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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!
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.
* 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