This could really be the simplest cheese for the home cheese maker to get started with.
Easier even than making yogurt and since it does not need to be heated above 86F it will retain all of the natural enzymes and cultures of farm fresh milk, if you have a source for that.
When I decided to feature Quark for the April recipe, I was really not that familiar with it (Ricki does like it when I make these simple kitchen cheeses). I had heard about it from our European customers, so I made a few batches and Wow!
This stuff is fantabulous.
The first batch my wife and I ate right up just plain but the second batch we made into a yummy parfait style dessert with layers of Quark, and honey sweetened blueberries and raspberries.
Quark, its not just for breakfast anymore!
What is it?
The name sounds like something from outer space or someone Dr. Spock would have been familiar with on his home planet or perhaps something out of my physics class.
But No! This Quark is a very common cheese in Europe and especially Germany. Little known of in the US but becoming popular as its availability increases here. Better yet, make it right in your kitchen.
Quark is a fresh cheese of European origin. It is a mild creamy cheese without the sour taste of yogurt. It is a soft un-aged cheese and is not the same thing as cream cheese or cottage cheese. It is also distinct from ricotta because ricotta is made from scalded whey. It usually has much lower fat content than cream cheeses and has no salt added.
Quark is a much loved dairy product in German speaking countries. It is commonly used in meals from breakfast to dinner, appetizer to dessert, sweet to spicy, as a snack or in between meals.
Quark tastes good at any meal, at any time. Health concerned folks keep on eating Quark. It would be hard to improve on Quark for its nutritional content. It is full of protein and low in fat. It is loaded with minerals, including calcium, which is so essential to strong bodies. Small amounts of carbohydrates in the form of milk sugar promote a good metabolism. The nutritional value of Quark is tremendous.
Quark can also be enhanced with your favorite additions such as chives, horseradish, paprika, cherries, strawberries, apples and all kind of other fresh fruits. Quark is also a favorite on whole grain breads. Low in fat and very tasty with fresh chopped herbs.
Quark consists of 60% to 80% water. Dry mass has 1% to 40% fat; most of the rest is protein (80% of which is casein), calcium, and phosphate.
You can see from this wide range of fat and moisture that there are many options for this cheese.
You can make it rich or lean.
You can make it moist or dry ... creamy or thick and spreadable.
The choice is yours and the options are explained below.
What to do with it
You can have your quark plain or mixed with herbs, on a baked potato, mixed with fruit, on a pizza, made into a cheesecake or in any number of other ways.
In Germany there are several tortes or cakes made with their Quark.
Quark will last for a week to 10 days in the fridge. All fresh cheeses will last this long.
Here are a few ideas to get the ball rolling.
Try Quark :
- whipped with a berry puree and honey for a rich and fresh dessert
- combined with wilted spinach, finely minced and sautéed garlic and chili peppers to stuff pastas
- mounded onto graham crackers with roasted figs and a balsamic syrup, or
- blended with caramelized onions and roasted garlic to spread on a crostini. Topped with fresh herbs, it would be amazing!
From Kari at iheartbigflavor
.. and on a lighter note:
Olympic™ skier Lindsey Vonn has created a culinary opportunity, trying to heal her bruised leg by applying fresh curd cheese. She calls the soft stuff by it’s Austrian name, topfen, but the cheese is also known as quark, quarg, Tvaroh, Tvorog and curd-cheese. Fresh cheese aroma is too subtle for a marketable celebrity fragrance, so it’s time to profit by cookin’ up some celebrity ski cheese recipes.
The therapeutic effectiveness of topical topfen application is dubious.; perhaps this is a folk cure developed by Austrian skiers. Who knows; maybe Swiss skiers try to heal injuries with warm cheese fondue?
The Process ..... (Short and Sweet!)
This is such an easy cheese to make. Easy as 1-2-3! (see the detailed instructions below)
- Heat the milk and add the culture (15 min. of your time)
- Allow it to sit covered (12-24 hrs unattended)
- Drain the curds (15 min. of your time plus 4-8 hrs unattended)
Now it's ready to eat or store in the fridge for up to a week!
A Recipe for making Quark!
To show how diverse home cheese making can be, I am going to lay out a range of cultures you can use, depending on the milk you are using and what you really prefer to make.
For Quark you will be best off using one of our more complex mesophilic cultures which contain the following bacteria:
- s.lactis for acid production
- s.cremoris for acid production
- s.lactis diacetylactis for a buttery flavor addition
For use with a store bought milk that has been pasteurized at higher temps and stored cold or if you find that your curd is too weak, we suggest using our C20G Chevre or C20 Fromage Blanc cultures which contains its own powdered rennet.
If you would like a culture with a little less rennet included for a less firm curd use our C33 Creme Fraiche
Our German customers have told us that when they are making their quark they use the C20 (Fromage Blanc) with skimmed milk and to them it is quite authentic to the cheese they remember.
If you would like a more open texture, the following cultures include all of the above strains plus a culture that produces a small amount of CO2 .. m.s.cremoris.
These 2 cultures contain no rennet but you can add your own using 1-3 drops per gallon of our liquid rennet (the tablet rennet can not be used here)
These are especially good for very fresh farm milk or one pasteurized at a lower temperature and you would like a very soft creamy Quark use our C21 Buttermilk culture which has no added rennet
or our C11 Flora Danica which comes in a much larger pack and can be used at the rate of 1/8tsp per gallon of milk.
You could also use our C101 Mesophilic culture but it is a much less complex culture and would not have the flavor/texture benefit of the cultures listed above and only 1/2 pack should be used for the 1 gallon of milk.
Before you Begin:
You will need:
- 1 gallon of milk (Not ultra-pasturized)
The milk can also be skim, reduced fat, or whole milk. You can even add extra cream after the whey has drained for an even richer Quark. The choice is yours. Lower fat will usually yield a slightly drier cheese.
- 1 of the small culture packs or 1/8 tsp from the larger pack Flora Danica (See our culture options above)
- Liquid rennet (only if using the buttermilk, Flora Danica or Mesophilic cultures) 1-3 drops per gallon
- A good thermometer
- A knife to cut the curds, and a spoon or ladle to transfer the curds with.
- A colander and butter muslin to drain the curds
Everything needs to be clean and sanitized.
Acidifying and heating the milk:
Begin by heating the milk to 86F (30C). You do this by placing the milk in a pot on the stove. Make sure you heat the milk slowly and stir it well as it heats.
Once the milk is at 86F, the culture can be added. Sprinkle the powder over the surface of the milk to prevent it from caking and sinking in clumps and then allow about 2 minutes for the powder to re-hydrate before stirring it in.
Coagulation with rennet:
Many of the suggested culture packs already contain their own powdered rennet but if using the buttermilk culture or Flora Danica add 1-3 drops of our single strength liquid rennet if you would like a firmer Quark (this is your option). See the details on rennet in our culture options above.
The milk now needs to sit covered and quiet for 12 to 24 hours while the culture works to produce acid and coagulation of the curd. The temperature should be allowed to slowly drop to 68-71F during this time.
The actual amount of time may be largely dependent on your milk you use and how firm you want your final Quark. Again, options that allow you to make the cheese that suits your taste.
You can tell when the curd is right by:
- Watching for a thin layer of whey to form on the surface and the curd pulling away from the sides.
- Inserting the knife blade flat at a 45 degree angle into the curd and lifting up gently, watching for that nice clean break as shown in photo below.
- Tasting the curd that has formed for the right amount of acid.
This is all part of your control and you can make the Quark as you like it. Take good notes on times and temp the first few times you do it and if the coagulation or acid is slow in developing then then keep the batch a bit warmer and/or allow it to sit longer.
For a sweeter Quark: lower temperature and shorter time will be your control.
For a less firm Quark: use less rennet.
As in all good things, the best Quark for you is what you like.
Removing the whey:The dry curds can now be transferred to a colander lined with butter muslin.
The 4 corners of the cloth are brought together and tied off to form a draining bag. This can be opened at intervals during the draining and the curds scraped from the cloth to the center for better draining.
This draining bag can now be suspended from a hook or even from your faucet to drain.
Make sure you have a pot or bowl to capture the draining whey which can be used for other use in baking or cooking.
It should be allowed to drain for 12-24 hours in a place where the temperature is at 68-72F. The actual draining time will determine the dryness of your final cheese. Again, the choice is yours and this is maybe the biggest reason to make your own cheese at home.
When you open the draining bag finally, your Quark will have lost much of its whey and look much like a drained yogurt or even a moist bread dough if you have opted for a drier cheese from longer draining.
Chilling and finishing:
At this point some folks even add a bit more cream to the finished Quark and mix that in for a richer Quark for dessert. Some even whip the moister cheese to form a smooth texture. These are all options and only your imagination limits you.
Your Quark is now ready for the table or to be refrigerated for up to a week to 10 days.
The photos below are the second batch I made into a yummy parfait style dessert with layers of Quark, and honey sweetened blueberries and raspberries.
Our Customers Ask:
- Our customers have asked if strained yogurt is the same as Quark.
- This is not true at all. A yogurt cheese does not taste like Quark. Quark contains the Lactococcus lactis bacteria (works at lower temperature), while yogurt contains Lactococcus thermophilus (a higher temperature culture). The Quark is usually much sweeter than a Greek style drained yogurt
- Can we make Quark using rennet on the stove in a fraction of the time?
- Yes, this is how it is being made by the dairy industry in Germany. 4 hours and done! The problem is that you are missing the beneficial buttermilk bacteria.
- Newer producers now add buttermilk cultures to it due to public demand for live cultures. Making it the old-fashioned way with live cultures is better for your health.
- Can I make Quark on the stove top or in the oven using higher temperatures over several hours.
- Yes, you can, but it is not recommended. Too much heat will cook the protein and kill all beneficial bacteria.
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Thanks for joining our cheese making family, keep those stories & photos coming. We love to hear from you!
Ricki, the cheese queen