Quark is a soft, unripened white cheese that usually comes in tubs or vacu-packs. The curds are usually homogenized so that it is smooth and looks like sour cream, though some styles leave the curds intact. The cheese has a tang similar to sour cream.
To make it, milk is pasteurized, then coagulated with rennet and soured with a bacterial starter culture of either “Lactococcus lactis” or “Lactococcus lactis subsp cremoris.” The curd is cut, then the whey is drained.
Quark is very popular in Germany, where it still outsells yoghurt. It is also popular in Eastern Europe where it’s called “Tvorog” or “Tvaroh“.
You can buy it plain, or with fruit, herbs or other flavourings mixed in.
Magerquark is the low-fat version of quark, made from skim milk. In fact, it tastes like skim milk, with no real additional taste. This is the most common version — it’s so common that many people think it’s the only version. It has a richer texture than sour cream or yoghurt, though the calories are the same or less. Mager means “thin” (think “maigre” in French.)
Sahnequark is the high fat version of quark made with on average 4 parts whole milk to 1 part cream. It tastes similar to cottage cheese, but without any salt added to it.
“Sahne” means “cream” in German.
You can use quark as a topping for baked potatoes, and as an ingredient in baking. If you ever use quark in sauces, don’t let it come to a boil: because it’s so low-fat, it will curdle on you in the blink of an eye.
For baking, it is typically plain versions of quark you want, not flavoured.
You can use thicker quark as a spread in a sandwich, as you would cream cheese, then add other toppings.
Store-shelf substitutes for quark
Homemade substitute for quark
The following guidelines will make 100 g (¼ pound) of the coarser, grainy type of quark. You can easily double or triple the recipe.
Pour 2 litres (8 cups / 64 oz / just over 3 pints) of active-culture buttermilk into an ovenproof dish with a cover. Cover, and place in oven at 65 C (150 F) overnight. Then, line a colander with cheesecloth or a clean, old nylon. Place in the sink and pour the buttermilk into it (it will be lumpy). Fold the cloth over it, and let drain for 6 hours at room temperature (if you need the sink, you can transfer the cheese to a Dutch oven or large bowl that will hold the colander, draining the large pot or bowl periodically.) To speed the draining process up, you can press lightly down on the cloth from time to time.
½ cup quark ≈ 100 g (3.5 oz)