Q: What is quark? I’ve seen it in some recipe magazines, but don’t know what to look for in the store.
Answer: Quark is a fermented dairy product that is similar to — but not the same as — yogurt. Depending on what country made the quark, or where the recipe is from, the intended product could be almost as soft as Greek yogurt or firm enough to hold its shape or be sliced. Look at what the finished product of your recipe is to decide what type you need.
Quark and yogurt are made by slightly different procedures. For yogurt, the milk is first heated or scalded, then the bacteria are added and allowed to sour the milk sugar. The acid makes the proteins coagulate, but because they were scalded first, they don’t stick together.
For quark, the milk is just warmed instead of scalded and soured using different bacteria. Different bacteria give slightly different flavors. In some countries that traditionally make quark, the milk is stirred often. As it sours and thickens, the stirring keeps it creamy and smooth. If this is drained, it will be crumbly. If it is not stirred, the milk forms soft curds that can then be drained and formed into loaves to make firmer cheese.
Like yogurt, quark can be flavored or sweetened, so look at the flavors in your recipe before you decide which to buy. In the Midwest, firmer quark is often called “farmers cheese,” but I guess there’s more money to be made calling it quark. Maybe it’s more exotic sounding.
Mary A. Keith, a licensed dietitian and health agent at Hillsborough County Extension, can be reached at [email protected]