Your first question, if you are not German or European, would be: What is quark? The answer is not as easy as I wish it would be. Let me start with a general introduction and we can go from there. Quark is very common in Germany, especially in Quarktorte or Käsekuchen, our cheese cake. It’s also used with herbs on baked potato. Now you might say “Ah, like cream cheese or sour cream?!”, no, not quiet.
It never occurred to me that people might not know what quark is. If you grow up with it you think everyone knows it and knows what to do with it. Imagine my surprise when I first went to North America and found out that it wasn’t common here. (That was in 2003 and I am sure it is more known now.) There is, as far as I know, only one store in Saskatoon that carries quark: Super Store. The price for a pound (500g) is about $8. Let me tell you, that is expensive. Especially if you need 1kg (2 pounds) to make a cheese cake.
So, what is quark? May I cite Wikipedia for you, since they explain it pretty well.
“Quark is a type of fresh cheese, also known as tvorog (from the Russian творог), topfen (from the Austrian name), biezpiens (from Latvian), and varškė (from Lithuanian). It is made by warming soured milk until the desired degree of denaturation of milk proteins is met, and then strained. Dictionaries usually translate it as curd cheese or cottage cheese, although most commercial varieties of cottage cheese are made with rennet, whereas traditional quark is not. It is soft, white and unaged, similar to some types of fromage frais. It is distinct from ricotta because ricotta (Italian: recooked) is made from scalded whey. Quark usually has no salt added.” (Source: Wikipedia – Quark (cheese))
To make it even more understandable, here a dairy product chart that explains the various dairy products and how they are connected and where they come from:
Click to enlarge (Source: Wikipedia-Dairy Products)
According to this chart, quark belongs to the Sour Milk Products, along with cheese curd, buttermilk, yoghurt, and kefir. In Germany, quark even comes in three different qualities, e.g. fat content. Magerquark which is lean, “regular” quark with about 20% fat and and Sahnequark a creamy version with 40% fat.This should give you pretty good idea what quark is. How does it taste like? Well, it’s a bit sour but not like sour cream. It’s difficult to say actually. I don’t like it too much in it’s regular, out of the container, version. I prefer quark in baked goods. Other people love quark, mixed with herbs, on some toast or dark, whole wheat bread.
So, how to make this mysterious stuff, if you don’t have it at your store or it is simply too expensive?
Yes, it is that simple and thanks to my co-worker I made some yesterday myself. All you need is 2 liter of buttermilk to make about 500g of quark. (Give or take, depending on how firm you like your quark). Heat your oven to 135°C and take out a fire resistant form and make sure it will hold 2 liters. The buttermilk will separate in the heat and quark will form. However, a liquid will be left over that needs to be strained.
Pour the buttermilk into the form, place on a cookie sheet with a lip (in case you spill) and place it in the oven for 45 min. After the time is up, remove from the oven. You will be able to see that the white stuff (which will be your quark) will float in a clear liquid.
Take a bowl (or two) and a strainer (or two) and place the strainer on top of the bowl. Then line the strainers with a kitchen towel or cheese cloth. Use a ladle to carefully scoop out the quark and liquid into the strainer. The clear liquid will run through the cloth and strainer into the bowl. Whatever is left in the cloth will be your quark. Let it stand for several hours until you achieved the thickness you would like, about 3-4 hours. It depends on the temperature in your kitchen and the humidity as well.
Once the quark is ready you can mix it with herbs to add to your toast/bread, or for baked potatoes. Or you can make some delicious German Cheese Cake. You can also browse the world wide web to find other recipes of course.
Happy quark making!