Squeaky Cheese Curds Making Recipe

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Everyone in Wisconsin and anyone who lives near a cheese factory knows the joy of freshly made, squeaky cheese curds. These salty little cheddar-style gems are a great snack food. Squeaky cheese has the odd character of being firm yet chewy. The name comes from the sound made when the curd pieces rub against your teeth while being eaten. The best squeak comes on the day the cheese is made and it will fade with time. Squeaky cheese is considered a fresh cheese because there is no drying or aging process. For this reason it doesn't travel well so it is not available everywhere. Fortunately you can make your own.

Ingredients

Procedure

Squeaky Curd Preparation:

If you are using raw milk, I highly recommend pasteurizing it first. This creates a healthy and clean environment where the starter culture will dominate. If pre-existing bacteria are allowed to catch a foothold prior to inoculation, the effects of the starter may be diminished due to competition. Special attention must be paid to sanitation during the ripening stage. The milk will be placed in the temperature danger zone for an extended period of time offering airborne bacteria a nice home. Milk that has not been properly pasteurized may also contain unwanted bacteria causing excessive acid and carbon dioxide production.

Combine 1/2 teaspoon of 30% calcium chloride solution with 2 Tablespoons of distilled water. Technically a 30% solution is already diluted. The additional liquid is used to extend the volume of total liquid and aid in the even distribution throughout the milk when the recipe calls for it.

Place 1/2 rennet tablet in a clean cup and break it up with a dry spoon. Add 4 Tablespoons of distilled water and a pinch of flaked salt. Stir to help the rennet dissolve.

Squeaky curd Procedures:

Combine the milk and calcium chloride solution in the stock pot. Heat the milk to 86°F then turn off the heat.

Sprinkle the Mesophilic starter onto the milk surface and let it hydrate for 2 minutes. Gently mix culture into milk using an up and down motion. Cover pot and allow the milk to ripen for 45 minutes.

You must be able to maintain a fixed temperature during the ripening phase. You must avoid hot and cold spots inside the cheese pot for the duration of the ripening period. The milk should be kept still. The best method of holding a constant temperature is to place the cheese pot into a water bath of the desired temperature.

Add the prepared rennet and gently mix using an up and down motion. Cover pot and allow the milk to set for 30 - 45 minutes. Check the gel for a clean break.

When the gel shows a clean break cut it into 1/2" cubes.

Gently begin stirring the cut curd, cutting any larger pieces into smaller ones. Apply heat in order to slowly bring the temperature to 100°F over a period of 30 minutes while gently stirring the whole time. Avoid heating too quickly. If the temperature rises too fast remove the cheese pot from the heat for a few minutes. Resume gently heating and stirring.

It is more difficult to cut uniform pieces in a small batch of cheese. Do not risk over stirring the curd looking for large pieces. The cheese will be fine.

After reaching 100°F, hold this temperature for another 30 minutes. Stir every 5 minutes to keep the curds from matting. Placing the pot of curds into a water bath at 100°F will help maintain the temperature.

After 30 minutes, check the curds for matting. If they mat when gently squeezed in your hand and then separate easily using your fingers, you are ready to drain the whey. Scoop out the warm curds using a strainer or your clean hands and place them into a colander in the sink. After removing all of the curds, place the colander on top of the warm whey, and put the lid on the pot. Allow the curds to mat (cheddar) for 10 minutes.

In traditional cheddar cheese making the process of cheddaring is used. Cheddaring involves allowing the drained curds to knit together forming a solid mass. The solid mass is then sliced into slabs. The slabs are stacked and flipped over a period of two hours. The process aids in the development of a firmer cheese.

The curds should now be one solid slab in the bottom of the colander. Cut the slab in half, place one half on top of the other. Cover the pot and allow the curds to cheddar for 10 minutes.

Flip the slab of curd over. Cover and allow it to cheddar for another 10 minutes. Continue flipping and covering every 10 minutes for a total of one hour.

Remove the slab from the colander and place it on a cutting board. Mill the curd slab by cutting it into pieces 1/2" x 1/2" x 2" long. Toss the milled pieces with 2 teaspoons of flaked salt.

Milling is the process of cutting up large cheese curds into uniform pieces. When the word mill is used, instead of 'cut' or 'break up', the implication is that the sizing and shape must be more precise.

Place the curd in a zip top bag for storage. The curds will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week; however, the squeak is strongest right after they are made.

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