Let’s talk about… Quark and other dairy products I use

I promised to show you how to make these a while ago, and I finally got around to write it down. I still don’t have process photos because I haven’t made any of these dairy products in a while. There were construction issues on the way to my raw milk source, car issues, a closed farm shop due to vacation, and me beign busy with other stuff. The dairy making got shoved first to the back burner and then completely out of the kitchen. But I can at least tell you how to do it now and maybe add some photos later.

There are several dairy products that I love to use in the kitchen. They’re all readily available here and I got used to having them in the fridge. Unfortunately, they aren’t so readily available everywhere else, and while using substitutes is completely okay, the end result is always a little bit different.

Quark (left in the photo) is basically just milk solids. Milk gets sour and coagulates, splits into solids (quark) and a thin liquid (whey). With raw milk, it happens naturally when the milk is kept at room temperature for a few days. That split milk is then called clabber and can be run through a mesh strainer with a butter muslin to remove the whey from the solids. What’s left is quark.

You can force the process by heating store bought fresh milk to 40°C / 105F and mixing it with with a bit of buttermilk with active cultures.

You need 50g of buttermilk for 1 liter of milk. If you have a yogurt maker or an instant pot with a yogurt setting, it’s a great help. Otherwise you can use a thermos to keep the inoculated milk warm. This takes about 12 hours. Once the milk is split, use a colander with a layer of butter muslin and let the whey drip off. What’s left in the colander is quark.

We have several kinds of quark here in Germany, varying in fat content from 0.1% to a mascarpone style 80%. I mostly use the 1.5% which you can get with skim milk. But feel free to play around with full milk or even half and half. The quark will get richer and creamier and perfect for desserts.

Quark is used here mainly for baking, desserts and dips. But it’s also a great home remedy. It reduces swelling, inflammation and pain. It can be used either cool or warm. Cool wraps/poultices are great for things like light (sun)burns, insect bites, sprains, bruises and inflammation of the joints. You use the quark like a salve and cover the affected area generously, then cover it with a damp cloth and maybe a cold gel compress from the fridge. About half an hour, 5 times a day.
Warm poultices help with congestion due to bronchitis and sore throats. Same process as above, just warm the quark in a waterbath.

But I’m getting severely off topic here. Back to the culinary things.

Skyr (middle) is an icelandic fresh cheese made from cow’s or sheep’s milk. They use skim milk, let it sour and drip the whey off. Same process as the quark, but for some reason real skyr is always much creamier. The one we can buy here in Germany feels a bit off from what I had in iceland.

To copy the original mouthfeel, I use 1 liter of skim milk with 200g of sour cream plus the 50g of active buttermilk. Same process as the quark one. What’s left in the butter muslin is a perfect skyr substitute.

Crème Fraîche (right) is a cultured cream with a high fat content. It’s heat stable and has a fine, slightly tart taste. I mostly use in small doses to give a bit of finesse to soups and other dishes. Mixed with herbs or just salt and pepper it’s the sauce for Flammkuchen, a thin flatbread topped with onions and bacon.

You can make it yourself by mixing 200g heavy cream (or just regular cream for a leaner version) with 2 Tbsp of buttermilk. As before, make sure it has living cultures.
Mix the two in a jar, close the lid loosely and let it stand at room temperature for 12-48 hours. Time depends on the temperature in your kitchen. The warmer it is, the faster it’s done. When it’s thickened and smells slightly sour, it’s ready for cooking.

All your selfmade dairy can be stored in the fridge for a week or two. Just be aware that the cultures are only slowing down in the cold. Your dairy will get more and more sour over time.

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