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Bite-size nuggets of fresh cheese known for the squeak they make when teeth bite into them, cheese curds are a byproduct of cheese-making (leftover pieces when the whey is drained). However, they are such a popular snack that some dairy-country creameries consider them a more significant product than the cheese itself. Extreme freshness is the key to excellence, for within hours of their manufacture the squeak begins to diminish along with the bright freshness of the curd. Even deep-fried cheese curds are best when they start with fresh product, which yields the creamiest insides. But in bars throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota, such nicety is of secondary consideration compared to their goodness as a pop-in-the-mouth snack food to go with beer. Fried curds also are hugely popular at fairs and festivals, where the subtle savor of freshness isn’t nearly as important as the fundamental pleasure of eating hot, salty, fried fat.