs) are introduced into fresh, pasteurized milk. That’s all that’s in a fresh cheese curd: milk, rennet, and a starter culture. During the cheese making process, the fatty, milk solids separate from the liquid whey. The solids are curds. When making cheddar cheese, those fresh cheese curds are pressed into a wheel shape and then left to age. Cheese curds are just the young pieces before shaping and aging. 

How do you eat cheese curd? 

You have to eat cheese curd as fresh as possible. In Wisconsin, Quebec, and other cheese-making places where cheese curds are popular, they are sold and eaten within 24 hours. You can tell they’re fresh because they squeak. Cheese curds squeak because their long strands of protein resist against our teeth enamel. As the cheese gets older, the protein breaks down into smaller pieces and they lose their squeak. 

What do cheese curds taste like? 

Cheese curds have a mild flavor, like fresh milk with a little salt. They’re great on their own or fancied up! 

What do you do with cheese curds? 

Two of the most popular ways to eat cheese curd are fresh or deep fried. And if you’re wondering, do cheese curds melt? The answer is…sort of. When heated, cheese curds get soft and stretchy, but they don’t really turn into pure, liquid cheese. If you’ve ever had poutine, then you’ve had melted cheese curds. My favorite way to eat cheese curd is with my mouth. Of course, that’s how I eat, like, 80 percent of things.

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.

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