A thick, tangy, and spreadable fresh cheese, quark is a staple in traditional German, Eastern European, and Scandinavian kitchens where it’s often served as a savory condiment—alongside fresh herbs and minced onion—for steamed potatoes and hearty meat or fish dishes. It can also impart a tart richness to desserts like German cheesecake and various fruit strudels. Here in North America, it’s often overlooked, and can be difficult to find to boot.
So, what better excuse to make your own? This lactic-set version is made using buttermilk for a superbly tangy flavor.
- 3-liter oven-safe glass or ceramic dish
- Medium mixing bowl
- Rubber band or string
- Paring knife
- 2 liters cultured buttermilk
- 1 to 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, optional
- ►Heat oven to 170°F. Pour buttermilk into glass or ceramic dish and bake for 2 hours. Turn off oven and leave dish in oven for 12 to 15 hours. The milk will set and resemble yogurt.
- ►Run cheesecloth under cold water and then wring out. Line colander with 1 layer of cheesecloth. Place prepared colander inside a larger bowl (to catch the whey).
- ►Remove cultured buttermilk from oven. Cut the curd into a cross-hatch pattern with a paring knife. Gently ladle curds into the cheesecloth-lined colander. Once all the curd is in the cheesecloth, bring edges of cheesecloth up to create a bundle. Secure cheesecloth with elastic band or string.
- ►Hang cheesecloth bundle from a doorknob (or faucet if enough room) and allow whey to drip from cheesecloth into the bowl beneath the colander. This will take 1½ to 3 hours, depending on how firm you want your finished quark to be (more draining time means thicker quark).
- ►Once desired consistency is reached, discard (or reserve, see sidebar) whey and empty the contents of the cheesecloth into the bowl. If you are using your quark for sweet applications (see sidebar), the recipe is complete. For savory uses, sprinkle quark with salt and gently mix.
Here’s how to get the most out of your quark:
- Quark can be used in place of sour cream for most savory dishes. Try it as a condiment for pierogies, latkes, or nachos.
- Quark can be gently sweetened and used as a topping for pancakes, crêpes, or French toast—we love it mixed with maple syrup.
- Flavor quark with fresh herbs and garlic for a low–fat, high–protein vegetable dip.
- Save the whey and add it to smoothies for a boost of protein, or use it in cocktails as an emulsifying agent.
Photographed by Erin Harris.