Quark: a cheese adventure

Never fear, I am not talking about the elementary particle here (though those are known to have “flavors”…). Quark is simply the easiest cheese you can make. A mild, unsalted white cheese that is denser than yogurt, slightly tangy, and richly creamy, it is wonderful as a spread on hearty bread drizzled with a little honey or quince jelly. Traditional recipes that use Quark as an ingredient also include German cheese cake, fruit quark, and herb quark dip.

I grew up eating Quark in Germany, where it is a staple. A few disappointing trips to a local European deli (quark was not meant to be frozen for a year before selling) motivated me to start looking into making quark myself. Fortunately, it is even easier to make than yogurt, as the cultures involved are mesophilic (i.e. they work at room temperature). Since it also tastes better than any purchased Quark I ever had, I keep a supply almost constantly at hand.

Ingredients (makes about 6 ounces)

2 cups milk*
¼-½ cup buttermilk (for the culture)
cheese cloth or butter muslin**
colander or strainer

Instructions

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Pour milk and buttermilk into a non-reactive container and cover loosely. Let stand at room temperature 12-24 hours. The milk will curdle and thicken.***

Line the colander with the cheese cloth and set it inside a large bowl. Pour the thickened milk into the lined colander and let the whey drain for 12 hours in the refrigerator.

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Then peel the fresh quark off the cloth into a separate container. Quark can be stored in the refrigerator for a week, sometimes longer.

The drained whey in the bowl can be discarded or consumed separately. It has a pleasant tangy flavor that goes well in smoothies. You can also cook the whey to make Ricotta, though I don’t recommend this unless you have a fairly large amount of liquid, since the yield per gallon of whey is only 8-12 ounces.

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Notes

*You can use skim or whole milk, even cream, for quark. The higher the fat content of the milk, the creamier the end product will be. Low fat milk will yield slightly less cheese.

**I started out using cheese cloth to strain my quark, but grew frustrated with how expensive it was. I am currently using these flour sack towels which are cheaper than cheese cloth, let less of the good stuff escape, and are easy to wash and reuse.

***This “thick milk” can also be consumed unstrained either as a kefir-like beverage or with granola.

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