As any Wisconsin Cheese lover will tell you, cheese curds are part of our DNA here. Whether they’re deep-fried, dipped in sauce, or perfectly plain, we simply curdn’t live without them. But what exactly are cheese curds, and why do they squeak? Gather ‘round, Curd Nerds, because we’re doing a deep dive into the world of curds.
What Are Cheese Curds?
Before we can explain that adorable squeak, we need to
give you a quick primer on the role of cheese
curds in cheesemaking. You might be surprised to learn that
almost all cheeses start life as cheese curds. That’s because the first step of
the cheesemaking process is to separate farm-fresh milk into curds and whey,
done by heating vats of milk with a whey starter and rennet.
The bacterium in
the starter acidifies the milk and forms curds, which are then separated from
the whey and pressed into blocks. Although the specific details of this process
vary by cheese, the fundamentals stay consistent.
Here in Wisconsin, the
process for making the bite-size curds we all know and love closely follows
that of cheddar. Cheddar uses a unique process called “cheddaring,” which
involves stacking blocks of curds on top of each other to squeeze out any excess
whey or air trapped in the layers below.
The science behind the squeak
Why do cheese curds squeak?
To understand why cheese curds squeak, we have to take a closer
look at the building blocks of cheese: proteins. On a microscopic level, cheese
curds are made up of proteins that are bound together with calcium. When you
bite into a cheese curd, this protein and calcium structure rubs against the
enamel on your teeth, making a squeaking sound.
If your cheese curds don’t squeak, don’t panic! Cheese curds only
stay squeaky for a few days at peak freshness. After a few days, the
calcium-protein bonds that cause the squeakiness begin to break, thus ending
the squeak-fest. This doesn’t mean that your cheese curds have gone bad,
though. The squeak factor of cheese curds does not have any bearing on the
How do you make cheese curds squeak again?
If you’re missing out on those adorable squeaks from your cheese
curds, we have some good news: you can actually make them squeaky again! You can revive the
squeakiness in your cheese curds by putting them in the microwave for 3-5
seconds. This re-bonds the calcium and protein structures, amping up the squeak
factor. (Sometimes we call this highly scientific process
“re-squeak-ification.”) Don’t microwave them for longer, though, unless you’re
looking to melt your precious curds.
How long do cheese curds stay squeaky?
Cheese curds will generally stay squeaky for 3-5 days after they
are made. Keep your cheese curds in the refrigerator and away from any moisture
sources to keep them squeaky for as long as possible.
How should you store cheese curds?
For the rare occasion when you don’t eat all your cheese curds the day
you get them, you can store them in an airtight container in your refrigerator.
This will keep your curds fresh for around a week, although we recommend
enjoying them when they’re as fresh as possible. If you are looking for
longer-term storage options, try freezing your cheese curds. You can keep unopened
bags and containers of cheese curds in your freezer for up to four months. Just
let them thaw in the fridge for a day or two before enjoying. For more cheese
storage tips, read our full guide that breaks down everything you need to know.
What is the difference between cheese and cheese curds?
In a nutshell, cheese curds are just young cheddar.
Cheese curds are created early in the cheesemaking process where cheesemakers combine
milk, rennet, and a starter to separate solid curds from the liquid whey.
Rather than pressing these cheese curds into large blocks for processing and
aging, cheesemakers simply end the process here—giving us the adorable,
bite-size cheese curds we know and love.
Our favorite Wisconsin Cheese Curd recipes
Curds and Biscuits with Blueberry Preserves
Squeak on, Friends!
We know what you’re thinking: it’s time to buy some
cheese curds and have a cheese tasting. Have cheese delivered
right to your door with our continuously updated list of cheesemakers and
retailers that allow you to order
cheese online. Award-winning Wisconsin Cheese is just a click away.
Craving something else? Choose from our selection of over 400 recipes
featuring Wisconsin Cheese.
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