Curd cheeses have followers. In the U.S., the most common cheese curds are the cheddar ones produced by Wisconsin dairies. Wisconsin native Mike Everhart is making yellow cheddar cheese curds at his Ashe County Cheese (106 E. Main St.) in West Jefferson, N.C. The mildly flavored curds, aka squeaky cheese, are small cubes used as snacking food. Curds, by the way, only squeak when fresh. In some parts of the country, the curds are battered and fried. To the north of the U.S., in Quebec, Canada, white cheese curds are layered on French Fries and then bathed in brown gravy for a famous local fast-food dish, poutine.
The Europeans use curd cheeses in a quite different way. German quark and Austrian topfen are curd cheeses that resemble Indian paneer, produced by curdling milk with a food acid such as lemon juice or vinegar. Quark is thicker than American-styled sour cream, but sweeter, like French crème fraîche, and is often an ingredient in German cheesecake. The Vermont Butter and Cheese Creamery makes a smooth rendition of the traditional German-style sahnequark and is available locally in the European dairy area of Whole Foods (6610 Fairview Road).
Topfen, on the other hand, has a clumpier texture — more like Italian ricotta, which is made from whey (the leftover liquid after milk as curdled), and American small-curd cottage cheese. Topfen also has a high concentration of live lactic acid-producing bacteria, which may be why it is used as a traditional Austrian healing agent. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, U.S. Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn used topfen to reduce the swelling of her bruised leg muscle.
Like quark, topfen is often used in baking and is the key ingredient for Austrian cheese strudel (topfenstrudel). Topfen is similar in taste to the Russian farmer's cheese TBopor (cottage cheese in Russian). The U.S. dairy company Fresh Made makes TBopor, which is available in the dairy case at Cmak European Deli (1544 Matthews-Mint Hill Road) in Matthews.
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