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Weekend project: Homemade quark cheese

Quark -- who would have thought homemade cheese could be this simple?

Take some milk, add a little acid and give the mixture time to do its thing — who would have thought homemade cheese could be this simple? What with all the equipment and specialized ingredients I'd read about, cheese making sounded as if it were better suited to a chemistry lab than to my tiny kitchen. That is, until I tried quark.

I know. Hear the word "quark" and you may conjure up images of dancing physics particles or "Star Trek" characters. Or of wending your way through "Finnegans Wake." Any of which might be even scarier than the thought of actually making cheese.

But quark is just the German word for "curds." A creamy, fresh cheese, quark's curds come together to form something magical — rich with a gentle tang, it's spreadable, kind of a cross between sour cream and soft ricotta cheese. Variations of the cheese can be found throughout Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

And it's easy to make: Bring a couple of cups of milk to a simmer over moderate heat, then let it come to room temperature. Whisk in some acid (typically buttermilk, though some recipes call for lemon juice) and leave the mixture at room temperature for a day or so until curds form and the mixture thickens. Strain it to remove the clear whey, and voilà! You've got cheese.

It's so simple, even a beginner like me couldn't mess it up. Oh, and did I mention it makes a great weekend project? Continue reading below for a recipe for homemade quark, and check out these recipes for sweet crepes with berries and a savory quark and asparagus tart. For more information, I chatted about it on the radio program "The Splendid Table."

Cooking is fun – at least it should be. No matter how long you’ve been in the kitchen, there is always something new to learn, whether it’s a simple twist on an old technique, or a handy tip to save time and energy. In this series of short videos, I demonstrate a variety of kitchen tips, varying from how to hold a chef’s knife for maximum control to using a spoon to peel fresh ginger. If you have any gadgets, kitchen tips or questions you'd like me to explore, leave a comment below or shoot me an email at noelle.carter@latimes.com.

Quark cheese

Total time: 25 minutes, plus 1½ to 2 days setting and draining times / Servings: This makes a generous cup of quark.

2 cups whole milk

1/2 cup cultured buttermilk

1. In a stainless steel, heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and set aside until the milk is cooled. Whisk in the buttermilk.

2. Transfer the mixture to a glass, ceramic or plastic container, and set aside at room temperature until the mixture is thickened, with a consistency similar to yogurt or crème fraîche, about 1 day.

3. Transfer the mixture to a cheesecloth-lined strainer set over a bowl. Refrigerate overnight to drain the whey from the cheese; the whey should be clear, not cloudy, as it is drained.

4. Use as desired. To store, place the cheese in a glass, ceramic or plastic container. Cover and refrigerate up to four days.

Each of 20 tablespoons: 19 calories; 1 gram protein; 2 grams carbohydrates; 0 fiber; 1 gram fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 3 mg cholesterol; 2 grams sugar; 19 mg sodium.

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