Amongst my favourite dairy desserts back in The Netherlands was kwark - known in english speaking countries as as quark. It's not quite yoghurt, not quite cheese, but a deliciously smooth and refreshing in-between.
For the longest time it's been unavailable in Australia, but over the past few years it has started popping up (on occasion) in some supermarkets. More recently I found that my local specialty dairy shop (La Latteria) also makes it from time to time.
However, something all local quarks have in common is that they're relatively dry and crumbly — and not smooth, like I want them to be. I decided that it was time to make my own quark, so the texture and flavour would be to my exact specifications.
It turns out that quark is incredibly easy to make. You need two ingredients, a few tools and some patience. This recipe will make in bewteen 500g and 1kg of quark, depending on how dry you make it.
- 2l cows milk (I use skim milk, you can use whatever you want)
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 2l container (microwave safe; mine's a Tupperware measuring jug)
- 1 colander
- cheese cloth
- a microwave
- a thermometer (completely optional)
Step one is to make the curds. Pour half a cup of buttermilk into the microwave safe container, then add the milk. If it won't all fit, drink the left-over milk. Cover with cling film and set aside for a day. After a good 24 hours, you have 2 liters of soured curds.
Next it's time to warm the curds. Warming the curds will make the proteins coagulate, which will influence how fast the whey will drain later and how the end result will taste. If you make the curds too warm, the quark will be dry and crumbly.
You're aiming to get the curds to about 35°C and to keep them there for about half an hour. You could fiddle about with a stove and a thermometer, but the easiest way is to put the container in the microwave. I find that if I microwave 2 liters of curds on high for exactly 2 minutes and when wrap the container in a tea towel to keep the heat in, I end up with the perfect quark.
Your microwave will be a bit different, but aim for 35°C for 30 minutes. Don't worry if it drops a few degrees below that towards the end of the 30 minute period.
Now it's time to get rid of excess whey. The whey is the liquid part of the quark, so the amount that you keep will influence how smooth the end result is. And you control the amount of whey that will drain via the size of the curds and the time you let it drain.
Put the colander in the sink and put the cheese cloth in it. Make sure the corners of the cloth hang over the sides, as you'll want to hang it up. For smooth (runny) quark, carefully pour the curds into the colander. For dry and crumbly quark, cut the curds (stir them with a spoon or a fork) before you pour them in.
Most of the whey will run through the cheese cloth right away, so now pull up the corners and tie them off with a loop of string. Then hang the bundle of curds over the sink, so whey can drain out freely. Let it drain this way for at least 2 hours. If you want crumbly quark, let it drain for three hours (or more...)
When you think the curds have drained enough, transfer your fresh quark to a storage vessel. To make my quark smooth, I hit it with a bar mixer at this stage and blend it until it's smooth. If the quark is too dry for your liking, stir through a bit of milk.
If you don't eat it all right away, it will keep in the fridge for a few days.
Cheese cloth photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cheeseincheesecloth-sink.jpg.