What in the world is a Cheese Curd?

"A cheese curd is an orangish cheese byproduct that feels like Silly Putty but tastes a lot better. It was invented accidentally by UW cheese scientists attempting to create an object of pure cholesterol that would still squeak. Rats who are fed this remarkable food develop an unusual capacity to polka and drink beer."
-- author unknown, but probably written by Frederick Heide. Appeared in the program notes for "Belgians in Heaven," a musical play performed outdoors in Peninsula State Park by the American Folklore Theatre in more than one summer season.

Cheese curds, booyah and beer,
That's what I like to hear.
I may be kinda pokey,
But I say "okey-dokey!"
To cheese curds, booyah and beer.

from "Belgians in Heaven," by Frederick Heide & James Kaplan

But seriously, folks, cheese curds are fresh, young cheddar cheese in the natural, random shape and form before being processed into blocks and aged. (Cheddar cheese is typically aged from 60 days to 4 years before being sold.) Unlike the aged variety, curds lose their desirable qualities if refrigerated or not eaten for a few days (the squeak disappears and they turn dry and salty). This means that even if you can find them in ordinary supermarkets, IMHO they are probably a few weeks old, and inedible or at least unremarkable.

Deep-Fried Cheese Curds: As the Schmenge Brothers say, "Mmmm, good!" These are served as appetizers in many local restaurants. Here's how to make some. If you don't have authentic Renard's cheese curds, you can substitute chunks of mozzarella or other mild cheese (cut to 1/2 by 2-inch size pieces).

Make a runny batter using beer or water as the liquid. GoldenDipt "All-Purpose Batter," available in most grocery stores, works fine. Its ingredients are primarily corn flour, wheat flour, salt, and a little leavening, so you could probably whip up a batch from that. Dip the cheese pieces in the batter, make sure each piece is completely coated, drain a little, then roll them individually in breading. GoldenDipt "All-Purpose Breading" works fine (no, I don't have stock in GoldenDipt Corp.!) but finely crushed breadcrumbs might work, also. Store the coated cheese pieces in a plastic bag in the freezer (important!) for an hour or until you are ready to cook.

Heat cooking oil to deep-fry temperature. I don't have a thermometer, but my "Fry-Daddy" electric deep fryer is probably at 375°F. Drop the cheese pieces in hot oil for 2 to 3 minutes or to taste, then remove and drain on paper towels. If you did everything right, each piece should have a shell of cooked batter around soft insides. They should be cool enough to bite into in just a few seconds. Eat them while they're hot!

I like to dip them in ranch dressing or chip dip.

James Hall suggests mixing in a little Hidden Valley Ranch dry dip mix to the batter before frying, then dipping the final result in garden salsa. Haven't tried it yet, but it sounds good – thanks, James!

If you experiment with this recipe, let me know how they turn out!

Many thanks to Wanda at Renard's Cheese for the inspiration for this recipe!

Where can I get a Cheese Curd?

Need Cheese?  Offering a delicious array of cheeses from Southern Wisconsin.

Descriptions of different cheeses, courtesy of Cheese Mouse

Cheese.com – It's all about cheese!


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