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Quark is a type of fresh dairy product. It is made by warming soured milk until the desired degree of coagulation (denaturation) of milk proteins is met, and then strained. Dictionaries usually translate it as curd cheese or cottage cheese, although most commercial varieties of cottage cheese are made with rennet, whereas traditional quark is not. It is soft, white and unaged, similar to some types of fromage blanc. It is distinct from ricotta because ricotta (Italian: "recooked") is made from scalded whey. It is quite similar to the Indian Chakka. Quark usually has no salt added.
In Germany, quark is sold in small plastic tubs and usually comes in three different varieties, Magerquark (lean quark, virtually fat-free), "regular" quark (20% fat in dry mass) and Sahnequark (creamy quark, 40% fat in dry mass) with added cream. While Magerquark is often used for baking and as health food, e.g. as a breakfast spread, Sahnequark also forms the basis of a large number of quark desserts. Much like yoghurts in some parts of the world, these foods mostly come with fruit flavouring (Früchtequark, fruit quark), and are often also simply referred to as quark. Because mainstream popularity of quark desserts is limited to mainly the German-speaking and central European countries, confusion might arise when talking about quark with people unfamiliar with cuisine from this area.
The name comes from the Late Middle High German Quark, centuries earlier also spelled Quarck was also called twarc, dwarg,quarc, quargel zwarg (meaning Zwerg (English dwarf) for its smaller than regular cheese size. It is also known in Lower Sorbian Slavic as tvarog (Polish twaróg, Belarusian тварог, Russian творог, and Czech and Slovak tvaroh) which means "curd". In Austria, the name Topfen (pot cheese) is used. In Flanders, it is called plattekaas (flat cheese), while the Dutch use the name kwark. In French it is called fromage à la pie. In Denmark, it is called kvark. In Norway and Sweden, it is called kvarg. In Hungarian cuisine it is termed túró, with the word juhtúró referring to quark made from ewe's milk.
The cheese is also known simply as "white cheese" (Polish: ser biały, Lithuanian: Baltas sūris, southern Germany: Weißkäse or weißer Käs, Hebrew: Gvina Levana גבינה לבנה, Serbian: beli sir), as opposed to any rennet-set "yellow cheese".
In Finnish, it is known as rahka, while in Estonian, as kohupiim (foamy milk). In Latvian, it is called biezpiens (thick milk). The French-language word for it is seré, but it is most commonly called fromage blanc.
In the midwestern US, quark is called simply farmer's cheese.
Quark is a member of the acid set cheese group, meaning it is traditionally made without the aid of rennet. In most German dairies today, it is made with rennet. Lactic acid bacteria are added in the form of mesophilic Lactococcus starter cultures. Acidification continues until the pH reaches 4.6, which causes precipitation of the casein proteins. In Germany, the curd is continuously stirred to prevent it from getting hard, resulting in a thick, creamy texture. Quark is usually sold in plastic tubs with most or all of the whey. This type of quark has the firmness of sour cream but is slightly drier, resulting in a somewhat crumbly texture (like Italian ricotta), and contains in its basic form about 0.2% fat. Quark with higher fat content is made by adding cream, and is often sold flavored with herbs, spices, or fruit. It has a very smooth and creamy texture and is slightly sweet (unlike sour cream).
To make the firmer eastern European version, a small amount of rennet may be added to make the curd firmer. Some or most of the whey is removed to standardize the quark to the desired thickness. Traditionally, this is done by hanging the cheese in loosely woven cotton gauze called cheesecloth and letting the whey drip off, which gives quark its distinctive shape of a wedge with rounded edges. In industrial production, however, cheese is separated from whey in a centrifuge and later formed into blocks. The Polish, Lithuanian and Austrian varieties contain less whey and are therefore drier and more solid than varieties common in other countries.
Quark is often used as an ingredient for sandwiches, salads, cheesecake (Käsekuchen or Quarkkuchen in Germany, Quarktorte in Switzerland, Topfenkuchen in Austria, "kwarktaart" in the Netherlands, tvarohovník in Czech and Slovak, and sernik in Poland) and cheese pancakes (syrniki in Russia and Ukraine). In these cakes, the quark is typically mixed with eggs, milk or cream, and sugar, and baked. A firmer variant, called Schichtkäse (layer cheese) is sometimes used for Käsekuchen. Quark flavored with vanilla or fruit is used as a dessert in the Netherlands and Germany. In German, this is called Quarkdessert.
Quark, vegetable oil and wheat flour are the ingredients of a popular kind of dough, called Quarkölteig, used in Germany as an alternative to yeast-leavened dough in home baking, since it is considerably easier to handle and requires no rising period. The resulting baked goods look and taste very similar to yeast-leavened goods, although they do not last as long and are thus usually consumed immediately after baking.
In Poland, twaróg is mixed with mashed potatoes to produce a filling for Ruthenian pierogi. In Russia and Russian-speaking countries, quark, known as tvorog (Russian: творог), is highly popular and is bought frequently by almost every family. As a result, tvorog is a member of the official minimal basket of foods. In Russian families, it is especially recommended for growing babies. It can be simply enjoyed with sour cream, or jam, sugar, sugar condensed milk. It is often used as a stuffing in crepes purchased at many fast-food restaurants. It is also commonly used as the base for making Easter cakes. It is mixed with eggs, sugar, raisins and nuts and dried into a solid pyramid-shaped mass called paskha. The mass can also be fried, then known as syrnik (served with sweets).
In Latvia, quark is eaten savory mixed with sour cream and scallions on rye bread or with potatoes. In desserts, quark is commonly baked into biezpiena plātsmaize, a crusted sheet cake baked with or without raisins. Children are also given a sweetened frozen treat of biezpiena sieriņi (small cheese), small sweetened blocks of quark dipped in chocolate.
In Switzerland, quark is recommended by some physiotherapists as an alternative to ice for treatment of swelling associated with sprains, etc. It can be cooled in a refrigerator and then applied to swollen tissues (enclosed in a plastic bag). The advantages over ice are that it does not get so cold, reducing risk of damage to treated tissue, but stays cooler longer.
Although common in Europe, manufacturing of quark is rare in the Americas. A few dairies manufacture it, and some specialty retailers carry it. Lifeway Foods manufactures a product under the title "farmer cheese" which is available in a variety of metropolitan locations with former Russian populations. Quark is also available at several upstate NY farms. In Canada, the firmer East European variety of quark is manufactured by Liberté Natural Foods; a softer German-style quark is manufactured in the Didsbury, Alberta plant of Calgary-based Foothills Creamery. Quark may also be available as "baking cheese", "pressed cottage cheese", fromage frais.
The Israeli variety, Gvina Levana (white cheese) can be found in most households and is an integral part of the Israeli breakfast (and often, of supper). It has a more neutral and delicate taste, and it contains between 3% and 9% percent fat, 5% and 9% are the most popular. The Russian quark was introduced to Israel during the Aliyah of the 1990s by immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and is now available under the name tvorog.
In Australia, it is sometimes available from supermarkets labelled as quark.
Quark is commonly used for cooking. Various cuisines, especially cuisines of Slavic peoples (e.g. Slovaks, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians) feature quark as an ingredient for appetizers, salads, main dishes, side dishes and desserts.