Q: Why do fresh cheese curds squeak?

— Ruby Taggart, 8, Merrimac Community Charter School

A: When cheese is manufactured, the milk is clotted and some of the water removed. You end up with a curd, a tough structure in which the proteins in the cheese form a mesh.

That mesh is held together with calcium, which makes it tough.

When you bite into a cheese curd, the tough mesh resists you biting through it. That resistance causes the curd to squeak because it’s rubbing across your teeth.

With age — even just one week — that calcium dissolves from the protein, making the protein softer. At that time, you chew it and there’s no friction, so the squeak is lost.

You have free articles remaining.

Become a Member

Register for more free articles.
Stay logged in to skip the surveys.

Putting the curd in a microwave oven causes the proteins to re-form and get tough again.

Then, just as before, when you bite it, the tough structure resists, and the squeak returns.

If you take a cheese curd and let it sit in your refrigerator for two months, something different happens. That protein starts to break apart because of an enzyme used in cheese making. When that happens, no matter what you do, the proteins will never re-form. It will remain soft, and there will be no squeak.

So how do cheesemakers maintain a squeaky cheese curd if it’s shipped across the country?

They freeze it. If a curd is frozen, it can thaw out in California or Texas and retain the necessary structure — and the squeak — for about another two weeks.

Be the first to know - Sign up for News Alerts

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Mark Johnson is a distinguished scientist at the Wisconsin Center for Dairy Research.


(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.