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Cheese that Squeaks?

In many places of the world, cheese curds of many flavours can be found in the supermarket, and are a nice change to the bland block of cheese. Cheese curds retain a squeak that aged cheeses lose, because for the first few hours and even days, the binding proteins in the curds are still very elastic and squeak when you bite them, releasing some of the moisture that remains.

To make them may sound complicated, but once you get going, you may find that it's a nice change of pace to create in your home kitchen.

You will need 4 liters of milk (this can easily be doubled to 8 liters)

1-2 level tablespoons flaky salt (or to taste)

Using your 4 liters of milk, follow the instructions from the Farmhouse Cheddar recipe, but at the stage where you would put the curds in a cheesecloth to hang for draining, you instead get your hands really clean and use them to push the curds to the bottom of the pot, so they mat together. Now you're going to do, albeit on a very tiny scale, the same thing that's done in commercial operations. Let the mat of cheese drain in a colander for about 15 minutes, keeping it covered so the curd mass stays warm. This helps it knit together better, while at the same time keep its elasticity.

Cut the mat in half and place one piece on top of the other one. Fill a re-sealable plastic bag with water at 37-8C, and place this on top of the curds. Ideally, it will cover the curds entirely, like a giant duvet. Repeat every 15 minutes for 2 hours, refilling the bag with warm water as needed, to keep the temperature up. Tip: I place the 2 pieces of curd on a wooden board on a very slight tilt (I just put a soup spoon under one end), so that any whey that comes off will drain away. Placing the board into a jelly roll pan or similar will contain the whey.

Check the texture of the curd by tearing off a small piece. It should be the texture of a cooked chicken breast.

The curds should be about 2-2.5cm thick at this stage, and ready for cutting. Cut the 2 pieces into strips first, about 2-2.5cm thick, and then cut them crosswise into pieces that about about 5cm long. Put them into a colander over a pot (again, you're wanting to keep the curds from cooling too quickly) and sprinkle with half the salt. Use your hands to toss the salt so it spread evenly through the curds. Cover and leave for ten minutes so more whey can drain from the curds, as the salt will be drawing it out. Repeat with the remainder of the salt, and leave covered for another ten or so minutes, till you don't see any more salt. You may need to stir with your hands if you still see salt on the curds after the second 10 minute draining period.

Now, just let the curds cool to room temperature on their own. At this stage, use your imagination for flavouring your curds. They will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge, but will lose their squeak after a day or two. Some flavour suggestions:  Dill & Garlic, Lemon Pepper, Chilli, Bacon & Onion, Chive, Sundried Tomato & Basil, but really, any herbs or seasonings which go together will go with these versatile curds. Great for snacking and for parties!

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