The English have fish and chips, Germans have schnitzel and Canadians have poutine, an unofficial national dish found in pubs and diners countrywide. Poutine isn't poutine without squeaky cheese curds — fresh cow's milk coagulated with rennet. Poutine cheese curds differ from other curds in that they don't undergo "cheddaring," or weighted pressing that squeezes out whey and firms them. Squeaky cheese curds are simply cooked and allowed to cure to develop a hint of tanginess. Unpressed curds also have a distinct sound they make when bitten into — a squeak — that's as identifiable with poutine as french fries and gravy.
Fill a stainless steel pot with bleach water comprised of 1 cap of bleach for every 1 gallon of water. You need a 2- to 3-gallon pot to make about 1/2 pound of cheese curds. Let the pot sit 15 minutes.
Drain the pot and let it air dry. Bring another pot of water to a boil.
Place a slotted spoon and paring knife in the boiling water and let it boil for 5 minutes. Remove the spoon and paring knife and let them air dry.
Making the Curds
Pour pasteurized whole milk in the sanitized pot. You need 1 gallon of milk for 1/2 pound of cheese curds. Fill a larger pot one-half full of water and place it on the stove. Place a large bowl or container of distilled water in the refrigerator to cool while you make the curds.
Set the pot of milk in the pot of water and cover it. Set the heat on the stove to low and check the temperature of the milk after 15 minutes using an instant-read digital thermometer. Wipe the thermometer's probe with rubbing alcohol before you check the milk's temperature.
Adjust the heat as needed so the milk stays between 90 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit when covered. Heat the milk for 1 hour.
Dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of liquid rennet in 1/4 cup of distilled water for every 1 gallon of milk. Hold the slotted spoon over the milk and pour the diluted rennet over it. The holes in the spoon will help disperse the rennet over the milk.
Place the spoon in the milk and disperse the rennet by plunging it up and down slowly for about a minute. Use a gentle up-and-down movement. Cover the pot.
Leave the milk to coagulate for 1 hour and uncover the pot. Slice the floating curd into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-wide strips. Then, cut the curd into 1/2- to 3/4-inch-long pieces. Make the cut perpendicular to the first, but at a slight angle.
Adjust the heat so the whey stays between 100 and 105 F. Cook the curd for 30 to 45 minutes, or until they squeak when you bite into one. Stir the curds and whey constantly while cooking.
Remove the curds from the whey using the slotted spoon and transfer them to the cold distilled water from the fridge. Let the curds chill in the water for 10 to 15 minutes, or until cold.
Transfer the curds to a pan lined with parchment paper in an even layer. Sprinkle kosher salt over the curds and let them air dry for 1 to 2 hours.
Cover the tray of curds with a piece of cheesecloth and let them sit at room temperature for 2 to 3 days to age. The curds will have a squeaky bite and a mild tart flavor.
Store the curds in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to 2 weeks, but use with a day or two for the best "squeak" and melting ability.
You can substitute 1/4 tablet of rennet for liquid rennet, if necessary.
A.J. Andrews' work has appeared in Food and Wine, Fricote and "BBC Good Food." He lives in Europe where he bakes with wild yeast, milks goats for cheese and prepares for the Court of Master Sommeliers level II exam. Andrews received formal training at Le Cordon Bleu.