Wednesday, May 18, 2011
What In The World Is A Cheese Curd?
I’m a Wisconsin girl so I like to think that I know cheese. It is one of the products the state is well known for and is something I grew up eating quite often, especially during the holidays. That was because we used to receive a 5-pound block of cheese every year as a Christmas present. Five pounds of cheese was a lot of cheese to eat, even for a family like ours who loved cheese but since we were usually given cheddar cheese I didn’t mind. Cheddar was my favorite cheese when I was a child and is still my favorite kind of cheese. Most cheese curds (at least the ones made in Wisconsin) are a cheddar cheese product. And even though the name suggests they might be a “less than tasty” item, they are delicious! Cheddar cheese curds are basically what cheddar cheese is before it is pressed into a block and aged (cheddar cheese you see in your grocery store is aged – usually at least 60 days and up to several years). It’s a very fresh product (think baby cheese or newborn cheese!) and it tastes best when eaten as soon after being made as possible. In my opinion cheese curds taste best the same day they are made but that’s not an option for a lot of people. I’m lucky enough to live near several cheese factories that make cheese curds so I go purchase them on the days they make them. Cheese curds are available in several flavors. Although the traditional yellow/orange cheese curds are the most popular and most widely available I’ve also seen and tried white cheddar cheese curds in addition to the following flavors: garlic, dill, jalapeno (they have a “kick” to them), Cajun (also have a “kick” to them), pesto, chipotle, and paprika. Cheese curds have a smooth texture. Plain cheese curds have a mild salty flavor. They come in their natural shape and form which is small random chunks. Although most cheese curds are made from cheddar cheese, colby, mozzarella, and monterey jack cheese curds are available. Although “fresh” cheese curds may be available at your local supermarket, it’s likely they are at least a week old by that time. Because cheese curds are a fresh cheese product they do start to lose their flavor fairly quickly. Cheese curds are best if eaten within a week of being made. If you don’t have the luxury of going directly to a cheese factory to buy fresh cheese curds order them online or by phone from a cheese factory that ships them the same day they make them. You’ll be glad you went to the trouble of ordering the freshest curds possible. One fun thing about cheese curds is that they “squeak.” A fresh cheese curd will make a squeaky noise while you’re eating it. That’s one of the reasons why kids love to eat cheese curds. Besides eating them fresh, another tasty way to eat a cheese curd is to deep-fry it (and yes, a deep-fried cheese curd is definitely not a “health food”). You can purchase special batter mixes made especially for cheese curds, but a general purpose batter mix like Golden Dipt All Purpose Batter Mix (made by McCormick) works fine. But personally, my favorite type of batter for deep fried cheese curds is a beer batter (can you tell I’m from Wisconsin?). If you haven’t had the opportunity to taste a cheese curd yet, I highly recommend trying them. Even if you are not a huge fan of cheese, you’ll probably like cheese curds because they a fresh, mild-tasting product. Happy eating!