Friday, June 5, 2009

Quark is Not Just a Subatomic Particle

The FreeDictionary has two definitions for "quark." The first: "Any of a group of six elementary particles having electric charges of a magnitude one-third or two-thirds that of the electron, regarded as constituents of all hadrons." The second: "A soft creamy acid-cured cheese of central Europe made from whole milk." Guess which one I've been playing with!

Quark is simply milk heated, soured by acid, and wrung out. Quark spread on toast is to die for.

There are many sets of instructions for quark on the web and I've made two batches so far trying to develop quark-making skills.

First, you must get milk that is not ultra-pasteurized. Ultra-pasteurized milk has been heated to such a high temperature that the proteins in it will not form a curd. Local milk brands are less likely to be ultra-pasteurized than more widely distributed brands. The container should tell you whether the milk is pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized.

The acid can be anything. My first batch was made with a combination of lemon juice and rice vinegar. The second batch was all lemon juice. Acidity varies. If at first your mixture doesn't want to separate, heat it back up and add more acid.

It can be flavored with anything. The second batch made with all lemon juice was flavored with the lemons' zest. I'm looking forward to trying lots of other sweet or savory additions.

Equipment needed to make quark:
  • a heavy sauce pan for heating the milk
  • a spoon for stirring occasionally to prevent scalding and to break the skin that forms during heating.
  • a thermometer or a good sense of when the milk is 180°-190° Fahrenheit.
  • A sieve or collander with lined cheesecloth or muslin.
  • Something to catch the whey.
  • Something to wrap the cheese in (e.g. freezer paper, waxed paper, plastic wrap, etc.)
  • 1/2 gallon pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized milk)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup acid (e.g. lemon juice, vinegar, etc.)
  • salt (optional)
  • flavoring (optional)
  1. Heat milk slowly in a heavy saucepan to 180°-190° Fahrenheit. Try hard not to scald the milk on the bottom of the pan. If you do scald the milk, be careful not to scrape the bottom when you stir it.
  2. Remove from heat and add the acid, stirring once.
  3. Cover and let sit for an hour or more. By this point, the milk should have turned into a slurry of milk solids and clear liquid. If the liquid is still milky, add more acid and reheat.
  4. Strain the liquid through the cloth, catching the curds and discarding the whey. At this point you can add the salt if desired.
  5. As the draining slows, form a ball by gathering and twisting the edges of the cloth. The more you wring, the dryer and crumblier the cheese will be.
  6. Form the cheese into the desired shape, wrap and refrigerate.
That's all there is to it.

My first batch, which I had to reheat and add vinegar to when the juice of one lemon wasn't acidic enough, was smoother than my second batch. The second batch tasted wonderful being made all with lemon juice and having had the lemon zest added to the hot milk but I think I should have added just a touch of sugar to it as well. I am going to do another experiment to see if the second heating results in the smoother cheese. So far, I've only tried whole milk but some web sites say you can use low fat milk as well.

Imagine making a "vinegar batch," chopping up some oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes adding them before you shape the cheese. Serve this with some of the tomato oil drizzled over it as a spread for crackers. Yum.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Imprecise & Inexpensive

Two themes predominate in my approach to cooking. 1. Daily cooking of flavorful food need not be a precise art. 2. You can be an adventurous cook on a budget. Cooking and eating should be fun for both cookers and eaters.