Quark (dairy product)
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Quark or quarg is a type of fresh dairy product made from milk. The milk is soured, usually by adding lactic acid bacteria cultures, and strained once the desired curdling is achieved. It can be classified as fresh acid-set cheese. Traditional quark can be made without rennet, but in modern dairies small quantities of rennet are typically added. It is soft, white and unaged, and usually has no salt added. It is traditional in the cuisines of Baltic, Germanic and Slavic-speaking countries.
Dictionaries sometimes translate it as curd cheese, cottage cheese, farmer cheese or junket. In Germany, quark and cottage cheese are considered to be different types of fresh cheese and quark is often not considered cheese at all, while in Eastern Europe cottage cheese is usually viewed as a type of quark (e.g. Russian for cottage cheese is "зернёный творог" zernyony tvorog, literally "grainy quark").
Quark is similar to French fromage blanc, Indian paneer, and the queso fresco/queijo fresco made in the Iberian Peninsula and in some Latin American countries. It is distinct from Italian ricotta because ricotta (Italian "recooked") is made from scalded whey. Quark is somewhat similar to yogurt cheeses such as the South Asian chak(k)a, Bengali chhena, the Arabic labneh, and the Central Asian suzma or kashk, but while these products are obtained by straining yogurt (milk fermented with thermophile bacteria), quark is made from soured milk fermented with mesophile bacteria.
Quark is possibly described by Tacitus in his book Germania as lac concretum ("thick milk"), eaten by Germanic peoples. However, this could also have meant soured milk or any other kind of fresh cheese or fermented milk product.
Although quark is sometimes referred to loosely as a type of "cottage cheese", they can be distinguished by the different production aspects and textural quality, with the cottage cheese grains described as more chewy or meaty.
The word Quark (Late Middle High German: quarc, twarc, zwarg; Lower Saxon: dwarg), with usage in German documented since the 14th century, is thought to derive from a West Slavic equivalent, such as Lower Sorbian twarog, Upper Sorbian twaroh, Polish twaróg, Czech and Slovak tvaroh, and is also cognate with Russian tvorog (творог) and Belarusian: tvaroh (тварог).
The original Old Slavonic tvarogъ (тварогъ) is supposed to be related to the Church Slavonic творъ, tr. tvor, meaning "form". The meaning can thus be interpreted as "milk that solidified and took a form". The word formation is thus similar to that of the Italian formaggio and French fromage.
- More cognates and forms
In several languages quark is also known as "white cheese" (French: fromage blanc, southern German: Weißkäse or weißer Käs, Hebrew: גבינה לבנה, romanized: gevina levana, Lithuanian: baltas sūris, Polish: biały ser, Serbian: beli sir), as opposed to any rennet-set "yellow cheese". Another French name for it is fromage frais (fresh cheese), where the difference to fromage blanc is defined by French legislation: a product named fromage frais must contain live cultures when sold, whereas with fromage blanc fermentation has been halted. In Swiss French, it is usually called séré.
In Israel, gevina levana denotes the creamy variety similar to the German types of quark. The firmer version which was introduced to Israel during the Aliyah of the 1990s by immigrants from the former Soviet Union is differentiated as tvorog.
In Austria, the name Topfen (pot cheese) is common. In Flanders, it is called plattekaas (runny cheese). In Finnish, it is known as rahka, while in Estonian as kohupiim (foamy milk), in Lithuanian as varškės sūris (curd cheese), and in Latvian as biezpiens (thick milk). Its Italian name is giuncata or cagliata (curd). Among the Albanians quark is known as gjizë.
Quark is a member of the acid-set cheese group, whose coagulation mainly relies on the acidity produced by lactic acid bacteria feeding on the lactose.[a] But moderate amounts of rennet have also been in use, both at the home consumption level and the industrial level.
Manufacture of quark normally uses pasteurized skim milk as main ingredient, but cream can be added later to adjust fat content. The lactic acid bacteria are introduced in the form of mesophilic Lactococcus starter cultures. In the dairy industry today, quark is mostly produced with a small quantity of rennet, added after the culture when the solution is still only slightly acidic (ph 6.1). The solution will then continue to acidify, allowed to reach an approximate pH of 4.6. At this point, the acidity causes the casein proteins in the milk to begin precipitating.
In Germany, it is continuously stirred to prevent hardening, resulting in a thick, creamy texture. According to German regulations on cheese (Käseverordnung), "fresh cheeses" (Frischkäse) such as quark or cottage cheese must contain at least 73% water in the fat-free component. German quark is usually sold in plastic tubs. This type of quark has the firmness of sour cream but is slightly drier, resulting in a somewhat crumbly texture (like ricotta).
Basic quark contains about 0.2% fat; this basic quark or skimmed quark (Magerquark) must under German law have less than 10% fat by dry mass. Quark with higher fat content is made by adding cream after cooling. It has a smooth and creamy texture, and is slightly sweet (unlike sour cream). A firmer version called Schichtkäse (layer cheese) is often used for baking. Schichtkäse is distinguished from quark by having an added layer of cream sandwiched between two layers of quark.
In the 19th century, there was no industrial production of quark (as end-product) and it was produced entirely for home use. In the traditional home-made process, the milk would be allowed to let stand until it soured naturally by the presence of naturally occurring bacteria, although the hardening could be encouraged with the addition of some rennet.
Some or most of the whey is removed to standardize the quark to the desired thickness. Traditionally, this is done by hanging the cheese in a muslin bag or a loosely woven cotton gauze called cheesecloth and letting the whey drip off, which gives quark its distinctive shape of a wedge with rounded edges. In industrial production, however, cheese is separated from whey in a centrifuge and later formed into blocks.
Variations in quark preparation occur across different regions of Germany and Austria. Most of the Austrian and other Central and Eastern European varieties contain less whey and are therefore drier and more solid than the German and Scandinavian ones.
In the Netherlands, many products labelled "kwark" are not based on quark as described in this article (fresh acid-set cheese), but instead a thick yogurt-like product made using yogurt bacteria (such as Streptococcus thermophilus and Lactobacillus acidophilus) in a quicker process using a centrifuge.
Under Russian governmental regulations, tvorog is distinguished from cheeses, and classified as a separate type of dairy product. Typical tvorog usually contain 65–80% water out of the total mass.
Various cuisines feature quark as an ingredient for appetizers, salads, main dishes, side dishes and desserts.
In Germany, quark is sold in cubic plastic tubs and usually comes in three different varieties, Magerquark (skimmed quark, <10% fat by dry mass.), "regular" quark (20% fat in dry mass[b]) and Sahnequark ("creamy quark", 40% fat in dry mass[c]) with added cream. Similar gradations in fat content are also common in Eastern Europe.
While Magerquark is often used for baking or is eaten as breakfast with a side of fruit or muesli, Sahnequark also forms the basis of a large number of quark desserts (called Quarkspeise when homemade or Quarkdessert when sold in German).
Dishes in Germanic-speaking areas
One common use for quark is in making cheesecake called Käsekuchen or Quarkkuchen in Germany. Quark cheesecake is called Topfenkuchen in Austria. The Quarktorte in Switzerland may be equivalent, though this has also been described as a torte that combines quark and cream.[d]
In neighboring Netherlands there is a different variant; these cakes, called kwarktaart in Dutch, usually have a cookie crumb crust, and the quark is typically mixed with whipped cream, gelatine, and sugar. These cakes do not require baking or frying, but instead are placed in the refrigerator to firm up. They may be made with quark or with the yogurt-like quark that is common in the Netherlands (see above).
Quark is also often used as an ingredient for sandwiches, salads, and savory dishes. Quark, vegetable oil and wheat flour are the ingredients of a popular kind of dough, called Quarkölteig, used in German cuisine as an alternative to yeast-leavened dough in home baking, since it is considerably easier to handle and requires no rising period. The resulting baked goods look and taste very similar to yeast-leavened goods, although they do not last as long and are thus usually consumed immediately after baking.
In Germany, quark mixed with chopped onions and herbs like parsley and chives is called Kräuterquark. Kräuterquark is commonly eaten with boiled potatoes and has some similarity to tzatziki which is based on yoghurt. Quark with linseed oil and potatoes is the national dish of the Sorbs in Lusatia. Quark also has been used among Ashkenazi Jews.
Slavic and Baltic countries
Desserts using quarks (Russian: tvorog, etc.) in Slavic regions include the tvarohovník in Slovakia, tvarožník in Czech Republic, sernik in Poland, and syrnyk in Ukraine) and cheese pancakes (syrnyky in Russia and Ukraine).
In Poland, twaróg is mixed with mashed potatoes to produce a filling for pierogi. Twaróg is also used to make gnocchi-shaped dumplings called leniwe pierogi ("lazy pierogi"). Ukrainian recipes for varenyky or lazy varenyky are similar but tvorog and mashed potatoes are different fillings which are usually not mixed together.
In Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, tvorog (Russian: творог) is highly popular and is bought frequently by almost every family. In Russian families, it is especially recommended for growing babies. It can be enjoyed simply with sour cream, or jam, sugar, sugar condensed milk, or as a breakfast food. It is often used as a stuffing in blinchiki offered at many fast-food restaurants. It is also commonly used as the base for making Easter cakes. It is mixed with eggs, sugar, raisins and nuts and dried into a solid pyramid-shaped mass called paskha. The mass can also be fried, then known as syrniki.
In Latvia, quark is eaten savory mixed with sour cream and scallions on rye bread or with potatoes. In desserts, quark is commonly baked into biezpiena plātsmaize, a crusted sheet cake baked with or without raisins. A sweetened treat biezpiena sieriņš (small curd cheese) is made of small sweetened blocks of quark dipped in chocolate.
Estonian Quark is evaluated on olfaction, vision, taste, after taste, and texture and is distributed nationally as well as to nearby regions.
Availability in other countries
Although common in continental Europe, manufacturing of quark is rare in the Americas. A few dairies manufacture it, such as the Vermont Creamery in Vermont, and some specialty retailers carry it. Lifeway Foods manufactures a product under the title "farmer cheese" which is available in a variety of metropolitan locations with Jewish, as well as former Soviet populations. Elli Quark, a Californian manufacturer of quark, offers soft quark in different flavors.
In Canada, the firmer East European variety of quark is manufactured by Liberté Natural Foods; a softer German-style quark is manufactured in the Didsbury, Alberta, plant of Calgary-based Foothills Creamery. Glengarry Fine Cheesemaking in Lancaster (Eastern Ontario) also produces Quark. Also available in Canada is the very similar Dry Curd Cottage Cheese manufactured by Dairyland. Quark may also be available as baking cheese, pressed cottage cheese, or fromage frais.
In the United Kingdom, fat-free quark is produced by several independent manufacturers based throughout the country. All the big four supermarkets in the UK sell their own branded quark, as well as other brands of quark.
In Finland, quark (rahka) is commonly available in supermarkets, both in plain and flavored forms. It is produced by Arla, Valio and is also sold under private labels by Kesko and S Group. It is often used as a dessert when mixed with berries and whipped cream. Karelians have a dish called piimäpiirakka, which is a quark pie.
- This group is distinguished from the "rennet cheeses", whose coagulation relies primarily on the action of rennet, in Fox's classification scheme (1993).
- 20% FDM is also referred to as "half fat".
- 40% FDM is also referred to as "full fat".
- "Was in der deutschen Schweiz eine Quarktorte, ist in Deutschland eine Käsesahnetorte, denn Käsesahne ist eine süsse Creme aus Quark und Sahne."
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- Drusch & Einhorn-Stoll (2016), p. 24.
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