drove home from a visit to Wisconsin, I munched on squeaky
cheese curds from the Clock Shadow Creamery in downtown
Milwaukee. Second only to California as the top milk producing
state, Wisconsin is particularly famous for its cheesemaking;
hence the cheeseheads at football games.
is the art of turning liquid milk into solid form." I
learned from Mackenna, who guided my tour at this facility.
Cheese is a fermented food; a key ingredient is rennet — a
complex of enzymes that causes milk to curdle and separate
into solids (curds) and liquid (whey). Think Little Miss
with other factors, such as the unique flavor characteristics
of milk from cows, goats or sheep, it’s the aging process
that largely distinguishes one cheese from another, she
cheese for example, originated in Cheddar, England where
cheese was carefully aged in nearby caves. According to the
British Cheese Board, cheesemakers in this town drained the
liquid whey from their cheese by stacking slabs of curd on top
of each other—a process which came to be known as "cheddaring."
are the purest form of Cheddar cheese, I was informed. Curds
"squeak" when they are fresh…the fresher, the
the curds go on to become cheese, the protein in the liquid
whey can be used as a protein supplement. Whey protein
contains leucine, an amino acid that helps the build up of
protein into muscles. I also learned an amazing fact: Whey can
be converted to fuel that generates electricity.
Cheddar cheese yellow? It has nothing to do with nutrition, I
learned. At the end of the cheesemaking process, a flavorless
dye extracted from the seeds of a South American plant known
as annatto, achiote or lipstick plant — is added. Hence,
yellow cheddar is the same as white cheddar … except for the
mild? Depends on how long the cheese was aged. Sharp cheeses
have generally been aged longer than milder cheeses.
cheesemaker has won numerous awards for "quark"
which Mackenna referred to as a German-style ricotta or a
healthier version of cream cheese. And she’s right. Ounce
for ounce, quark is higher in protein and lower in fat and
sodium (salt) than cream cheese. "I like to mix it with
strawberries and use it as a topping for
pancakes," she suggested.
about the dreaded saturated fat that tends to dominate whole
milk products like cheese? Some research suggests that —
perhaps because of its total nutritional makeup — saturated
fat in cheese is not as detrimental to blood cholesterol
levels as is butter.
thought as I munched on cheese curds, if I stick to the
1-ounce serving (about 7 small curds) listed on the label, I
can please my palate and my health at the same time.