Cheese curds are a delicious comfort food loved by kids and adults. Learn how cheese curds are made and discover recipes that use the famous squeaky cheese.
Cheese curds are the darlings of the cheese world. Each little squeaky and salty morsel is a perfect snack. Kids and adults alike adore them. Many people who visit Wisconsin request them from friends and relatives. Cheese curds are comfort food. Cheese curds are love.
Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland, and the cheese curds made here are delicious! The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board has a map listing 166 cheesemaking companies, creameries and retail outlets across the state. Many of these feature the freshest cheese curds on the planet…but what in the world are they?
What Is a Cheese Curd?
A great definition of a cheese curd can be found at www.eatcurds.com. Cheese curds are:
“Fresh Cheddar cheese in its natural, random shape and form before being processed into blocks and aged. Curds have a mild taste with a slightly rubbery texture and should squeak when eaten. *Note: Freshness may be lost 24 hours after opening package.”
How Are Cheese Curds Made?
A step-by-step guide to making cheese curds is described at www.eatcurds.com:
- Milk Intake: Quality milk is the starting point for quality cheese curds. It takes approximately 10 pounds of milk to make 1 pound of cheese.
- Testing: All cheese plants constantly screen incoming milk samples for quality and purity.
- Standardization: The milk is weighed, heat treated or pasteurized for product safety and uniformity.
- Starter Culture: Starter culture is added to help determine the flavor and texture of the cheese.
- Coagulant: A milk-clotting enzyme called rennet is added to coagulate the milk, forming a custard-like mass.
- Cutting: Cutting begins the process of separating the liquid (whey) and the milk solids (curds).
- Stirring & Heating: The curd and the whey are cooked and stirred until the curd reaches the desired temperature and firmness.
- Whey Draining: The whey is drained, leaving the tightly formed curd.
- Curd Transformation: The Curd Is Born!
Eating cheese curds in Wisconsin is a tradition passed down for generations. Curds can be enjoyed as a finger food, but they can also be used in a variety of recipes. Deep-fried cheese curds are very popular and can be found on many bar and restaurant menus throughout the state.
Here is a delicious cheese curd recipe developed by chef Tory Miller of L’Étoile and Graze restaurants in Madison, Wisconsin:
VODKA-BATTERED CHEESE CURDS
by Chef Tory Miller
Servings: 16 2-ounce curds
1/4 to 1/3 cup Spanish smoked paprika, to taste
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 1/2 cups rice flour, divided
2 cups flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup (125 ml) vodka
2 1/2 cups club soda
2 cups buttermilk
1 quart peanut oil
2 pounds Wisconsin cheese curds
In large bowl, mix all dry ingredients, reserving 1/2 cup rice flour. In another large bowl, mix vodka, club soda and buttermilk; stir into dry ingredients. Add enough additional club soda to make thin, pancake-like batter.
Heat oil in medium saucepan or deep fryer to 350°F. Toss cheese curds in reserved 1/2 cup rice flour. In batches, dip curds in vodka batter. Add to oil one at a time. Do not crowd, frying a few at a time. Fry until batter is browned and crisp and cheese is melted, 30 to 60 seconds. Drain. Serve immediately. The chef serves with a house ranch dip on the side.
You can also use fresh cheese curds in salad recipes like this twist on the classic Waldorf salad (the curds replace the traditional chicken in this version).
WISCONSIN CHEESE APPLE SALAD
Number of Servings: 4
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus additional for apples
3/4 cup plain yogurt
2 medium tart apples
2 ounces (1/2 cup) shredded Wisconsin Swiss cheese, shredded
2 ounces (1/2 cup) Wisconsin Cheddar cheese curds
1/2 cup sliced celery, sliced
1/3 cup seedless green or red grapes, halved
1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
In a small mixing bowl stir 1 teaspoon lemon juice into yogurt; cover and chill. Cut apples into thin slices, leaving peel on; sprinkle with additional lemon juice. Toss.
In medium mixing bowl toss together apple slices, Wisconsin Swiss cheese and Wisconsin Cheddar curds, celery, grapes and walnuts. Serve on individual lettuce-lined salad plates; top with spoonfuls of yogurt mixture.
Canadians Like Cheese Curds, Too
To see whether you are a bona fide curd lover, try a Canadian dish called poutine, which is simply a mound of French fries topped with cheese curds, then smothered with hot, brown gravy. That’s serious comfort food on a plate!
Squeaky Cheese Is Fresh Cheese
One of the benefits of buying cheese at a cheese plant is that soon after the cheese curd is formed, it literally “squeaks” when bitten. For those who buy cheese at the grocery store, or order it online, like at WisconsinCheeseman.com, the squeak mysteriously disappears a few hours after opening the package. To reactivate the squeak, simply microwave the curds for just a few seconds. Be careful not to turn the curds into fondue!
Want to get your curd on? Shop here for Wisconsin cheese curds!