sell them next to the cash register at most every
rural gas station in the part of Wisconsin Lands'
End calls home.
Toothsome nubbins of cheesy goodness. Shaped a little like popcorn,
only big - big as your thumb.
Cheese curds are the freshest product of the cheesemaking process.
When the curds are pressed into blocks and the whey squeezed out,
that's the cheese you recognize in your grocer's dairy case.
But as far back as anyone can remember, people in Wisconsin have
been snacking on the fresh curds. In taverns and restaurants, cheese
curds show up on the menu as an appetizer, breaded and deep fried.
You'll find them at the checkout in grocery and convenience stores.
Sometimes even the bait shop or hardware store. Merchants have
even been known to put a sign up on delivery day: FRESH CHEESE
Freshness is everything. A bag of fresh curds will be warm to the
touch. With salty droplets of whey inside the clear plastic.
And they squeak. When you bite them, that is.
Among curd connoisseurs, that squeak is as highly prized as a fine
"They only squeak when they're fresh."
That's Karl Geissbuhler, third-generation cheesemaker and part-owner
of Brunkow Cheese in nearby Fayette. For the most part, cheese
curds are the product of small operations like Karl's.
Brunkow has been making cheese since 1899, when it was founded
as a farmer-owned co-op. In those days before refrigeration, turning
milk into cheese gave local farmers access to faraway markets.
Karl's grandfather came all the way from Switzerland to oversee
the operation. Back then, the co-op was turning out Swiss cheese.
Which likely made Herr Geissbuhler a shoo-in for the job.
Nowadays, with competition fierce from high-volume producers, small
cheesemakers like Brunkow have found some imaginative niches. Brunkow
sells a monterey jack that's chock-a-block with morel mushrooms.
Other makers offer cheese spiked with fresh cranberries.
But cheese curds are an area where local operators like Brunkow
continue to possess an unassailable advantage.
Freshness is everything. So a package of cheese curds is sure to
bear the label of cheesemaker only a few miles distant from where
the curds are sold.
And while Brunkow Cheese offers numerous cheesy
delectables on their Web
site, you won't find any cheese curds.
They're strictly reserved for us locals.
But if you ever stop for gas in our part of Wisconsin, do yourself
a favor. Forego the convenience of paying at the pump and make
a trip inside to pay at the register.
The cheese curds will be fresh and waiting.
TO OUR STORE,