A fresh and creamy, lactic dairy product with the consistency of Greek yoghurt
Little did Miss Muffet know, sitting on her tuffet, that in Britain “curds and whey” would one day fall almost completely off the radar. Ask your average man or woman in the street and the chances of their knowing anything of curd beyond the nursery rhyme is minimal. There’s the occasional goat’s curd dish (popular on starter menus circa 2016) but very little in the way of cow’s curd in the public domain—unless you’re Canadian, in which case you’ll currently be screaming ‘poutine!’ at the page.
“We don’t sell much on the stall, the vast majority of what we sell is wholesale, but we’ve just rearranged our fridge to make it more prominent for Market customers,” says David Holton at Blackwoods Cheese Company. Their lactic cow’s curd is the precursor to their Graceburn cheese. It’s made with organic raw milk from the Commonwork Farm in Kent. “Once the milk is set we have curd; once the whey [the liquid biproduct of the curdling process] is removed from the curd, we have cheese.”
They remove some of the whey from their curd—“it’s about 30 per cent moisture; our Graceburn cheese is 15 per cent”—so it’s the nice, thick texture of Greek yoghurt. Indeed, that’s how David recommends using it: with fruit and muesli, in sauces, or along with sugar and eggs, baked into a cheesecake. “We add a little bit of salt to balance out the acidity. You can’t taste it,” he adds—hence the curd’s versatility—“but it works to bring out the flavour.”
Milky and acidic
One thing worth mentioning is that the cheddar curd used in poutine (the Candian dish of curd, chips and gravy) and similar dishes is quite different to the lactic cow’s curd at Blackwoods. “Cheddar curd is a lot softer. Our cheese is set through acidification: we add lactic acid bacteria to the milk, which helps digest the lactose and set it. In cheddar, it’s the enzymes in rennet which set the milk and the acidification happens over a longer period, resulting in a different chemical composition. Cheddar curd is meltier and squeakier; ours is milky and acidic.”
Out in the restaurant world, chefs have discovered myriad uses for curd: from sauces, to flatbread, to starters. Being raw and “alive with bacteria”, it makes for a lighter alternative to cream cheese. Dips can be made by adding fresh herbs. Think of it as fromage frais, rather than the slightly more alien ‘curd’ and your mind will light up with options, says David—whether you’re in a restaurant kitchen or on your own home tuffet.