Quark is a dairy product said to have originated as far back as the 14th century in Central Europe, and is made by fermenting milk, souring it until it curdles, then straining it.
Quark is somewhat similar to the French fromage blanc, a soft white cheese made from milk and cream, however Quark is usually associated more with the German cuisine as it has been a staple in German kitchens for centuries.
Although Quark is essentially a soft cheese it derives much of its characteristics from yogurt. Its taste and texture are more like that of a thick yogurt than cheese. Similarly, its low fat, low calories, and high protein content are more comparable to yogurt than cheese.
It has a very mild, inoffensive taste, neither sweet nor sour, and is notably smooth and creamy.
Quark can be eaten on its own, or with fruit and granola, or can be spread on toast or bagels.
Since it’s much like both yogurt, cream, and cheese, Quark can be used in pretty much any recipe that calls for one or the other.
Its mild taste and creamy nature make it an incredibly versatile ingredient in a wide variety of recipes and there are also plenty of dedicated recipes that specifically call for using Quark – like the classic German Quark cheese cake or their Kräuterquark, and so much more.
Making homemade Quark cheese is easy with Bacillus Bulgaricus starters!
The best starter to use for making Quark is the Caspian Sea Starter and you can also get quite good results with the Kefir Starter. And if you’re after a smoother, milder Quark — add a pack of Buttermilk Starter Culture too.
Before you start, make sure you have the following:
- a jar or another container large enough to hold all your milk,
- a coagulating agent — rennet (best option as it affects the taste the least), apple cider vinegar (second best), lemon juice (works well too). You can actually do it without rennet but then you need to stretch step 5 below to 24 hours – basically waiting for the cheese to firm up on its own.
- a cheesecloth or anything else that you could use to strain the milk,
- a strainer.
Here are the steps:
- Heat up the milk to about 167°F / 75°C. Then let the milk cool down on its own to about 90°F / 32°C. If you are feeling lazy, just heat it to 90°F / 32°C, however heating up then cooling down results in a better product.
- Add the starter from the pack to the milk and stir until it dissolves.
- Leave the heat at low so the temperature stays about the same for 30 mins. This allows the culture to works its magic on the the milk. This step could be as short as 10-15 mins or as long as 2 hours if you’d like. The more you keep the culture before adding the coagulant, the better your Quark will taste.
- Turn off the heat and add the coagulant while stirring:
- If you are using rennet, you need about 4 drops of rennet for every liter/quart but read the instructions that came with it to make sure you are using the right amount. when in doubt, just use slightly more.
- if you are using vinegar, add half a teaspoon of vinegar for every liter/quart of milk.
- If you are using lemon juice, add about half a teaspoon of lemon juice for every liter/quart of milk.
- The milk will begin to thicken in about 10-15 minutes but allow it to set for at least 2 hours from the time of adding the coagulant. As soon as the curd has formed well you are ready to move on. You will see a thin layer of whey to form on the surface and the curd could be easily pulled away from the sides of your pot. Dipping a clean knife into the curd would also come out nice and clean from any milk.
Many recipes call for leaving the milk for 12-24 hours to enhance the taste but I find this unnecessary with the Bacillus Bulgaricus starters. However if you have the time, certainly try it at least once to compare the taste of the two methods yourself.
- Cut the solidified milk (the curd) into small cubes with a knife. You are basically just making lines horizontally then across, cutting through the curds.
- Now that the curds are broken up turn up the heat to medium. When it hears up a bit, slowly stir it for 5-10 minutes until you break up all the curds and release the whey. Temperature should just be high enough for the milk to be somewhat hot, definitely not boiling.
- Now that the curds and whey are separated, line your strainer with the cheesecloth and then pour the curds and whey into the strainer. Pour into another pot because you want to catch and keep that whey and use it! Let it strain until only cheese curds remain in the cheesecloth. Keep as long as it takes, usually a couple of hours is enough. You really want it to drain as much liquid as possible, on its own.
- When you have finished draining the curds:
- if you used rennet then simply remove them from the cheesecloth and into a cup.
- if you used vinegar your curds will have acquired its taste so rinse them with cold water while they are still in the strainer. Run them for about 30 seconds.
- if you used lemon juice your curds will have acquired its taste so rinse them with cold water while they are still in the strainer. Run them for about 30 seconds.
- Congratulations, you have just made some excellent fresh delicious Quark! Place it in the fridge for an hour as it will improve its consistency and taste but of course you can also eat it right away too!
Some notes on the process:
- For a sweeter Quark use lower heating temperature and shorter incubation time. Alternatively, culture longer for a tarter Quark.
- For a firmer Quark use more rennet and milk higher in fat content.
- For a firmer Quark increase the draining time
- For smoother and milder quark add a Buttermilk starter culture at the beginning together with the CSY/ Kefir starter.