To say that Wisconsin is famous for all things cheese is an understatement. America’s Dairyland remains as the country’s top producer of cheese. Wisconsin produced 281 million pounds of cheese in June of this year alone, although this is slightly lower than the production in the same month last year.
The Dairyland continues to drive tourists with its top-quality cheeses, festivals, factory tours, and other cheese-related activities. But one of the state’s most prized delicacy is the cheese curd.
What’s in a Cheese Curd?
When milk is pasteurized, the whey separates and curdles, forming tiny chunks of cheese. The cheesemaker stacks, presses, and cuts the curds, then repeats the process. This releases the liquid from the product and gives the curds its unique texture. Cheese curds are often by-products of cheddar production, so they have a similar but milder flavor. Although varieties like mozzarella cheese curds and others are also available.
Cheesemakers and cheese shops in Wisconsin are famous for cheese curds, mainly because they have the upper hand. Most cheesemakers have their own dairy farms and cheese-making traditions, so they have access to fresh, top-quality milk and long-standing practices as well as in-depth knowledge in production. These help them make the tastiest cheese curds that aren’t available anywhere else.
How do You Eat Cheese Curds?
Cheese curds are best consumed within 12 hours of production, which is why they’re only available near dairy farms. When they’re fresh, cheese curds “squeak” as you bite into them because of their rubbery texture. This is because the proteins in the curds rub against the enamel of your teeth. You can tell they’re no longer fresh if they don’t squeak. In this case, you can heat the cheese curds in the microwave for a few minutes and they’ll be good for consumption again, although not as flavorful as they are when fresh.
You can eat cheese curds as is, so you can savor their mild, salty flavor. Those who like snacking on cheese prefer this method. But in Wisconsin, plenty of cheese shops bread and fry their curds. These have a slightly crunchy outside while being gooey on the outside, perfect for those who love a satisfying cheese pull.
Some shops also offer an exciting take on the traditional curd for those aren’t fond of snacking on cheese alone. They have flavored cheese curds, such as garlic, Cajun, spicy, mild ranch, and others. Lastly, not many people know that the famous Canadian dish poutine also contains cheese curds. Poutine is a bowl of potato fries topped with cheese curds then smothered in gravy.
Celebrating Cheese Curds
Wisconsin loves cheese curds so much that the state holds an annual festival just for this delicacy. Although the previous one just ended, the Cheese Curd Festival 2020 already has a date: June 26 to 27. The event will feature 6,000 pounds of cheese curds. It will also showcase over 20 different cheese curd dishes. Here, you can try unique variations of cheese curds, including the artisanal ones from local cheesemakers.
So plan your next trip to Ellsworth if you want to be part of the Cheese Curd Festival. And give Wisconsin’s most prized snack a bite and fill the cheese-curd shaped hole in your diet.