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Quark:a low-fat, high-protein creamy European cheese you've got to try

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Quark, the German word for "curd" is a fresh, mild cheese popular in central Europe and Austria (where it is called topfen.)

According to Igourmet, "This cow's milk cheese, produced all over Central Europe, is virtually identical to Fromage Blanc, but is whipped before packaging and has a slightly higher fat content. Quark can be eaten like yogurt, blended with fruit or jam. It is also a common ingredient used in filled pastries, savory and sweet sauces, spreads, soufflés, cheesecakes, and mousses. Quark is so popular in Germany that it accounts for almost half of that country's total cheese production. The average German eats about 10 lbs. of Quark a year!"

Popular as it may be in Germany, you are not likely to see Quark in your local grocery store, but most good cheese sellers are well acquainted with the delicious, yogurty, creamy cheese, and it's highly available online. Better yet, it's so easy to make at home, why wouldn't you?

Quark is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. because it is typically a low-fat, low-sodium, yet quality source of protein. The sour cream-like cheese spreads nicely on bread, and makes a perfect substitute in recipes that call for cream cheese, sour cream, or ricotta. Plain, or enhanced with your favorite additions such as chives, horseradish, paprika, cherries, strawberries, apples and all kind of other fresh fruits, Quark is a great addition to your palate, and your table. Best of all, like most soft cheeses, Quark is ridiculously simple to make at home.

Find Quark at the retailers below, or follow this easy recipe from SplendidTable.org:

Place two cups of good quality milk in a scrupulously clean pot. Bring it barely to a simmer on the stove, then remove from the heat. Let it come to room temperature. Whisk in about 1/2 cup of cultured buttermilk. Let the mixture sit overnight at room temperature. In the morning, it will have thickened to a yogurt-like consistency. Strain the mixture overnight in a cheesecloth-lined strainer. You will wake up to delicious fresh cheese in the morning. Refrigerate.

Here is PeanutbutterBoy.com's version:

Ingredients:

1 quart cultured buttermilk (1% fat)

1/4 cup skim milk, as needed

kosher salt, to taste

glass baking dish
kitchen towel, linen or cheesecloth
strainer or colander

Directions:

1. Set oven to 150F. Pour buttermilk into the baking dish and cover with a lid or tinfoil. If the lid is plastic or rubber, make sure it’s dishwasher safe – if so, it should be fine at 150 degrees in the oven. Place the dish in the oven and let it sit overnight, or about 8-12 hours.

2. In the morning, remove the dish from the oven. Place the strainer in the sink or a large pot and line it with the linen. Spoon or pour the contents of the baking dish into the strainer. You’ll notice that the curd (solid) has partially separated from the whey (liquid). Cover the cheese with the ends of the cloth and let it drain in the sink for 30-60 minutes. To speed up the process, fill a bowl or sealed container with water and place on top to weigh it down. 30 min seemed sufficient for my batch.

3. Dump the contents into a bowl and refrigerate. Once chilled, add milk 2T at a time until it is smooth and easy to spread with a texture similar to creamy ricotta cheese. Add salt to taste. Makes 8oz or about 1 to 1-1/2 cups.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1/2 cup
Servings per Batch 3
Amount Per Serving
Calories 65
Total Fat 0.2g
Saturated Fat 0g
Total Carbohydrate 4g
Dietary Fiber 0g
Sugars 3g
Protein 11.5g

Not in the cheese-making mood? Here is where you can easily buy or order Quark cheese:

Igourmet. Quark Cheese is an Igourmet award winning cheese, perfect for cooking soufflés, cheesecakes, and mousses. A quick sell-out online.

Vermont Creamery. The Quark Cheese that the Vermont Creamery sells is 11% butterfat and holds a shelf life of 60 days, according to the website.

Spring Hill Jersey Cheese Company offers all natural, no artificial hormones, Quark Cheese in three flavors: plain, garlic herb, and lemon.

Amazon.com. Appel Farms, and Vermont Creamery brands

In the mood for a drive: In Minneapolis, try the Seward Community CoOp. This co-op carries quark from Iowa’s Milton Creamery. "These are the same folks who make the fabulous Prairie Breeze Cheddar; Seward Co-op’s top selling artisan cheese and the first place winner in its category at the 2009 American Cheese Society competition. Milton Creamery’s milk comes from Amish dairy farms, which practice extensive pasture grazing, which yields herby, fresh, grassy tasting milk and makes a great tasting cheese."

In New York, Hawthorne Valley Farm.

In Washington, Appel Farms.

In Nebraska, Branched Oak Farm.

In Ohio, Blue Jacket Dairy.

In California, Spring Hill Cheese.

Lastly, don't forget your local farmers' market!

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