Friday, January 7, 2011

Making and Serving Cheese Curds


Photo by Sabra Horn, courtesy of Dave Horn's blog
600 Varieties of Cheese Curds in Wisconsin Alone!

Here in our little corner of New England (western Massachusetts) cheese curds (as a food item) simply do not exist.  They are not for sale in the supermarkets and they are not on the menus at our restaurants.  Yet in Wisconsin and in other parts of the country, they are sold everywhere.









Battered and fried cheese curds



In Wisconsin, and many other states, the preference seems to be for fried (or beer battered) curds dipped in ranch dressing.  However, there are supposedly 1200 cheesemakers who sell 600 varieties of cheese curds in Wisconsin alone.  These include hot pepper, chipotle, garlic, cajun, paprika, peppercorn ranch, jalapeno, pesto, chili, bacon and onion, dill, etc, etc.






Poutine, a French Canadian dish




In Canada, and bordering US states, poutine is a very popular (if somewhat high calorie!) dish consisting of curds and gravy over french fries.







If any of this interests you, why not make your own?  It's very simple to do.  We have a recipe on our website by Jim Wallace with step-by-step directions and 24 pictures.  (click here)   Here's his summary:



How to make cheese curds:

1. Heat 2 gallons of milk to 96F and add 1/2 tsp of calcium chloride.
(Optional:  If you want more color in the curds add 1/4-1/2 tsp of annatto cheese coloring at this point.)

2. Add 1 packet of thermophilic culture and let this ripen for 30 minutes.

3. Then add 1/2 tsp rennet and stir gently for 30 seconds.
The milk will begin to gel in 6-10 minutes, and will be fully set and ready to cut in 18 -25 minutes.

4. When firm, cut the curds into 3/4 inch cubes and stir 5 minutes.

5. Then begin to cook the curds to 116F slowly over the next 30 minutes (starting out at 2F every 5 minutes and then increasing the heating rate as the curds dry out).

6. Continue to stir the curds for the next 30-60 min at 116F to increase firmness.

7. Drain in cheese cloth and bundle by tightening the cloth.
Press with a weight of 1 gallon of water (aprox. 8 lbs) and let set 1-3 hours.

8. Now break the curds into small bite size pieces and toss with a bit of salt (to your taste).  They are ready to eat. I simply store mine in a plastic bag.

NOTE: If you have a pH meter, the end of step 5 should be pH6.4 and step 7 pH5.3.
 

Ways to serve cheese curds:

There are probably a million ways to serve your curds.  We found these suggestions at Madame Fromage's fabulous blog and she graciously allowed us to use them:


Monday, July 26, 2010 
12 Ways to Serve Your Curds
http://madamefromage.blogspot.com/2010/07/12-ways-to-serve-your-curds.html


A few weeks ago, I was at a farmers' market in Madison, Wisconsin when I overheard one vendor say to another, “You know what I like to do my curds? I wrap them in arugula.” A little light went off in my mind. Of course, arugula-wrapped curds. Maybe add a cherry tomato?


I bought a bag of herbed curds and dashed back to my brother’s place, where we began to invent new uses for the curd. The arugula-wrapped curds disappeared at our family picnic, but my favorite curd concoction was the pre-picnic cocktail, a Bloody Mary with curd skewers.


And so, the list of curds and their uses began. Here they are, in no particular order…a dozen uses for cheese curds. Of course they’re always good right from the bag, but when you’ve got half the bag left? 

1. Make antipasti skewers of mozzarella curds, olives, pepperoncini, cubed pepperroni or ham, and cherry toms.


2. Go glam: alternate white curds and slivers of white peach, alongside a dish of Jordan almonds.


3. Melt herbed curds on pizza.


4. Cowboy curds: curds, bbq sauce for dipping, celery sticks (mock chicken wings, anyone?)


5. Wrap curds in arugula (or basil) and secure with toothpick.


6. Chop curds and toss into a salad. Try cheddar curds, bacon, purple onion, cherry tomatoes and spinach.


7. Finely dice curds and fold them into cold gazpacho.


8. Quarter a curd and stuff slivers into large, pitted green olives. A curd martini.


9. Process curds in a food processor with caramelized onions, cream cheese, a little milk, and rosemary. Shmear onto baguette rounds and toast.


10. Toss cubed curds into a cold pasta salad, along with sun-dried tomatoes, capers, black olives, and a hand-ful of spinach.


11. Onion and curd burgers:  Dice curds and yellow onion. Toss into your burger mix, along with a dash of A-1 and lots of black pepper.


12. Next time you make a Bloody Mary, skewer a few curds. (My recipe appears this week on Wisconsin Cheese Talk. It contains Referent, an awesome artisanal horseradish vodka!)

How do you serve your curds?  We would love to hear from you.  (Either comment here or send to Moosletter@cheesemaking.com.)

7 comments:

Lisa said...

The last couple of days I have been dreaming about learning how to make cheese curds so that I can make poutine. Looks like I need to invest in a cheese making kit :)

barbinblackhoof said...

thanks for the reminder on cheese curds! i'm going to make some as soon as start getting milk again - mid-March.
i have a friend that will be deee-lighted!

Twinkles said...

Can anyone tell me why the recipe states: "We start out bringing 2 Gallons of milk up to a temperature of 96F and the timer is set for 90 minutes
to measure the critical process from ripening through scald, Since this is the part of the recipe that is most important and must run by the clock." ?
Do I need to wait 90 minutes at 96F before adding the starter (the next step)? Does the 90 minutes include the 30 minutes of ripening, the 18-25 minutes of setting and then the 30 minutes of bringing up to 116F?
I want to make these this weekend but I don't want to screw them up.

Jeri said...

Twinkles,
He is just making the point that you need to do things slowly, in the amount of time he specifies. He sets the timer at the beginning, then at the step that goes with the 12th picture, the timer should be going off.
I think if you simply follow the directions above in this article, you will be fine.
By the way, you can always ask Jim questions at info@cheesemaking.com.
Happy cheesemaking!

Twinkles said...

Thanks!! I will be making poutine very soon!

Jorge Calderon said...

In Mexico there´s a delicious kind of curds called chongos zamoranos (from Zamora region), but this curds are sweet and eaten as a dessert, the milk is sweetened with plain sugar (to taste) and after the coagulation, you cut the curds into big chunks (probably 2" by 2"), stick in each square a thin stick of cinnamon and you heat things up to a simmer temperature without mixing until curds change color to yellowish, you store them with the sweet whey and refrigerate, this is for sure a delicacy of mexican cuisine.

Jeri said...

Jorge,
Thank you!
I would like to do a blog article with your recipe and some pictures. Can you contact me at jeri1000@gmail.com?
Thanks again!