How many of you have enjoyed the Wisconsin tradition of stopping at the Renard’s Cheese Store on your way to visit Door County? I know for me, my vehicle seems to have a mind of its own as it steers me toward those delectable morsels of cheese goodness. Fresh cheese curds are a low-carb, calcium enriched, protein snack. But, you do want to make sure and experience them fresh from the factory with all their squeaky, salty goodness!
So what are fresh cheese curds anyway? (General description)
According to wikipedia, cheese curds start off with fresh milk. (Ok. Milk. This makes sense as Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland). And the process is not much different to the process of creating many cheeses. The milk is pasteurized and rennet is added to help with coagulation. At this step, the result is a mixture of curds and whey. (Are you thinking nursery rhymes at this point like I am?). The curds and whey mixture is gently cooked and then it is pressed. Pressing helps separate the whey from the curd, the curd gets a little salt and voila! The final product is fresh cheese curds!
Cheese is said to have been discovered from an unknown nomad in the Middle East after a long journey. Milk in a saddle bag. Long journey. Hot sun. Milk curdled. Curds and liquids were discovered. Yay! CHEESE! So, Wisconsin natives did not invent cheese curds, but they sure did perfect it!
And although many other states claim that they have cheese curds, chances are they are not fresh. You will become an expert in knowing what the real deal is after trying a real Wisconsin fresh cheese curd produced the day you buy them.
What do fresh cheese curds taste like?
It really depends on the type of cheese being made and the recipe of the manufacturer, but here in Wisconsin, they are the freshest form of Cheddar Cheese. At this stage, their flavor is mild and somewhat salty. It has a “fresh dairy” taste. The texture is springy, almost rubbery. You can get your fresh cheese curds natural (white) or with coloring (yellow/orange). Your choice. And by the way, the coloring does not affect the taste. It is just a matter of preference, usually dictated by where you grew up.
Why do fresh cheese curds squeak?
Yes. Fresh cheese curds squeak when you bite into them. And this little noise is like music to a cheese lover’s ears. Ahh. The famous fresh cheese curd squeak. The sound of freshness.
The squeak is hard to describe, but I describe it like rubbing your finger back and forth against a clean window or mirror. Hmm. Seems a bit weird as I write it out, but that’s what it sounds like to me. How would others describe it?
The squeak is generated due to air trapped inside the cheese curd. After 12 hours, even if refrigerated, cheese curds will lose their squeak. And although this may sound counter to what you know about food care, keeping fresh curds at room temperature can preserve the squeakiness. Only a couple of days at room temperature is recommended. So make sure and eat them fast and fresh! (if they do lose a bit of their squeak, a trick is to place them in the microwave for only a couple of seconds – but mine never seem to last long enough to have to do this!)
Other ways to enjoy cheese curds?
Well, you can season them. Try some herbs or spices tossed in. You’ll see garlic, dill, chili, jalapeno, taco, cajun, onion, ranch and so many other combinations for flavors. Me? I’m a purest. I prefer plain, white cheese curds. But, would love to hear what others have to say.
You can fry them! You will find many Wisconsin supper clubs, like Donny’s Gilden Lodge & Restaurant or Sister Bay Bowl and bars & grills, like Husby’s or Mike’s Port Pub & Grill, serve fried cheese curds on their appetizer menu or incorporate them on a pizza or even on a sandwich like at Door County Creamery! Wisconsin is serious about their cheese. My advice is to definitely experience this ooey gooey goodness with a cold Wisconsin beer. I mean if you want to experience the culture, you need to do what the locals do, right?
Now, I do warn you. Fresh cheese curds are known to be quite addictive. You too will have a hard time controlling your vehicle as it steers its way to the infamous cheese store. And when you do make your way there – make sure and tell them the Country House Resort from Sister Bay sent you!