Thursday, March 4, 2010

Quark, versatile quark

If you followed Lindsey Vonn’s story during the Olympics last week, you probably heard about how this world-class skier used cheese to help heal her bruised shin. That’s right, cheese. Quark, to be more precise. Vonn applied it topically as a poultice, and it must have done the trick because she medaled – gold, in fact.

In the United States, quark is a relatively unknown delicacy, but in Europe it’s easy to find in dairy cases, alongside yogurt and soft cheeses. I remember eating boat loads of it in Germany, where I was an exchange student in the early nineties. My host family ate quark as a snack, more often than yogurt in fact. They liked that it was creamier than yogurt -- and less sour. With fresh berries, it was delicious.

Given quark’s recent press, you just might start seeing it state-side. It’s worth trying, especially if you’re looking for a low-fat, low-salt alternative to sour cream or even cream cheese. It’s much more flavorful than most low-fat dairy products I’ve tasted, which are often gelatinous and without taste. Quark reminds me of Greek Yogurt – thick, smooth, substantive – but with a fresh, lemony twist that calls to mind mascarpone, the Italian cheese used in Tiramisu.

Vermont Butter & Cheese Company makes a wonderful version of quark that tastes even better than the slightly gritty German brand I remember. This artisanal cheese company specializes in European soft cheeses, including fromage blanc and crème fraiche, and has made a name for itself by using quality r-BGH free Vermont milk.

If you find yourself grinning before a tub of quark in the dairy case (try Whole Foods; some of their locations carry it), here are a few things you can do with it, aside from slathering it on bruises:

            -top quark with brown sugar, granola, and fruit
            -serve it on a baked potato, with chives
            -spread it on fresh bread with sliced cukes
            -put a dab of quark on pureed soups 
            -mix quark with cinnamon sugar and use it to top waffles


  1. We carry quark at Fair Food Farmstand every once in awhile from Keswick Creamery Kate made a cheesecake out of it and some whole milk ricotta from Keswick.

  2. Oooo, sweeet! I wondered if someone was making quark locally. Thanks for the heads up, Albert.

  3. I sure hope we see more quark. I know it as "tvaroh" (its Czech name) and also as tvarog (other slavic languages; Russian, etc). In the Czech Republic, there is a hard version you can grate and then the softer, more yogurt-like type. I absolutely love it. I think it's not necessarily that tricky to make at home, I just need to sit down, peruse a few cookbooks, and figure out how.

  4. We make both German quark as well as a less gritty plain and a garlic and dill quark at Brookford Farm in NH. All organic grass fed cows milk. Check us out and see our other products, including raw milk a heritage stone ground wheat!