Homemade Quark

Ask an English speaker about quark and they’re likely to tell you it’s a physics term that refers to some kind of subatomic particle. Murray Gell-Mann, who won a Nobel prize for his theory about quarks, chose the name because it was a nonsense word. He found it in James Joyce’s novel Finnegans Wake, where “Three quarks for Muster Mark” sounds rather poetic, even if it’s somewhat unintelligible.

A German speaker tends to have a truer love of quark, because in German quark refers to a curd cheese. It’s used to make cheesecakes and dips, which are much easier to appreciate than subatomic particles (for me at least). Eating quark cake was one of James’ favourite experiences in Germany, so when he came back my challenge was to make one. In Sydney quark is difficult to find, and only turns up at a few speciality delis. The other way to get quark is to make it yourself.


Searching the internet for quark recipes gives a few results, but they’re almost entirely in German and the methods vary. Luckily my German friend came to the rescue and found a reliable quark recipe. It had a nice scientific explanation of quark making, which included tips like avoiding UHT milk, and how to turn the whey into a refreshing drink.

A few attempts later my friend was satisfied with her quark. Her experiments showed that sour cream was not a good starter culture, but that a buttermilk starter produces the right level of sourness in the quark. A few days later she arrived at work with a container of curds and whey for me to try!


The recipe for quark is simple, with only two ingredients, milk and buttermilk. The buttermilk is the starter, so make sure you have the real cultured variety. The bacterial culture in the buttermilk makes the acids that produce your curd. UHT milk can’t be used because the high temperature treatment (135 C rather than 72 C for pasteurisation) can alter the proteins and sugars which the bacteria feed on. Once the culture is started the curds and whey take around 24 hours to separate. Then the curd can be strained out to make quark.


The quark can be used to make quark cheesecake, to fill strudels or tortes, and in dips. And the leftover whey? Well my instructions recommended making it into a refreshing drink by adding lemon juice and sugar. The whey drink isn’t great, but the quark is really something special. Muster Mark was pretty lucky to get three quarks, especially if they were quark cakes not subatomic particles.


Homemade Quark (Curd Cheese)

1/2 cup cultured buttermilk
3 1/2 cups full cream milk

1. If your milk is not pasteurised you should bring it to the boil, then allow it to cool to room temperature (covered with a lid).
2. Stir the buttermilk into the milk in a container you can cover, or make the mixture in the insert of your yoghurt incubator.
3. Put the container in your incubator, or wrap it in a towel and keep it in a warm place. One option is to preheat the oven to 50 C and turn it off before placing the container inside.
4. Allow the culture to proceed for ~24 hours, or until the curds and whey separate. At first the milk will look grainy, and eventually the curds will float on the whey. The grainy stage is probably sufficient, but might give a lower yield.
5. Dampen a clean tea towel and use it to line a sieve. Place the sieve over a basin. Pour the curds and whey into the strainer. Bring the tea towel together so that it covers your quark and do it up with a rubber band. Place the entire draining apparatus in the fridge.
6. Allow to drain in the fridge overnight, or for 24 hours. The drained quark should have a consistency similar to sour cream, but it has a more sour taste.

22 thoughts on “Homemade Quark

  1. Great stuff! Quark is quite hard to find. I used to buy it at DJs in the city but sometimes it’s too much of a pain to get there. Will show this to my friend who would know what real Quark is like. I’m sure she’ll be pleased to make it from scratch!

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  3. Great post, Arwen. Good to know quark can be made this easily at home. What I find at Whole Foods is so expensive. I am now thinking up different flavors of quark-based spreads for bagels.

  4. Great post Arwen. I was looking forward to your quark recipe and it seems reasonably easy – with only two ingredients!! yay!! Your quark looks a fantastic consistency.

  5. this is very similar to the way that mizithra (the local cretan variety of curd cheese) is made. i remember clearly my mother making it in new zealand many years ago when such cheeses were never freshly available. these days you can get fresh ricotta in new zealand, which my aunt now uses (instead of making it herself) for greek dishes

  6. Wow, this look relatively easy to make. But I have a technical question, would it be useful to use raw milk instead of the normal supermarket variety? I know the recipe says to pasteurize the milk if it is raw, but do you end up with a totally different cheese if you skip this step? Thats probably the case considering the bacteria level in raw milk. But it would be interesting to find out!

  7. Oh..I want that “easy yogurt” machine, I miss eating quark, in Europe it’s very easy to find, here it’s more expensive and not too many choices, only one or two brands… so thank’s for sharing the methode :)

  8. Hee hee! I like the German version of Quark much better! I’ve never had it before, but it looks mighty delicious and tasty! bet it goes well with anything!

  9. Great post Arwen. Have ust discovered a source of buttermik here & cannot wait to make quark. I set yogurt every other day, withour a yogurt aker of course, & am going to make quark soon! Thank you! ♥

  10. I just love the sound of the word quark – so intriguing and mysterious! My brother’s ex-girlfriend was German and she’d speak often about quark (along with other German delights like knoodle).. have never tried it myself though. Great initiative on whipping it up yourself!

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    • You could incubate at room temperature and you’ll still get curds. It will probably take longer than overnight. Give it a stir to check you have something thicker than milk before you start straining it.

  14. I’ve just made quark using your instructions and it worked beautifully! I warmed up the oven to the absolute minimum it would do, then turned it off and left the milk/buttermilk in it for about 18 hours. I wasn’t sure if it had done anything – there wasn’t an obvious layering of the curd and whey, but when I moved it, it ‘cracked’, so I set it up to drain and now have delicious quark in the fridge for tomorrow. Thank you for such simple, clear instructions.

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