Monday, March 1, 2010

Cheese Curds in California?

I always thought the only place for cheese curds was Wisconsin.  Probably people in Wisconsin would say that anything calling itself a cheese curd that doesn't hail from Wisconsin is a total imposter.  But that isn't to say that they aren't available elsewhere. In fact, when I braved my local Farmer's Market this morning - dodging triplet strollers and huge stalks of lilies, focusing instead on the rainbow of beautiful fruits and vegetables - I stopped at the Spring Hill Cheese Company stall.  The creamery is in Petaluma (ie - Sonoma County and pretty far from LA!), so I'm not sure if the cheese drove down that morning, or was shipped to a local distributor.  Must check.  I'm assuming it took longer than a few hours for them to get to my Farmers Market.  Next to the quark (a kind of German yoghurt cheese.  I may need to try that next week), I spotted lumpy vacuum bags of cheese curds nestled in some ice.  White, not the traditional orange, but none-the-less, what a find!

I'll mention here that I am from Michigan, but have never been to Wisconsin, and have never eaten world famous Wisconsin cheese curds.  But I've always felt a little deficient because of this.  To understand some of the hype surrounding those bright orange Great Lakes curds, check out this awesome website.  This site comes complete with cheese curd etiquette including  "Never yell out that you have fresh Cheese Curds in a crowded Wisconsin theater."  The site also features info on how curds are made, and curd poetry.  It's a very extensive. 

Cheese curds are simply fresh curds (generally cheddar curds) that haven't been put into a shaped mold and let to sit and become aged cheddar cheese.  They have a characteristic squeak because there is still a lot of air trapped inside them.  There is a great quote from the New York Times that equates the squeaky sound to "balloons trying to neck."  How fun is that! 

The squeak is elusive, however.  Curds must be fresh, fresh, fresh!  That is one of the reasons you can't find them in many places.  They tend to start loosing their squeak within 24 hours, and extreme cold doesn't do them any favors.  They must be eaten at room temperature for full harmonic convergence.    Sadly, even after I got my curds home, broke them up into individual curds and brought them to room temperature, I couldn't detect the slightest bit of squeak.  And they needed salt.  I suppose they were already a little too old to squeak in the traditional way, though they still tasted very milky and fresh.  They might be tastier if I do another Mid-Western thing - dip them in beer batter and deep fry them!  What's not to love there!  If the DH doesn't consume all of them the minute he gets home tonight, I will give that a try and post the results.  

Any cheese curd lovers out there?  Apparently, you never forget your first one.  


  1. My husband and I consumed an entire container of cheese curds one night on a visit to Madison. They were wonderful. :)

  2. These Spring Hill curds are woefully inadequate. Sometimes you can catch OK stuff at your local farmers' market, but the vacuum-packed fridjamerated stuff ain't it.

  3. You can get them in the San Francisco Bay area from Achadinha Cheese Company. California Crazy Curd, just go to They are in most Farmer's Markets around town,

  4. I stopped at a cheese factory in Door County Wisconsin. The curds were still warm from the vat, squeeky and salty. It is a taste I have never forgotten and that was 30 years ago.

  5. I just ate some Costco poutine with slightly squeaky curds and it was just divine!

  6. I'm actually born in Wausau Wisconsin, smack-dab in marathon county, the dairy capitol of the dairy state (I also worked my way through college trying curds and Friday fish fry and have the birth scared to prove it.). A few details for curd neophytes:
    -the squeak is actually due to the high moisture content and warm temperature (it's a tad rubbery, in a very good way, and squeaks against the surface of your teeth).
    -fresh curds have never been refrigerated. The minute you cool it off, it's just young cheese (as in unaged). The best ones are usually straight out of the vat, very wet, and still steaming!
    - white curds are actually the exact same cheese without food coloring added, and are actually preferred by the hardcore curd aficionados.
    - seasoning them is blasphemy and is usually a way cheese factories hide older curds for sale (they won't make you sick but they're not fresh).

    Now that I'm living in California, I'm hoping to find some really good curds (along with genuine summer sausage, their proper plate companion). Hoping for the best!