This piece originally appeared on Fix.com.
Cheese curds, for anyone who hasn’t heard of them, are deliciously tangy, salty chunks of fresh cheese. Popular in the Midwest, where large cheese factories are plentiful, these addictive snacks can be eaten plain, dusted with herbs and spices, sprinkled over French fries and gravy (the popular Canadian dish poutine), or even breaded and deep-fried. What many people don’t know is that they are a byproduct of the cheddar-making process, and are best eaten super-fresh. Genuine, fresh curds will “squeak” as you chew them!
To get to the history of cheese curds, we have to get into the history of where they originated: Wisconsin, America’s Dairyland. Cheese-making in Wisconsin began around 1840, when settlers from the Eastern United States and other countries (including Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands) heard about the rich and bountiful farmland and made the trek West. Many of these farmers began raising dairy cows, and because of the intensely rich nature of the farmland, the area was soon awash in milk. Drawing from the rich cheese-making traditions in Europe, some of these dairy farmers began making cheese with their milk.