Cheese curd is the fresh, young random-shaped curd from cheddar cheese before it's processed into blocks to age. Cheddar cheese usually ages from at least 60 days to many years. Curd, on the other hand, needs to be eaten fresh and unrefrigerated (within about 12 hours) otherwise it turns dry and salty.
Cheese curds are little-known in locations without cheese factories, because they should ideally be eaten within hours of manufacture. Their flavor is mild with about the same firmness as cheese, but has a springy or rubbery texture. Fresh curds squeak against the teeth when bitten into, a defining characteristic, due to air trapped inside of its porous body. Cheese curds are sometimes referred to as "squeaky cheese". They are sometimes somewhat salty. The American variety are usually yellow or orange in color, like most American Cheddar cheese. Other varieties, such as the Québécois and New York variety, can be roughly the same color as white Cheddar cheese.
Selecting and Buying
Preparation and Use
1 gallon 2% milk
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tsp salt
1. Heat the milk to 190F. You will need a thermometer for other cheeses but you can get by here turning off the heat just before the milk begins to boil.
2. Add the vinegar and allow the mixture to cool.
3. When cool, pour the mixture, (which now consists of curds and whey as in Miss Muffet food) into a colander and drain off the whey.
4. Pour the curds into a bowl and sprinkle on the salt and mix well. You may wish to use less salt or more. It is simply a matter of taste which is the next step. You can add a little cream for a silky texture.
Conserving and Storing
After twelve hours, even under refrigeration, they have lost much of their "fresh" characteristics, particularly the "squeak". This "squeak" has been described by the New York Times as sounding like "balloons trying to neck". After twenty-four hours, they will lose their freshness entirely. If they are purchased locally and need to be kept for a couple of days, room temperature, rather than refrigeration, may preserve the flavor and "squeak".