Quark - It's not JUST a Sub-Atomic Particle!
Hi, chowhound chefs! I haven't posted in a while. I bet I missed a whole lot of good recipes - if I can figure out how to scan old posts I'll have to check. Anyhow, I've been sick, but I'm feeling better, and have a hot cooking tip to share. It's "Quark" and as a cooking ingredient, as opposed to also being some sort of sub-atomic particle, it's very versatile.
I've posted on various boards looking for a fine plain yogurt near SF, but never found one I really thought was outstanding (hello, Ruth Laffler). It's not like I ever just EAT yogurt with fruit or sweet the way many people do. (if I was going to discuss that it would mean posting this to a different board) - I was looking for a fine yogurt to use as a cooking ingredient. In the past, I have used plain yogurt or sour cream to cook with, in recipes, in mac n' cheese, on noodles with butter - that sort of thing. But often, sour cream or cream cheese are too fatty, rictta too grainy, creme fraiche too expensive, and yogurt just too darn sour tasting - there seemed to be no ideal dairy solution.
A couple of weeks ago I shopped the Berkeley Bowl for the first time and thought I was buying "Quark" brand plain yogurt. When I unpacked I was kind of unpleasantly surprised to find "Quark" is not yogurt at all. It is, according to the label, "A European style cheese." Soft but not watery - thicker than sour cream or yogurt but not as solid as cream cheese, smooth, white, made from cultured milk, lightly creamy - 160 calories for 1/2 cup.
So I used it just mixed in at the last moment in mac n' cheese with broccoli minced in, lasagna substituting for ricotta, with egg noodles/butter/minced scallions. It is absolutely fabulous! This Quark is some kind of perfect dairy product mutation! It's not too sweet, it's not too sour, it's not too fatty - it's just right...perfect. I can see where it would be a superior substitute for sour cream, yogurt, ricotta or cream cheese. The label says to substitute for any of those in sweet or savory recipes, even cheesecake, on a one to one ratio.
Quark is not "european style cheese". As a german (and quark originated in Germany) I can only say that quark is one of the highlights of food on this planet. :)) And I really miss good quark in the US. But you can make quark (and yogurt) very easily with this quark maker.
If you need some ideas about what to do with quark, here are two ideas:
- Cut some strawberries, mix them with quark and add a little bit of sugar. Mash everything to a nice puree => delicious dessert
- Cut some onion and chive, mix it with quark and add salt and pepper => good spread for fresh bread
You've conviced me. $28 for a quarkmaker seems a bargain. Should I freeze the quark I have left to use as a "mother" culture for when the machine comes in the mail? It might get moldy in the fridge by then. Or do they include some culture to start with along with the machine?
I first tasted quark when I stayed at a colleague's family home in Munich and thought I had died and gone to heaven. It makes the most amazing cheesecake you've ever had, as well as all the uses mentioned above. I have never understood why it's not widely available here in the US -- it has everything going for it.
You can also make quark while you sleep!
Pour buttermilk into an ovenproof container with lid (I have an old pyrex lasagne pan with a glass lid from my mother -- the kind with the blue flower on it -- that I use). Put it in the oven at very low temperature (I set my oven at 150 F) for 8 hours (this is the while you sleep part). Then scrape the thickened buttermilk into a colander lined with either several layers of cheesecloth or a floursack towel set over a bowl (like when you make yogurt cheese). Put it in the refrigerator to drain. Go do whatever you do during the day and when you come home, you will have lovely quark!
My college roommate had a lovely story about the quark that her family makes for themselves. When her grandmother prepared to leave Sweden to come to the US, someone had tipped her that quark was not available here. She carefully dried some quark on a cotton handkerchief to carry her "culture" here.
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Hi Niki, glad to see you back. Missed you.
Anyway, I’ve been following quark articles in the SF Chronicle for a couple of years after this 1999 article about Cowgirl Creamery’s quark caught my attention, comparing it to Cowgirl’s cottage cheese ...
“Similar but a little drier is nonfat quark, a central and northern European cheese made from uncooked curds with yogurt and buttermilk cultures. Bill Straus remembers it from his German childhood as ``a thick, tart spread . . . smeared on toast in the morning, plopped on baked potatoes in the evening and scooped onto fresh fruit for dessert.''
Because it has that German heritage, the hint of spreading it on top of rye bread and topping with cherry jam worked very nicely. Nice on bagels too.
After reading that article, I bought my first quark from Cowgirl creamery.
OK, I'm going to mention a lot of SF sources of quark because that is my experience and it shows how quark can vary wildly ... there is even flavored quark.
I don’t know if they still make it but Marin French Cheese (Rouge et Noir) once sold good quark including a great wild blackberry flavor.
Speaking of which, Spring Hill Jersey Cheese makes the best quark in the Bay Area and has some lovely flavored quarks. I loved their pumpkin last year ... drove out of my way in Petaluma to buy some. They also sell at farmers markets. ...
I’m not so crazy about Cowgirl creamery’s quark though. It is the tangiest and driest of the quarks that I've tried while Spring Hill's is more like a light lovely cream cheese.
The point being that there are all types of quark as this last Chronicle link says (with quark souffle recipe and other ideas)
“Commercial quark varies considerably from one manufacturer to the next. The texture can be as soft, smooth and spoonable as thick crème fraîche, or dense and spreadable like a whipped cream cheese. Its flavor is mild, not tangy, with a faint cultured taste.”
I’ve never tried Trader Joe’s quark, but I’ve see it there. Ditto for Euromix, a newish Euro market in Oakland or the Junket in El Cerrito. I’ve never looked but I’ll bet some of those Russian places like New World Dairy on Geary sell it. Never been to the German store somewhere around Church, but I’ll bet it is there too. Again, just a heads up that not all quark is created equally and may vary a lot ... well, like almost any cheese.
Maybe others have tried these and could comment on say Trader Joe's version or how quark at a Euromarket might taste.
Hmmm ... need to get back to Spring Hill to see what their current flavors are ... they had a lovely lemon once. Thanks for reminding me about quark.
Oh yeah, the calories and fat content might vary wildly too.
You've been pretty creative with it, but here's some additional recipes and recipes ...
Amoung others the balsamic mushroom dip and the quiche sound good.
Pork with mustard and quark
Well, hi ho rw! Thanks for the very kind thoughts. Looks like, as is often the case, I'm the last to know...sounds like everybody but me already knows all about quark. But it's not really popular or else there would be mass marketing, media campaigns, TV commercials, spokesmodels...that sort of thing. Based on just how wonderful quark is, making yogurt and sour cream both seem kind of nasty - the former for its sourness, the latter for its fattiness - somebody is eventually going to get rich staging the first mass marketing campaign for QUARK.
So, right after I read honkman's (there's got to be a story behind that handle) scoop about where to get a dirt cheap electric quarkmaker, I was on the phone with Katerina who had a heavy duty German accent, in Keno(!)Oregon, ordering the quarkmaker. It should arrive "BY Vensday!" (or else?) - and I VILL report back on my results. All in all, dealing with Katerina at the "German Corner" in Keno was pleasant although she does hold some eccentric nutritional beliefs, one of which involves serving quark with flax seed oil mixed in. At least she agreed that although it's healthy it tastes horrible. The only hitch came when she persisted in spending about ten minutes regaling me with the culinary wonders I MUST enjoy at Oktoberfest at Fort mason in SF. "Zere vill be zooo many Germans there! You vill love it!" Well, it was her dime, so she could talk till the cows come home (to make QUARK!) about Oktoberfest, I'm still not going.
Anyhow..."QUARK!" maybe it's not more popular than yogurt, even though it tastes much better, because of that oddball moniker..."Quark!" Try to picture...who? Paris Hilton(?) wearing a skimpy outfit and saying "QUARK!" over and over in a TV commercial. Franky, if anything, it would put a damper on my appetite.
One last tip from Katerina. She said I was incredibly lucky with my dumb luck - thinking I was buying yogurt, and stumbling on Appel Farms Quark. She IS in a position to know, and her opinion is that the brand I accidentally purchased, Appel Farms (Wash.) is THE BEST quark on the market in the U.S.
And lastly rw, thanks for all those "QUARK!" recipes. You gave me my first laugh of the day (clocking in at 7:30 a.m.)...it was your recipe for "Pork and Quark" - say it out loud, fast, several times...heh.
Good shabbos, everybody!
To get info. on where to purchase Appel Farms QUARK: