You probably know that Wisconsin leads the United States in cheese production (and makes the best cheese), but what you might not know is that cheese is believed to have been discovered by a Middle Eastern nomad. The legend says he poured milk into his saddlebag and after several hours of riding, the milk curdled, thus leaving white curds and liquid. While there’s no definitive proof as to where the first cheese curds were made, Wisconsin would like to take the credit.
Cheese curds are made when the whey and curd separate in the cheese making process. The result is fresh, mildly salty nuggets of cheese about the size of a peanut. They’re about as firm as regular cheese, but cheese curds have a springy, rubbery texture that squeak when the elastic protein strands rub against the enamel of your teeth. Although most cheese curds are cheddar, they can also be made with mozzarella, Colby-Jack or Monterey Jack cheeses. Cheese curds are best eaten the day they’re produced, but they can last a couple days in the refrigerator.
One of the greatest things you can do to a cheese curd is deep fry it. You’ll catch fried curds riding shotgun next to a stuffed burger at your favorite Beloit burger bar, but Wisconsin isn’t the only place to find cheese curds. There are restaurants scattered throughout the U.S. that carry the fried golden nuggets.
Don’t want a crispy beer-battered cheese curd that melts in your mouth? Quebec’s specialty, Poutine, consists of french fries topped with melted cheese curds and gravy. This Canadian-born dish can be found as Lulu Fries on Lucy’s appetizer menu for those who want to pre-game a stuffed burger and at many other restaurants in the U.S. If you want fresh cheese curds, there are garlic, ranch, jalapeno, chipotle, pesto, butter and SO many other flavors that you can eat plain like potato chips. Just pop them in your mouth until the bag’s gone.
We should thank that nomad for discovering cheese and Wisconsin for producing over 2 billion pounds of cheese per year. Because without them, we wouldn’t have a salty snack that squeaks when you eat it and can be deep fried, melted on fries with gravy or eaten fresh. How dynamic can one food be?