Why do Curds SQUEAK?
Curd Fanatics will often say the best thing about cheese curds is the squeak–since that’s the number one indicator that tells you when you have a fresh curd. But WHY do curds squeak and why does that squeak go away once the curd is refrigerated? Most importantly, is there any way to bring the squeak back? We’ve got answers.
To see why a curd squeaks, let’s go to the condition it is in as it’s being created. First of all, whenever I do a tour of the Creamery people are often surprised to hear that the cheese production room isn’t refrigerated or cool. In fact, it’s actually pretty warm in there and sometimes you’ll see condensation collecting inside the windows. Why? In order for the milk fat to coagulate and create curds you have to start out heating the milk up to 90 degrees. Our double-walled milk vat is filled with pressure-heated steam to do just that. The milk/curds are then kept warm throughout the process to let the enzymes and cultures do their thing.
Once the curds are created, they are naturally wet, having just had the whey drained from them and since they haven’t had any time to age their texture is quite rubbery. Thus, when you bite into them they squeak against your teeth. Think rubber boots squeaking on the floor after you come in from a rainstorm- same type thing. The whey coats the curd and keeps them moist. According to our head cheesemaker Brad, it’s this moisture barrier that makes the curds squeak.
As the curds age OR if you refrigerate your curds to keep them longer something happens that changes all that. The moisture from the whey is absorbed by the curd and that coating is removed. Additionally, refrigeration chills the curd and makes it hard- not soft as it would be right out of the vat.
SO, what’s a person to do? Keep your curds in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks but before you take them out and eat them here’s the trick: put your curds in the microwave for 5-10 seconds to restore the “right out of the vat” texture and squeak. Microwaving them briefly warms the curd, brings back that soft, rubbery texture, and releases the moisture that was absorbed by the curd… and when you restore the moisture you’ll get that squeak we all know and love!