Ask any European foodie living outside Europe what they miss the most back home, the answer is most likely to be “Cheese and the variety of dairy products”. Ask any passionate foodie living in Europe what they love the most the answer is certainly going to be the same!
There are so many different types of yogurts, milk based puddings, yogurt based drinks, cream cheeses, soft cheeses and hard cheeses that the dairy section at the grocery stores makes one giddy. We truly are spoilt for choice.
There is one specific product that I have a special fondness towards – and that is quark. A smooth creamy creamy cheese readily available in Germany and very similar to the French fromage blanc or fromage frais.
Some of my friends think it's a "strange ingredient" but for those who have experienced quark will know that it works magic in all kinds of dishes from salad dressings to puddings, from sauces to cakes.
Today's post focuses on this amazing cheese and I will attempt to take the "strange" out of this ingredient for my readers and those friends ;-)
Quark literally means "curd" and is a fresh unripe cheese prepared similarly to cottage cheese. It is a low-fat curd cheese made from skimmed milk and soured with a starter culture to generate lactic acid from lactose. I am sure my Indian readers will see the similarities to our own paneer.
Quark comes in a range of fat levels from no fat, low-fat to 40 percent fat. You'll notice a visible difference between the low-fat and the 40 percent versions. Low-fat quark has a milky-white shade while quark with a higher fat content is slightly yellowish is color.
This soft cheese is made without the aid of rennet making it an acid set cheese. In Germany in is sold in plastic white tubs with the whey. The texture is very much similar to sour cream, just a little dryer and in its basic form has a fat content of 0.2 percent. Quark available with a higher fat content is often made by adding cream to it.
The eastern European version of quark is firmer as a small amount of rennet is added to the milk. The whey is removed by hanging the cheese in a cheesecloth and allowed to drip until the the whey has dripped off.
The German quark however is creamy and smooth and can be eaten plain or with nuts, herbs and garlic. It is tangy in flavor and thick in texture. Seventeen lbs of quark per person per year is consumed here is Germany and you'll find it being used in several ways like for soufflés, as dips and for the famous German quark kuchen - German cheesecake.
I often use quark in my recipes and promptly get emails or comments asking me what quark is. Living in Germany I have never found the need to make my own quark, but I too was curious about my favorite kitchen helper. So, I decided to make my own quark at home. To help me start off I turned to Tom's grandma, who has been making her own quark for decades and at the age of 86 she still makes the meanest quark cheesecake with homemade quark. The quark I made at home was nothing compared to the commercial stuff. It was more intensive and creamier than anything I have ever bought.
I do not think I can go back to store bought quark again!
The quark recipe below is the one I got from Tom's grandmother. It is uncomplicated to prepare, just takes a bit of time. The oven does most of the work and you are rewarded with a wonderfully tangy and flavorful creamy cheese.
Printable version of recipe here.
3.5 liters buttermilk
Pre-heat the oven to approx. 65 degrees C.
Pour all of the buttermilk in a large ovenproof dish with a lid. Cover and place overnight in the oven.
The whey and curd should have separated and there should be large bits or curd.
The next morning line a sieve or a strainer with a large cheesecloth and pour the buttermilk into the cloth. You can place the sieve over a container to catch the whey, which can be used elsewhere for example in soups or to thicken sauces.
Let the mixture drain for 1 hour, then take the four tips of the cheesecloth and twist to drain any remaining whey.
Now it's time to drip the cheese. I normally tie the cheesecloth on a sturdy wooden spoon and place the spoon over a large pot or the sink with the cheese ball hanging into the pot/sink. In this way allow the quark to drip for 5-6 hours.
Divide the quark into containers and refrigerate. Depending on the way you are planning on using the quark you can pass it through a fine meshed sieve and add some cream for a creamier mixture.
This is a a basic recipe for quark. From here you can use it to make a peach cardamom tart, a rhubarb raspberry trifle, baked beetroot with an apple-horseradish dip or a cherry semifredo cake. If this is not enough browse through all my quark recipes for ideas and inspiration.
I hope I was able to raise your interest in this wonderful cheese. If you've used quark in your dishes before let us know what your favorite dish is. Leave a link to the recipe here. If you are planning on making quark for the first time come back and share your experience with us.
This week I'll be sharing another great recipe which uses quark as one of its main components. So, if you want to join me - start making that quark now ;-)
Daily Tiffin Reading Tip:
- Farmers' Markets In Your Background - by Donna
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