Amidst the tonnes of confusion that prevail in the gargantuan globe of gastronomy, the most ‘appetising’ are the ones that seem to have a close relative. But what turns out is that even in such a multitude of similarities, these foods would still be individually identifiable in terms of their properties. Not just physical though, even cultural, social, regional and geographical factors uniquely shape up dishes and ingredients of indulgence and sustenance, definitely serving some exotic ‘food for thought’ that attends also to our grey matter along with the tastebuds. From the generics of fruits and veggies masquerading as each other to the specifics of jams and jellies or curds and yogurts for instance, food has always been as complex a play of flavors as simple it is an assertion in taste.

One more demarcated alluding to this affinity in (non) identicalness happens to yet again stem from that same dimension as defined by dairy delectables. Involving for yet another time the much dynamic identity of curd(s) is a certain confusion in culinary compartments- the expression that which entails perhaps another layer of puzzlement in its emerging as quark.

World Quark Day

Quark Style Cheese
Source: Calkins Creamery

To clear the coast as to why we have settled down upon this particular predicament in prevailing is because of its imminence in prominence. January 19 happens to be World Quark Day- a celebration that first unfurled in 2019, marking the rise to global eminence of a product that is originally a European specialty. A superfood in its own right that is incredibly delicious and as beneficial for the body, quark’s new found reputation is indeed testament to its amazingness. But for those unfamiliar or even unaware about this wholesome delicacy, it becomes essential to outline what exactly this quark stuff is like.

Tending close to descriptions of being a cheese on one hand and resembling some yogurt on the other, specifically coveting titles of being some combination of cream cheese and yogurt, quark is one of the many dairy based products that is all things thick, creamy and delicious. It does indeed resemble the textural smoothness of Greek yogurt and the nature of curds, but quark scores over both in terms of its nutritional attributes. Take into account also its taste profile of a less acidic flavor emerging and quark in fact may have a slight edge when it comes to asserting its epicurean desirability.

The quirks of quark

Part of the palatability of quark derives therefore from the natural sweetness of how it melts in the mouth- its mildness in experiencing being just the reason why it reveals as such a delight in discovering. Essentially though, quark would classify as a cheese- one of those fresh acid set variants that exhibit a vegetarian nature. Needless to say then that the versatility of quark extends beyond its flavor to encompass also factors of its all- round suitability in consumption.

dairy product
Source: Estonian Cuisine. Eesti Toit.

Its appeal in universality sufficiently established, let’s turn now to explore the ways in which quark outshines its more ‘traditional contemporaries’ of curds and yogurts. Even when the differences are not so much a matter of definiteness, quark still manages to eke out its perceived near synonyms with a an almost nil fat count. High in protein and calcium like all dairy products are by default- and still flaunting a higher protein count than yogurt by almost double the extent, quark boasts an additional advantage of being sodiumless as well.

Of course, as far as its reputation in savoring is concerned, quark is a perfect neutral palate for recipes to build up on. Its non tartness as well as unsalted being makes it easy to be worked into both sweet and savory preparations. And while that itself makes for enough convenience, it also is the ‘generousness’ with which quark imparts its luscious quality to everything it cooks up that makes it a game changer in absolute terms of the gastronomies.

But what is this thing called quark?

fresh acid set vegetarian cheese from germany
Source: Food24

So what is quark essentially? It is some sort of a cheese alright but what is it that exactly makes it qualify as one? Sour milk is made to curdle by warming it up, with absolutely no rennet involved in the production as is traditionally the case. Fresh and white, or alternatively soft and unaged, quarks might then involve yogurt as one of its ingredients that aid in the curdling. The resulting product is one that resembles the creaminess of Greek yogurt and not the grainy essence of a curd, while being even thicker than both.

For all its newfound global identity struck in Europeanness, the more definite ‘nationality’ of quark would occur as German. In fact so distinctive is the aspect of regionalness ingrained in the Germanic iteration of this cheese that is perfectly captured in a certain saying of “Quark macht stark”. Translating literally as “Quark makes strong” alluding to the bone strengthening mannerism of calcium, it comes as no surprise that quark is what finds favor in most German speaking countries, including the Scandinavian nations where healthy living has always been a key component of their greater lifestyle.

Beyond Bavarianness

quark day
Source: – International Desserts Blog

For obvious reasons then, the lusciousness of quarks do not match up to the richness of dairy creams indeed. But that’s only what you would expect from a product that does not claim to be cream anyway. Its silky smooth symphony of taste and flavor, that lets it make its presence felt even as a rather plain- or mild ingredient, is so characteristic of quark that has led it to find increasing use as a substitute for other baking classics like cream and butter and cream cheese even. The uniqueness of its tasting is one factor, as is the healthiness of its character that was assumed long back sometime in the 14th century.

This extension in culinary coherence has found acceptance now in other parts of the world. Traditional references abound in specifying a range of quark based dishes, with the German cheesecake Käsekuchen or Quarkkuchen, the Austrian Topfenkuchen, the Swiss Quarktorte and the Dutch Kwarktaart being essential varieties of such composition. But one particularly unique German specialty happens to be a certain bread like preparation out of a ‘quark leavened’ dough called Quarkölteig. It is in traditionalities like these, infused with the goodness of this unique ingredient that the base has been baked for quark to attain recognition and reputation of the greater world order. Go grant yourself some quarky quirkiness to devour and experience this January 19th!