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Cheese curds?

I just read a thread on the Southwest board about where one might find authentic cheese curds in the Phoenix area. What are these, and what do you do with them? I gather that they are some sort of fresh cheese that is commonly found in Wisconsin, and can come in white or yellow, so it sounds as if they are different from cottage cheese, farmer's cheese, ricotta, etc.

Sarah C

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  1. My understanding is that cheese curds are fresh, young cheddar cheese in the natural, random shape and form before being processed into blocks and aged.

    The farm I once bought them from told me they are only good fresh, which means that even if you can find them in ordinary supermarkets, they are probably a few weeks old, and inedible or at least unremarkable.

    In Montreal they serve them with crisp french fries and a brown gravy, called Poutine.

    I've only deep fried them in a batter before, and they were heart stopping good.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Infomaniac

      If they 'squeak' against your teeth when you eat them, they're fresh. Sounds weird, but you'll know it when you feel it! I'd agree that they're really only worth it if they're fresh.

      1. re: PaulV

        Yep, they have to squeak to be fresh. I can't stand that sound, so I don't eat them. My DH loves them, but says once the squeak is gone, so are they!

        1. re: PaulV

          oh god...squeaky cheese curds in poutine is one of my favorite things on earth. Old chese curds are gross--you'll know right away if they're old.

          I've seen them breaded and deep fried as well--there's a place in Mall of America that offers it.

      2. Have never seen them outside my native Wisconsin (though am glad to know they're found in Montreal!). They are usually a mild cheddar and their random shapes are maybe best compared to irregular packing peanuts--or fat, stumpy Cheetos. The white vs. yellow color is just a matter of whether dye was used, I think. Sometimes they're gussied up and cheesemongers will include dill, garlic, and other flavorings to the basic curd.

        As far as I know, they're eaten as is, just popped into the mouth. Or with a toothpick, if using as an hors d'oeuvre! They can be deep fried, as Infomaniac observed, and then they join the mozzarella stick family. I'd love to know if they're used in dishes--but I've never, ever, heard of this and I grew up with them.

        Yes, freshness is quite important. Don't know how fresh one can find in Phoenix, unless there's a transplant from the Upper Midwest practicing dairy agriculture on the mesas. . . good luck!

        1 Reply
        1. re: Hot Dish

          As mentioned above, they're common in Quebec and part of the holy trinity of poutine ingredients. Besides featuring artisanal curds in his (in)famous foie gras poutine, Au Pied du Cochon's chef Martin Picard also incorporates them into mashed potatoes; I suspect they're chopped and added at the last minute, as they retain a bit of their elastic indentity.

        2. They're available in Tillamook Oregon, gratis, on the factory tour. Yes, you can also purchase them for picnics.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Sherri

            This was my first exposure to them, as a very little girl. I ate a ton, so much that I got scolded for it. I visited a few years ago and the dairy seemed so much smaller. I did buy up a few packages for the road -- I still felt guilty about my curd-hogging as a toddler. But a lifetime fan of Tillamook cheeses as a result of that tour thirty years ago.

            1. re: Sherri

              We had those too a few months ago. I thought they were ok, but the BF would have eaten them with a shovel.

              Who would have thought that a cheese factory in the middle of no place would draw such huge crowds?

            2. in Quebec they call them "crottes de fromage" The name alone is enough to keep me away. (though they're not quite as squeaky when they get melty in the poutine sauce)

              10 Replies
              1. re: amandine

                Hate to correct you, but in Quebec they call it "fromage en crottes".

                "Crottes de fromage" are cheesies or cheese puffs.

                1. re: SnackHappy

                  ummm... the term "crottes de fromage" seems in my experience to lead to some confusion as it is applied equally to both cheese curds and cheesies, although often upon clarification people will say: "Oh... you mean fromage en grains, not crottes de fromages". "fromage en grains" is to my ears used much more frequently than "fromage en crottes".
                  On a seperate note, and a bit off topic, would anyone care to specualte on the relation between "disco fries" and "poutine"? (I've never had the former)

                  1. re: mbe

                    Disco fries are French fries with melted cheese (often Cheez Whiz, sadly, but sometimes American, provolone or cheddar) and brown gravy.

                    Poutine is French fries with the aforementioned cheese curds and veloûté, which is a reduced chicken gravy. (Of course, 90% of the poutine in Québec is made with St.-Hubert poutine sauce out of a can or packet, so grain of salt, etc.)

                    I also know it as "fromage en grains" -- "crottes de fromage" are the little baked things. And it could be worse -- "crottins" (the usual shape of fresh goat cheese) literally means "droppings" or, in that case, "goat pies".

                    1. re: Das Ubergeek

                      As long as we're being nitpicky. The sauce used at most poutine places is Berthelet poutine sauce mix. The confusion about St-Hubert might come from the fact that Berthelet also makes St-Hubert branded sauces that are sold at supermarkets.

                      1. re: Das Ubergeek

                        Speaking of the gravy... do you guys call it "sauce barbecue"? that's what my fam calls it out there.

                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                          >>Speaking of the gravy... do you guys call it "sauce barbecue"? that's what my fam calls it out there.<<
                          You hear "sauce barbecue" sometimes. It's not the red, sweet and smoky stuff sold in bottles but a brown, mildly spiced chicken vélouté sauce that's served in cups in local restaurants, most notably St-Hubert BBQ, for dunking "barbecue" chicken (Quebec-speak for rotisserie chicken) and fries in. It used to be the only prepared sauce available for making poutine at home, though the dish's popularity eventually led to the development and marketing of poutine-specific sauces.

                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                            "Sauce barbecue" is a better version of what Americans call "chicken gravy"... it's not exactly poutine sauce, but it'll do in a pinch.

                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                              Disco fries .... dude, I freaking love it. Have to be wearing a Nik-Nik shirt to eat 'em, right?

                          2. re: SnackHappy

                            I think you might be right... my mom's the native speaker, not me. :) Either way, it's the "crottes" part that sounds horrible. I much prefer "fromage en grains"

                          3. re: amandine

                            Fromage en crottes or fromage en grains = cheese curds (fresh cheddar). Some people will call it "fromage qui fait squish squish" ;-)

                            Crottes au fromage = Cheetos and the likes....

                          4. I've had them a couple times when I was staying on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan years ago. They were called "Squeaky Cheese" when we bought them there. I don't know where you would find them around here though.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Vexorg

                              In Arizona, your closest substutute might be the squeakiest Mexican style fresh cheese (queso blanco?).
                              paulj