I had heard of “quark” but other than it being some sort of cultured milk product I didn’t know anything about it. Perhaps I still don’t since the definition and method varies from region to region. The term popped up again in one of my meanderings and I finally took the time to read up on it. From what I gather it is essentially buttermilk which has had the whey drained from it, in the same way yogurt is hung to make Greek style yogurt. I was determined to make quark.
I will say at the outset that I am by no means an authoritative disseminator of information on this subject or any other. Well… I could tell you a thing or two about laying brick and setting stone, but that’s about it. I merely report on my experiences and leave it to the reader to rely on their own research and intuition to ascertain what is right.
I have made buttermilk a number of times by pouring 2% milk into a sterile quart jar and adding 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk for a starter. This was left at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours until thickened. I have always used milk straight out of the refrigerator. The majority of opinions out there are that to be safe the milk must be heated to 180ºF. The theory is that wild, potentially undesirable bacteria which are present everywhere in the air may have been introduced into the milk and can have undesired influence on the outcome if not killed by heat.
Consumate skeptic that I am makes me question that logic. Here is my thinking: After heating the milk it must be brought down to room temperature before the culture can be added or the culture will be killed. That involves a lot more time being exposed to wild bacteria than the few seconds of exposure when the cap is removed from the jug of already pasteurized milk. Of course it is of utmost importance to use sterile equipment whether the milk is heated or not. Please note that I am not advocating that others use one method over the other. I am just relating what I have done.
Moving on to my first attempt at making quark: I proceeded to make buttermilk as I am accustomed, using 2% milk and cultured buttermilk straight out of the refrigerator (quart jar not quite filled with milk plus 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk). Instead of leaving it at room temperature for one day I left it out for two full days. I then transferred the newly made buttermilk curds into a strainer lined with cheesecloth.
As the whey drained I was able to gather up the cheesecloth and tie it off in a bundle.
After a time draining in the strainer (by now in the refrigerator) I hung the bundle of curds to better drip away the whey. Of course all of the whey was saved for other purposes.
When the dripping stopped (at least a day) the quark was ready. This stuff is great! It is hardly tart at all. I would describe it as somewhere between sour cream and cream cheese. This is a project I will be repeating again and again. It is well worth the time (most of it waiting) and effort.