Homemade Farmers Cheese

Farmers Cheese aka Fromage Frais aka Quark aka Творог (pronounced Tvorog) is a dairy product that is extremely popular in Eastern Europe and for some reason is almost unheard of in North America. Tvorog is believed to have almost magical properties in Russia. Are you sick? Have some Tvorog. Are you trying to lose weight? Have some Tvorog. Are you trying to gain weight? Have some Tvorog. Yes, it sounds contradictory, but it actually makes sense as Tvorog comes in variety of fat content from 0% to 30 or even 40% fat. 

It's called Farmers Cheese in North America, but I personally don't like the name and association with the word cheese. When I hear the word cheese, the first thing I think is delicious, second thought is give me some right now, and then I think fattening and not diet-friendly. Tvorog on the other hand is more closely associated with yogurt. It has lots of calcium, minerals and is quite healthy. In fact, it's one of the most popular breakfast items in Russia. It is also used for many recipes like cookies, cakes, breads and many more. 

When I came to Canada almost two decades ago, there were only a handful of Russian stores in the area and it was mostly inconvenient to go there just to by tvorog. My dad, both of my grandmas and later I started making it at home. Now I can buy it at pretty much any regular big grocery store. My local Fresh Co sells it. Costco has it for a very good price too. And, of course, there are tons of Russian stores around that not only sell this product, but they sell a variety of different kinds of Tvorog and you can try them all before buying the one you like.

It is not difficult to make. In fact, it's one of those things that even a novice could make without failing, but it takes a long time. First you have to mix milk and buttermilk and leave it at room temperature for 24 hours. Don't worry about milk spoiling, buttermilk actually prevents and in turn starts the coagulating process.

The next step is to heat up the thickened mixture. I usually put the big pot in a very hot oven and leave it there until I can see lots of curds and distinct separation from clear yellow whey. This takes between 15 to 30 minutes depending on your oven.

Stages of making Farmers cheese from scratch

While the pot is in the oven, it is time to get everything else prepared. I don't have a really large colander, so I use two, but one very large would be easier. Line the colander with a few layers of cheesecloth leaving quite a lot of it on the sides. Place the lined colander over a big bowl or a pot to catch all the whey. Also get a string prepared. 

Fresh farmers cheese takes a long time to make, but it's very easy and requires minimal effort

The next step is the most difficult as it requires straining milk curds and whey. Well, when I say difficult I actually mean messy. I usually do it in the sink, this way it doesn't splash all over my counter and everything is contained. I had to use two colanders lined with cheesecloth to strain everything from my pot this time.

Homemade Farmers Cheese before whey is separated

Once all the whey is strained and the curds are in the cheesecloth, gather the sides and tie them with a string really well. Hang the cheesecloth bundles over bowls to collect liquid and leave overnight. 

Making Farmers Cheese from scratch takes time, but it's very easy

And there you have it. Is it difficult? No. Just mix, heat and strain. But it takes a couple of days to make. Is it worth it? Definitely! It tastes creamy, fresh, flavourful and delicious. Also, it's super impressive when you tell someone that you made your own cheese!!

Farmers Cheese aka Quark aka Fromage Blanc aka Tvorog is delicious and healthy. It takes a long time to make, but requires minimal effort. Great for beginners and really impressive.

Homemade Farmers Cheese

Makes about 1200g depending on how long it was drained

Whole milk (3.25%) - 4 litrs
Buttermilk - 1 litre
  • Combine milk and buttermilk in a large ovenproof pot. 
  • Leave on the counter for 24 hours until the mixture is thick like a yogurt.
  • Preheat oven to 450F.
  • Place the pot with the milk mixture into the oven for about 15-45 minutes. *
  • When the mixture starts to separate into curds and whey, take it out of the oven to cool a little bit, so that it's easier to handle. OR turn the oven off and leave mixture to cool in the oven.
  • Line a very large colander/strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth leaving a lot of it hanging over the sides.
  • Place the lined colander over a large pot or bowl to catch strained whey.
  • Pour mixture from the pot into the colander.
  • Once the cheesecloth is full, gather the overhanging sides and tie with a string.
  • Hang the cheesecloth bundle overnight over a bowl to catch draining whey.
  • After all the whey is drained, take the Farmers Cheese out of the cheesecloth and enjoy.
  • Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 7-10 days.
Farmers Cheese aka Quark aka Fromage Blanc aka Tvorog is delicious and healthy. It takes a long time to make, but requires minimal effort. Great for beginners and really impressive.

Comments
* When I used to make it a few years ago in a different kitchen, it only took 15 minutes in a very hot oven for the mixture to start curdling. However, when I made it this time in my current oven, it took almost 40 minutes. So, it depends on your oven.

- Alternatively, you could heat the oven to 450F, turn it off, place the pot into it and leave it overnight. Resulting tvorog will be creamier, smoother and less thick. It's tastier for just eating it for breakfast. If you are thinking of baking with it, then the method I described earlier is better as it yields dryer result

Farmers Cheese aka Quark aka Fromage Blanc aka Tvorog is delicious and healthy. It takes a long time to make, but requires minimal effort. Great for beginners and really impressive.
Posted on May 28, 2015 and filed under Recipe.

Avocado Banana Chocolate Pudding

I remember the first time I tried avocados. I was maybe about 10 or 11 years old and I don't know who my mom had to bribe to get avocados back then in Soviet Union. I didn't like them. They were strange and had a weird texture, but then my mom put some salt, lemon juice and a dollop of sour cream in an avocado boat and... It was good! Really good!

Fast forward 20+ years and this is still my favourite way of eating avocados, although I did switch sour cream to greek yogurt and added cracked black pepper. There are times when I am quite adventurous in the kitchen, but then there are classics that I like so much that I never venture far away from them. In most cases avocado in my house is eaten straight out of the skin the way I described above, cubed and added to simple cucumber and tomato salad or mashed with some salt, pepper and lemon juice. 

Avocado Banana Chocolate Pudding - vegan, raw, gluten free dessert that has intense chocolate flavour with a hint of bananas

My husband doesn't like avocados, so I don't buy them often. But this time I finally bought a bag of five at Costco since their avocados are my favourite. Last weekend I tried Eggs fried in sliced Avocado (that is another post that is coming up) and today I came home to half an avocado waiting to be eaten in my fridge and bananas turning dangerously brown.

I have seen a bunch of desserts online made with avocados and decided that it is my turn to experiment. I put the green fleshed vegetable in my mini food processor, added half a banana, some maple syrup, unsweetened cocoa powder and gave it a whirl... After a couple of minutes the texture became smooth and creamy and the colour intensly chocolaty. To be honest, I was a little bit scared trying it. I know a lot of people say that avocados are bland, but I actually find them vary flavourful. Yes, the taste is quite mild, but it's very unique. And although I love it in savoury dishes, I wasn't sure if that flavour would work well in something sweet. Well, I didn't need to be worried. There was absolutely no avocado flavour! All I could taste was chocolate and subtle hint of banana and maple syrup. It was creamy, smooth, fresh, delicious, satisfying and... Healthy!!! I believe that it would be an amazing addition to my Best-Ever Chocolate Vegan Cake!

Avocado Banana Chocolate Pudding

1 serving

Avocado - 1/2 large (about 100 g)
Banana - 1/2 large (about 50 g)
Dark maple syrup - 1 tablespoon (or more to taste)
Unsweetened cocoa powder - 2 tablespoons
  • Add all the ingredients to a food processor and process for a couple of minutes until everything is smooth and creamy.
  • Refrigerate for 30 min or more and enjoy.
Avocado Banana Chocolate Pudding - vegan, raw, gluten free dessert that has intense chocolate flavour with a hint of bananas
Posted on May 26, 2015 and filed under Recipe.

Peanut Butter Molasses Cookies

Confession time: I get obsessed very easily. TV shows, internet sites, activities - I get very easily addicted. I can lose hours browsing Pinterest or solving puzzles. I may or may not have watched first four seasons of True Blood in just a few short weeks... Ummm... Anyway...

I also get addicted to books. Which, in my mind, as far as addictions go is not a bad one to have. I find an author that I like and keep reading everything created by him/her. I've always loved reading; anything from Orwell's 1984 to Rowling's Harry Potter, Stendahl, Dumas, Atwood and many more. If I find a series I like, then it's even better, and with my discovery of online libraries there's really no excuse not to read. 

Have you heard of online libraries? It's really simple, you get your regular library card, then login online using computer, iPhone or iPad, download a couple of applications for reading and start browsing online catalogue. Once you find a book you'd like to borrow, it's done only with a few clicks and it's available on your system for up to three weeks. When you finish the book, it's another couple of clicks to return it. No time to travel to the library to pick the book up, no time to travel to return it, no late fees, no hassle. A-ma-zing!!! 

Delicious, sweet and crunchy Peanut Butter Molasses Cookies

So, my current obsession is Joanne Fluke who writes very light murder mysteries that are investigated by a baker. Books are peppered with food descriptions and recipes. Some concoctions are too sweet for my taste (really, there's no need for three cups of sugar in a cookie recipe!), but some are quite nice and interesting. This recipe is from one of the books by Joanne, but with a few changes that happened by accident. Original recipe was for about six dozens of cookies, so I decided to half all the ingredients except I forgot about it in the middle of mixing the dough. Well, resulting cookies were still yummy and delicious, crunchy, peanut-ey (is this a word?) and with a hint of molasses flavour.

Peanut Butter Molasses Cookies

makes 3 dozens

Melted butter - 1 stick
White sugar - 1/2 cup
Brown sugar - 1/2 cup
Vanilla - 1 teaspoon
Molasses - 2 tablespoons
Baking soda - 1/2 teaspoon
Baking powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Salt - 1/4 teaspoons
Peanut butter - 1/2 cup
Eggs - 1 large
Flour - 1 1/4 cup
  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • Pour melted butter into a large bowl, add sugars, vanilla, molasses and mix.
  • Add baking soda, baking powder, salt and mix well.
  • Add peanut butter and mix.
  • Add the egg and mix well until smooth.
  • Add flour and mix until flour disappears and all the ingredients are blended.
  • Scoop the dough using either really small ice-cream scoop or shape the dough into walnut sized balls.
  • Place onto a baking sheet covered with parchment paper leaving about two inches of space between.
  • Flatten the dough with a fork in a traditional crisscross pattern.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes* (Please see note) or until edges start to turn golden.
  • Cool on a cookie sheet for 2 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Comments
My oven needed about 15-18 minutes for cookies, so check the cookies after 10-12 minutes.
- I love this recipe because it doesn't need softened butter. I don't have microwave, so it's a lot easier to melt butter than to soften it.

Delicious, sweet and crunchy Peanut Butter Molasses Cookies
Posted on May 21, 2015 and filed under Recipe.