The Midwest is home to all sorts of delicious foods from custard to deep dish pizza to sausage. You can probably find these anywhere in the country, but one Midwest staple in particular is a hidden gem of the region: cheese curds. I grew up eating cheese curds after volleyball games and on the way to the lake house. It wasn't until college that I realized not everyone had grown up with this yummy snack. 

What are cheese curds? If you, like many of my East and West coast classmates, have no idea what I'm talking about, you're best off taking to trip to the Midwest right now to experience the best of the best. But first, let's get a little background on this food.

What are cheese curds? 

Cheese curds are fried pieces of curdled milk. It might sound gross, but it's basically chewier cheese. Think of it like little cheese babies. They're harvested before they fully become a firm block of cheddar. 

The next step is to batter and fry up these chewy, bouncy pieces of cheese until they're gooey in the middle. They can be dipped in marinara sauce, eaten alone, or sprinkled on top of some fries and gravy to make poutine.

What makes them unique is the squeaking noise that comes from biting down on a cheese curd. Only fresh cheese curds will make a squeaking noise. After about 12 hours, cheese curds are no longer fresh, which is most likely why they're available to the Midwest where the dairy industry is located. 

The origins of cheese curds

There's no exact date on when cheese curds were created, but the story goes that a nomad in the Middle East accidentally created cheese curds after pouring milk into his bag made from a calf's stomach. After a long journey in a hot desert, the man looked inside his bag, hoping for a sip of milk. Instead, the man found a bag full of cheese curds. Again, sounds gross. But without that calf's stomach we might not have this Midwest delicacy (the jury's still out on how true this origin story is). 

Cheese curds are most commonly found in the Midwest, more specifically Wisconsin. But they're also popular in Canada because they're often used in poutine. Unfortunately, cheese curds cannot be bought at the local grocery store since they need to be fresh in order to taste good and produce that squeak. However, many specialty shops in Wisconsin that sell cheese or any dairy product will likely carry cheese curds. You can decide if it's worth the trip or not.

Making Your Own Cheese Curds

Here's a simple cheese curd recipe so you can make them in the comfort of your home. Add a twist to the recipe by adding chili powder for some spice or using panko bread crumbs as a second layer for added texture. You can even try making Canadian poutine, which is fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. 

Now that you know what cheese curds are, where they came from, and how to make them, you should also remember never to mix up cheese curds with mozzarella sticks. Seriously. Don't ever call a mozzarella stick a cheese curd. It's one thing a Midwesterner won't be nice about.