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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Curds are king in July

Finally, a month for cheese curd fans to call their own.

The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board (WMMB) has unofficially declared July as curd month. It’s gratifying to realize what has sometimes been described as the lowly curd is getting high-level recognition, at long last. A recent WMMB news release about the announcement appropriately uses words like “delicious” and acknowledges “the insatiable appetite locals have for these delectable treats…”

But the praise falls a bit short. The promotional agency apparently regards cheese curds as a “regional delicacy” or a “Wisconsin craze.” Those in-the-know would argue their popularity extends beyond Dairyland’s borders. Just ask officials from the Ellsworth Co-op Creamery or Kaufhold’s Kurds here to learn the two businesses’ curd products are gaining a more widespread reputation, even nationally.

And that brings to mind another slight in the release. Nowhere does it credit Ellsworth as the “Cheese Curd Capital,” a place right on home turf deserving of a salute for shining the spotlight on curds. Although the WMMB boasts a curd guide on the website , which details where to find fresh curds on a map, that leaves the local community little more than another blip on curd seekers’ radar.

Agency leaders are evidently coming from a different perspective than the curd capital faithful. They find it necessary in the release to explain cheese curds are “about the size of shell peanuts. They’re available in plain or flavored varieties and feature a mild, milky, salty flavor with the same firmness as mild Cheddar cheese, but with a more springy texture.

“Ideally, curds are eaten when fresh—within hours of manufacture. Fresh cheese curds can be identified by their ‘squeak’ against the teeth when chewed and are often referred to as ‘squeaky cheese.’ Curds that are a couple of days old are considered ‘aged’ and might have lost their squeak. For a temporary ‘squeak renewal,’ simply heat your curds in a microwave for a couple of seconds…”

“Their slightly salty flavor make Wisconsin cheese curds an excellent accompaniment to pale ales and lagers, or to popular snacking favorites such as pretzels and nuts. Cheese curds can also be used in place of cubed cheese atop salads or alternated on skewers with fresh fruit for fun summertime kabobs.”

So others are discovering what this area’s natives have long known about the tiny, but mighty curds, and that’s a positive development. Hopefully, their newfound enthusiasm will bring a bigger following into the fold. If all of dairying can be proud of a traditional month-long tribute in June, backers of the little cheese curd-that-could can certainly do likewise in July.

*From the Pierce County Herald

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