Meaning fresh curd in German, quark is a creamy, white cheese made from milk. Homemade versions of quark vary, with some recipes requiring more ingredients than others. When using buttermilk in the quark making process, the buttermilk works to add flavor and create the curds that form cheese. When buttermilk is left out of the picture, standalone cultures and enzymes must be utilized to get the job done.
Curds and Whey
Quark cheese is nothing more than curdled milk. In the cheese-making process, mesophilic cultures speed up this curdling process. These cultures work at low temperatures to breakup the milk -- forming curds and whey -- while enhancing flavor at the same time. Adding rennet enzymes slightly increases acidity, encouraging separation of the curds, which form the quark cheese, and the whey -- a liquid byproduct you can discard.
Cultured buttermilk itself is a mesophilic culture that can be used as a standalone starter for making cheese. Simply lining a sieve with cheesecloth, placing it over a large pot, and pouring 1 gallon of cultured buttermilk into the sieve starts the quark-making process. Set the sieve and pot in the refrigerator to strain overnight, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to aid in the separation. After straining, spoon the contents of the sieve -- the quark -- into a bowl.
Buttermilk and Whole Milk
Buttermilk cultures form curds when added to milk. Pour whole milk into a medium pot and simmer at 170 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove it from heat, cover the pot and bring it to room temperature. Whisk cultured buttermilk into the whole milk, keeping a ratio of 4 cups whole milk to 3 tablespoons of buttermilk. Leave the mixture to curdle overnight and pour into a cheesecloth-covered sieve over a pot, refrigerate overnight, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Spoon the quark from the sieve into a bowl.
Cultures and Enzymes
Instead of buttermilk, two packets of mesophilic cultures and a rennet enzyme tablet dissolved in 1/4 cup of water work in harmony to separate milk, forming curds. Add both to a mixture of 1 gallon 1 or 2 percent milk and 1 gallon of whole milk, heated to 77 F and cooled for five minutes. Cover the pot with a towel and allow the milk to sit at room temperature for 24 hours as the liquid and curds separate. Move the curds to a cheesecloth-covered sieve, drain another four hours, leaving only the quark behind in the sieve.
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