In Which We Answer Your Question About Cheese Curds: Why the Squeak?
You know how sometimes someone asks a question about something so minor that it never crossed your mind to wonder about it? But then you realize you'd actually like to know the answer?
Windsor's Vermont Farmstead Cheese Company did that yesterday. It was by way of touting the cheese curds it sells. And the company took note of an article on why cheese curds squeak.
They do. And when you get right down to it, it's a big part of their appeal, because it's not like they're really full of flavor.
Basically, cheese curds are what happen after culture and rennet (and maybe coloring) are added to warm milk. The curds get separated out, salted... and either eaten straight or shipped off by the ton to feed the boundless Quebecois hunger for poutine.
So where does the squeak come from? The Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research, which for understandable reasons has an interest in things like this, describes it this way: "In the simplest terms, the squeak in cheese curds is created when teeth compress the protein network in the cheese and it resists but then rebounds as teeth pass through it. The rebound is what generates vibrations and causes the squeak."
You can get more complicated than that, if you really want to delve into the fine points of casein.
But the main thing to know is that the squeak only happens with fresh curds. After a few days, it's gone. So if you're curd-curious, or want to check the squeak for yourself, Vermont Farmstead sells curds both in their store at Artisan's Park in Windsor, and by mail order. Given this, maybe the store's the way to go.