For fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9), Quark is a funny-looking extraterrestrial who runs Quark’s Bar on the DS9 space station. For physicists, a quark is an elementary particle and fundamental constituent of matter (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quark). For cheesemaker Emily Bryant Montgomery at Calkins Creamery in Wayne County, PA, quark is a “soft, fresh pasteurized cheese that is creamy with a mild tangy taste.” Quark is the German word for ‘fresh curd,’ and it is well loved in Germany and other locales in Europe.
Montromery describes it as a “slightly drained cows’ milk cheese that is similar to old-fashioned cream cheese.” It is not quite as tart as yogurt or sour cream, and its “consistency is fluffy, like a whipped cream cheese, light and smooth on the tongue.”
Calkins Creamery calls its quark Georgic, and last year Georgic won first place in the Quark and Fromage Frais category at the American Cheese Society. “The award has definitely been quite an achievement for us,” Montgomery said, and helped the local creamery win a few larger business accounts in Philadelphia and New York City.
Quark has long been popular in Europe, especially in Germany, where it is used for snacking, cooking and baking.
Many Americans never heard of quark, and so I asked Emily why she had chosen to start making it. The story she told is interesting.
“My goal was to develop a fresh, soft cheese after purchasing our pasteurizer. I knew our creamery facility had certain limitations on space and cold-storage so I started to explore fresh cheeses that would fit in our creamery mold (per se). I considered yogurt, but I felt the market was flooded at the time and knew I would have to adapt to additional state regulations with yogurt. As I was researching cheese recipes, I came across quark.
“I couldn’t remember why I knew this type of cheese, but then it came to me. About two years prior to this, a man called me from Germany. He told me he was moving back to Sullivan County with his wife and they were going to start a German bakery. They were looking for a creamery to supply them with quark to make their cheesecakes. At the time, I did not have a pasteurizer, so I politely let them know this was not feasible for me right then. Funny how the seed was planted without me knowing! Well, I did decide to give quark a whirl and the first batch turned out perfectly (which never happens in cheese making!) I was happy to give Errol and Sarah Flynn, owners of Bradenburg Pastry in Livingston Manor, NY a call and let them know that I might be able to help them now.”
Because quark was so unknown to Americans, Montgomery confessed, “When we first starting making Georgic, we did have to throw a lot out, because it is a fresh, perishable cheese. To combat this waste issue, I decided we needed to add some herbs to the cheese to make it more appealing as a go-to snack. I realized consumers did not know what to do with the plain version as it is not yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, or cottage cheese.”
So Montgomery developed several Georgic spreads to the creamery’s line-up: Ole (a roasted garlic spread), The Garden (a chive and herb infused spread) and later Italiano Gardenia (a sundried tomato and basil spread).
According to Montgomery, there are also many ways to use plain quark, whether in sweet or savory dishes. Here are some of her suggestions:
1. Substitute for full-fat sour cream in cheesecakes, dips, or sauces
2. Spread on toast for breakfast, topped with fresh fruit and honey
3. Mix with herbs and use it to top a baked potato
4. Mix up a parfait with granola, honey and fruit
5. Substitute in lasagna instead of ricotta
6. Use as a healthy, protein-rich sandwich spread
7. Mix in with mashed potatoes
8. Mix in creamy sauces
9. Cannoli filling
10. Just plain good ol’ fashioned snacking.
Nutritional info: Protein-dense dairy product, rich not only as a source of protein, but also it’s high in calcium, vitamin A and B vitamins. Calkin’s Georgic contains no salt.
Georgic, by Calkins Creamery, can be found at Pecks Markets, The Alpine, Main Street Farm, River Brook Farm, The Mill Market and 84 Country Store.