May 15th, 2015 Sections: Food and Drink
A dish of Tvorog

A dish of Tvorog

One of the questions I am often asked concerns what I miss and my answer usually goes something like: “Well, I can’t get Marmite here.”

That usually elicits a bemused look and a question: “Marmite?”

When they hear the answer, (that it’s a food spread made from a yeast extract and a by product from brewing beer), the puzzled look is usually replaced by by one of amusement … especially when I add “… but back in Britain I can’t get Maksym Shoro, or Tvorog, or … “.

To be honest, that’s a little unfair as we do have cottage cheese in Britain …  (Tvorog is normally translated as curd cheese, cottage cheese or sometimes as farmer cheese and is made by warming sour milk until it coagulates – curdles – hence the name curd cheese), and quark, (the Germanic version – pronounced kvark), is found throughout Europe, … but it tends to be more of a specialist food whereas here it seems to be omnipresent – found everywhere.

The ‘classical’ recipe for making Tvorog  is most simple: put milk in a warm place and make it sour. Separate whey from curd, let curd dry out by hanging it in a ‘sack’ made of several layers of gauze, (cheesecloth), and letting it drip.

Traditionally, there is just one ingredient: milk … but although it is best with natural milk, it doesn’t really work with pasteurized milk since all the important bacteria is gone, and so yogurt (or kefir) may be used to introduce the necessary bacteria when tvorog is being made at home.

Also, traditionally, it is made without rennet – a complex of enzymes extracted from calves stomachs – which is commonly used in cheese production to help thicken the mixture – and that means it is particularly suitable for vegetarians and vegans – but sometimes commercial tcorog might have some added.

There are basically *** steps in making Tvorog:

Making home-made Tvorog in cheesecloth

Making home-made Tvorog in cheesecloth

If it is necessary, add some yoghurt/kefir into the milk and put in a warm place, (NOT fridge!!!), and leave it until curd starts forming and separating from the whey (liquid part) – which may take two or three days, depending on the milk, room temperature, etc.

Once this starts forming, the liquid is poured into a large pan and warmed on a stove … which helps to separate the curds from the whey …  but it is important – vital even – that it should not come to the boil.

The liquid is then poured into a specially prepared sack of qauze, or cheesecloth, (made from a large piece of material, folded two or three times), which is hung up to allow the liquid (whey) drip leaving the solid (curd) in the sack.

After a few hours, the contents of the sack are ready for use,  covered and, for example, placed in the fridge.

It is remarkably versatile: unlike Marmite, which is salty and so used mainly as a savoury spread, Tvorog is slightly sweet which means that it is an ideal component in desserts as well as in savoury dishes.

It can be used plain or mixed with herbs and spices to give flavour, or even with onions and/or mashed potato, fruit – such as raisins, sour cream – and even condensed milk, eggs and jam.  Tvorog is used as a spread in sandwiches, a base for salads, a filling for blinchiki,  (pancakes), or Syrniki, pelmeni or vareniki (made with pasta),

It’s thought to be particularly healthy, with a low fat content, and is recommended for babies and small children, and can even be used as a cold poltice to apply to strains and swellings

One of the problems, however, is that products using tvorog don’t always keep well and so dishes in which is an ingredient are often consumed almost as soon as they are ready … but maybe another reason that they are quickly scoffed down is simply because tvorog is a delight to eat and reminds so many of their childhood days.



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