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Curds are a dairy product obtained by curdling (coagulating) milk with rennet or an edible acidic substance such as lemon juice or vinegar, and then draining off the liquid portion. The increased acidity causes the milk proteins (casein) to tangle into solid masses, or curds. The remaining liquid, which contains only whey proteins, is the whey. In cow's milk, 80% of the proteins are caseins. Milk that has been left to sour (raw milk alone or pasteurized milk with added lactic acid bacteria or yeast) will also naturally produce curds, and sour milk cheese is produced this way.
In the Indian subcontinent etc., the word "curd" is widely used to refer to what is known as "yogurt", but it appears to be a misnomer in the opinion of many. In India, another word "paneer" is used to denote the dairy product discussed in this article.
Curd products vary by region and include cottage cheese, quark (both curdled by bacteria and sometimes also rennet) and Indian paneer (milk curdled with lime juice). The word can also refer to a non-dairy substance of similar appearance or consistency, though in these cases a modifier or the word curdled is generally used.
In England, curds produced from the use of rennet are referred to as junket, with true curds and whey only occurring from the natural separation of milk due to its environment (temperature, acidity).
Cheese curds, drained of the whey and served without further processing or aging, are popular in some French-speaking regions of Canada, such as Quebec, parts of Ontario, and Atlantic Canada. The image to the right shows freshly made morsels of Cheddar cheese before being pressed and aged. In Quebec, Eastern Ontario and the Eastern provinces such as New Brunswick, cheese curds are popularly served with french fries and gravy as poutine. In some parts of the U.S., especially in Wisconsin, they are breaded and fried, or are eaten straight.
Stately, pleasantly it sat,
A compact house and strong.
Then I went in:
The door of it was dry meat,
The threshold was bare bread,
cheese-curds the sides.
Smooth pillars of old cheese,
And sappy bacon props
Fine beams of mellow cream,
White rafters - real curds,
Kept up the house.
Curds also appear in the nursery rhyme Little Miss Muffet.