Quark. I’ve had this strange attraction to it before I’d even ever tasted it. I think it’s in the name. What other cheese is also an elementary particle in physics?
So what IS quark, this delicious bundle of German/Eastern European origin? I had to look it up, too. It’s a fresh cheese, so it doesn’t require aging. Actually, it doesn’t even require rennet if you don’t have any. All you need is milk, some buttermilk or yogurt, and that’s about it, according to the website German Corner.
I checked out my Homemade Cheese book by Janet Hurst, and found this recipe. It does use rennet, so the quark will be firmer than if you were to not use it:
1 gallon pasteurized cow milk
1/8 teaspoon Mesophilic DVI MA culture
2 drops of liquid rennet dissolved in ¼ cup nonchlorinated water
noniodized salt (optional)
*Pour the cow milk into a cooking pot. Heat milk slowly to 86 degrees Farenheit.
*Remove from heat.
*Sprinkle the culture over the top of the milk and gently stire, making sure the culture is dissolved and well-integrated into the milk. Allow this mixture to sit for about 45 minutes, so the culture has time to develop.
*Add the rennet (I have learned, though, that not all quark recipes include rennet) mixed in water and stir, coming up from the bottom of the pot, until the culture and rennet are well-integrated into the milk. Let the mixture rest, covered with a cloth, in a warm place for 12 to 18 hours. The gel will thicken to the consistency of yogurt while it is resting.
*When the gel has thickened, it is time to ladle the mass into a draining bag. Line a colander with the draining bag, cheesecloth, or muslin. Place the colander in the sink. With a slotted spoon, gently transfer the gel mass, now called the curd, into the lined colander. Keep ladling until all the curd is in the colander. The leftover liquid is the whey, which is a waste product. Once the curd is in the colander, gather the draining bag, and tie it with a string. Hang it over the sink. […]
*Allow the curd to drain for about 12 hours. Then remove the curd from the bag, place it in a bowl, and work in the salt [optional!].
*To store, place in a covered dish. Best served at room temperature.
The first cheese I sampled from Spring Hill Cheese Company was their quark. In Spring Hill’s Petaluma cheese shop, I saw garlic quark and vanilla bean quark, but the purist in me wanted to keep things simple. I thought it would be a bit on the unctuous side, like Vermont Creamery’s quark, but this was a horse of a different color. This quark, just the palest yellow, was frothy, like whipped butter. I dug right in. The flavor was full and rich—tangy and tart. This one was unsalted, which was fine with me! Plus, apparently the less creamy quark, like this one, has less fat, for those of you who are counting calories (as if!!). The milk could really flaunt its freshness and flavor. The texture is as lofty as it looks—it envelopes the mouth oh so gently. I love quark on a bagel, instead of cream cheese, and this specimen will definitely hold up to a slathering. If you want to dress it up, you could probably top things off with a fine smear of jam or honey. Or you could go savory and add herbs to make a savory dip or spread. If you are handy in the kitchen, you could probably find a nice cheesecake, clafoutis, or tart recipe for this. Call it puritanism, or laziness, I’m just fine with it spread over some toast.