Curd's the Word

What cheese curds actually are and why you should eat a lot of them
Photo: Alison Spiegel

It’s OK. You can ask the question you’ve secretly been wondering: What the hell are cheese curds, anyway? These rubbery little blocks of happiness confuse many people, so in honor of Canada Day, we’re diving headfirst into one of the country’s best dishes (you guessed it: poutine) and its signature ingredient.

Cheese curds are pieces of cheese that haven’t fully hardened yet.

They’re a critical part of the cheese-making process. Here’s how it works:

① To make cheese, you strain curds, or cheese solids, from whey, the liquid by-product.

② Next, the curds harden and age into the blocks with which you’re familiar.

③ But before cheese fully sets, you can eat the curds, which are wonderful, little gems all their own.

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Rubbery may not sound like an appetizing description, but there is something indisputably satisfying about the chew. But that’s not the only potentially off-putting part. You can spot a fresh cheese curd if it squeaks when you bite into it.

With descriptions like rubbery and squeaky, it’s understandable that these little nuggets are often misunderstood. But here’s something that should convince any skeptic:

Cheese curds go on top of poutine, Canada’s notorious late-night food.

You can also eat them straight up or fried, which is never a bad idea. So now that you know what cheese curds actually are, you owe it to yourself to eat a big, sloppy plate of poutine and raise a glass to our neighbors to the north for giving curds the perfect medium and letting them shine, even when they’re soaked in gravy.

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