Wednesday, April 05, 2006

How to Make Tvorog (Farmer's Cheese)

Tvorog, a Russian dairy product, is known as farmer's cheese or curd cheese in the U.S. It's a cross between ricotta and cottage cheese, but doesn't really taste like either. Tvorog is immensely popular in Russia. It's eaten with jam and sour cream for breakfast, as a snack or as a light dinner, and is used in all sorts of sweet and savory baking. In America, you can sometimes buy tvorog in upscale or Eastern-European grocery stores, but it tends to be expensive.

Fortunately, it's easy to make tvorog at home. The process is a bit time consuming, but it requires almost no hands-on work. Here's what you do:

*In a soup pot, combine 1/2 gallon of milk (whole is best, but I've used low-fat and even skim without problems) with 2 cups of buttermilk. Do not use buttermilk containing sodium citrate! In Wisconsin, Kemps buttermilk is good and cheap.

*Place the milk/buttermilk mixture in a warm place until it develops the consistency of thick yogurt (a kitchen counter or the back burner of a stove work just fine). This will take about 24 hours. In the summer and in very warm homes, this may take only 12 hours.

*Place the pot containing the milk mixture over very, very low heat for about an hour. Choose the lowest setting on your stove. If you have a gas stove, use a flame tamer. Do not stir the milk.

*After about an hour, the milk will curdle, and the curds and whey will begin to separate. Take the milk off the heat.

*Let the milk cool for about 30 minutes. Line a sieve with a large piece of cheesecloth. Using a slotted spoon, carefully separate the curds (the thick, yogurt-y stuff) from the whey (yellowish liquid). Place the curds in the cheesecloth-lined sieve.

*The wet curds will look kind of gross, but don't worry. Soon enough you'll have fluffy, creamy tvorog.

*Gather the cheesecloth like a little bag, place the sieve over a bowl, and let the tvorog drain, preferably overnight, in the fridge.

*Next day, unroll the cheesecloth and scoop the tvorog into a bowl. You'll probably have one big chunk--break it up a little with a spoon. This is how it should look:

* Tvorog is used left and right in Russian baking, but sometimes it's best eaten fresh with a lump of jam and a little yogurt and sour cream.

62 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just wanted you to know that we tried your cheese recipe and it works amazingly well in a quiche!

Thanks for sharing!

Kisa said...

Yulinka,
Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I have missed tvorog miserably, and can't wait to get home and try making it. :)

Yulinka said...

Kisa,
You're welcome. Let me know how it turns out.

burekaboy said...

hi yulinka --

i am going to try to make this as i need farmer's cheese for a recipe i have. i saw you are making yours on a gas stove. what heat setting would you suggest for an electric stovetop? minimum? low? medium low?

thank you.

/bb

Yulinka said...

Burekaboy--I've never used an electric stovetop, but I'd guess that you'd need the lowest setting possible--try minimum or minimum low.

burekaboy said...

thanks for getting back to me and just on time! i am making it now and it is cooking on the stove. i put it at the lowest possible setting. so far so good. ;p

Anonymous said...

Hi Yulinka- I am making this as I write. Very excited to see how it turns out, as I have been unsuccesful with tvorog in the past. Love your blog; happy new year! -Lydia

Yulinka said...

Lydia--Let me know how it turns out. This recipe almost always works for me.

Anonymous said...

Yulinka- have made this twice, it is perfect! thank you!! -Lydia

Anonymous said...

I have been making tvorog and have learned a few things, by trial and error.

1) Beware of using nonfat milk. It produced a rubbery crumbly cheese. The stuff works will on top of pizza and melts very nicely but it behaves like dry mozzarela. It does not have the lovely, creamy consistency of true tvorog. So, trust Yulinka and use 2 percent or one percent milk.

2) When warming up your pot of curdled milk,it helps to put a flame tamer under the pot and then put the burner on the lowest possible setting. For those of us stuck using electric stoves, a flame tamer is worth having within reach. If the bottom of the pot gets too hot, it can scortch some of the curds and this may impart a slightly 'off' taste to your tvorog.

3)If making an entire gallon of milk into tvorog, its worth getting a quart sized carton of buttermilk and dumping it in. I like to heat the milk to 90 degrees F and then add the buttermilk. It curdles in about 8 to 10 hours. If the kitchen gets really cold overnight, I put the entire pot in the unlit oven.

Anonymous said...

Yulinka, I mixed 3 1/3 cups of whole fat milk with 2/3 cup of buttermilk and placed it into a yogurt maker (around 110 degrees F) overnight.

By the next morning, the curd and whey had separated completely already--the curd was forming on top of the whey and threatening to climb over the rim of my container...

Do you think the heating process is still necessary?

Yulinka said...

Anonymous--I honestly don't know...I've never made tvorog in a yogurt maker. If that the curd and whey have separated, though, I'd say you don't need to heat the mixture further.

Anonymous said...

I've got the easiest solution for everyone trying to make TVOROG!!! Buy a 2Ltr Butter Milk in the paper container, place it in a big pot full of boiling water and let it come to a boil ones the water has warmed up again after you've set it in the pot, and then just turn it down from high to 6 or 7 and let it boil for 3-4 hrs keep an eye on it, maybe top it up with some water to keep a container covered pretty much all the way with boiling water . Ones the time is up, let it cool down, and you TVOROG is ready. We usually do two containers in a big pot so we have lot of TVOROG since there's not any here for sale in Vancouver, BC :(, but its ok, since we know how to make it.

Anonymous said...

make sure to open the paper container before placing it in the pot, or u might have a kaBOOM, and obviously draing the water through that thin cloth when u are going to dump the ready cooled tvorog and squieze all the water out of tvorog, so its not soo wet and runny, gooooood luck

Sam said...

Thanks for the direction. I didnt realise this could be made without special cultures etc.
I wanted to avoid using processed milk so I visited a friend at a farm and the cows were still being milked so there wasnt enough in the tank to get it from the tap. So I climbed on top of the tank and went down with some jugs while someone held my feet to stop me falling in the vat.
So I tried this with 3 litres of REAL milk. Probably 6% fat - dunno as none of the cows had that or any barcodes written on them.
And I left it for a few days and I took some of the stuff aside before heating it and its just like Kefir.

Anyway - the less processing the milk has been through, the longer it can be left before straining. Processed milk goes off a lot quicker than real milk.

Now to look for a recipe for Kulich and PAska for Easter.

NOTE:
If your getting milk - in most countries its not permited to drink milk that hasnt been pastuerized.

So if you get it from the farm then wave the milk across your face 3 times from the left to the right. Then it has been "pastyoureyes"

- AbsolutStoli said...

so, what happens if you use buttermilk with sodium citrate? just because i havent been able to find any buttermilk without it. and i know that we use buttermilk with it to make creme fraiche (sour cream) at the restaurant and it works fine. so im just curious why it doesnt work for tvorog.

thank you!
---dima

Yulinka said...

Dima--I'm not sure how the chemistry of sodium citrate works, but it stops the milk from curdling the way it's supposed to. So instead of 3 cups of tvorog you'll get maybe a cup of rubbery, tasteless cheese. But go ahead and try it with the buttermilk you have available... If it works for creme fraiche, who knows? Let me know what happens.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the perfect receipe. It works amazing!

Anonymous said...

Yulinka,

Thank you so much for this recipe, I've been living here for 20 years, and finally found the one I really like. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Yulinka hi! I have tried your recipe and after the 1 hour heating I could se the milk curdle and that the whey started to separte but here comes the problem - then I started to carfully take the curd of everthing like mixed togehter again and in the end there where no whey left in the pot everthing in the cheesecloth. For me it is really important to get the whey of , what did I do wrong?

Yulinka said...

Anon-I'm not sure what happened, but this isn't necessarily a problem. Sometimes the curds break apart and mix with the whey. Just wrap everything in some cheesecloth, place it over a large bowl or pan, and place a weight (like a small can) on the cheesecloth. Let drain overnight in the fridge. This should get rid of most of the liquid.

Anonymous said...

It turns out that the brand of buttermilk Ive been using to make tvorog does have sodium citrate---and Ive had no trouble at all creating tvorog!

(Ive been using Clover brand buttermilk--a Northern California item. Works just fine for tvorog)

Shipitsyna said...

I'm actually not the biggest tvorog fan (it's okay, but I really don't see what the big deal is). But my fiance, who is from Siberia, just loves sirniki, and this recipe worked perfectoy for that! So thanks so much for the instructions!!

Anonymous said...

this is the real cheese used for german cheesecake.You need to put ot through the grinder to make smooth.I have my moms recipie so you still have to convert it.Insteag of making the crust i buy the frozen pie crust, let it worm up till it's soft and can fit on the bottom of the round baking dish.Bake it till slightly brown before filling.It takes 1kg of tvarog,10 dag of butter, 6 separated eggs,40 dag of powder sugar, raisins, walnuts vanilla.after you put the cheese theough the grinder ,use the food processor to whip it untill it's fluffy adding yolks and sugar.When it looks like whipped cream fold in raisisns and walnuts and bake-50-60 min at 350. Let cool before serving and enjoy.

Gluten Free in the Greens said...

Yulinka,

Thanks so much for the recipe! I haven't had tvorog in YEARS. I actually just found a product called "quark" at the store, which the dairy manager informed me is "something that Californians eat." When I googled it, the wikipedia entry said that the word was related to tvorog. Of course! I can't wait to make some this week.
Best,
Kara

Yulinka said...

Gluten Free--I've heard of quark at some point, but hadn't realized it was a lot like tvorog. Thanks for the tip!

Stellochka said...

Yulinka do you know that the whey which you have left after you separated tvorog is a perfect base for blinchiks (instead of milk). Made out of whey, they are the most tender and delicate creatures. Tvorog will make a great stuffing for them. This how my grandma taught me :)

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

Stellochka-Thanks for the whey tip. I always wonder what I can do with it. I usually pour it out!

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Anonymous said...

I made it and it is fantastic! Better than I ever got in the store even back home.
Thanks for sharing

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*~K~* said...

Yulichka! I just made this and it is the best. Now I can Google and learn how to make sirnichki (if you have a good recipe, please post!). I love tvorog and so does my mother. I cannot wait to email her your site. Thank you so much! ~Ksusha

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

K--Glad it worked for you. That's always nice to hear! I blogged about sirniki at some point--actually, I think that's the first post ever on this blog. March or April 2006.

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viktoria.stern said...

Dear Julia,
How much tvorog is made from 1/2 gallon of milk? I want to try this recipe next week.

Vika

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

Vika--About 3 cups.

viktoria.stern said...

Dear Yulinka,
I am in the process of making tvorog, but I am using raw milk and kefir as the base. The mixture has been standing for close t 24 hours, but it has not turned thick in its consistency. The cream from the milk rose to the top and underneath is just thin liquid. I am not certain if I should wait longer for it to curdle or continue with the heating process. There was a user named Sam who commented on your blog and he was also using raw milk to make tvorog. Anyway to ask him about that experience? I would contact him directly, but his email address is not listed.

Thank you in advance,

Vika

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

Vika-I've never made tvorog with raw milk or kefir, and I don't have Sam's e-mail. Sorry I can't help more! Let me know how it turns out.

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Anonymous said...

Hello Yulinka,
what is buttermilk? Chinusky? or smetana? or...? I've just bought zuckats and vanilla and lovely eggs, ready to start making the tvorog.
And then the paskha on Good Friday, hours and hours... Definitely worth the trouble.Now, starting with milk .. and buttermilk?
Full of questions

dw said...

Viktoria & Yulinka,
I came across this blog looking for recipes for farmer's cheese. I'm also using raw milk & I have some that has already soured & separated from the whey by itself in the fridge. I'm wondering if I can still use it to make this recipe. I will try & post my results. I've found that raw milk takes at least a week to start separating naturally without having to heat it up.

dw said...

I forgot to click "Email follow-up comments." :)

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Sara said...

I used to live in the Czech Republic and I loved (what they call) tvaroh. I have beeen meaning to make it at home for so long but only just got up the nerve to make my own yogurt (without a machine) and creme fraiche (which sounds somewhat similar to this in process) so I'm only just getting there. My Czech teacher gave me tons of frozen currants and I would defrost them and eat with tvaroh. I have tried to buy it in stores, but as you say it's expensive and not very good. I know there are Russian stores in my area but they are little too far for me to get to regularly. Can't wait to try!

Anonymous said...

Hello, I was wondering if part of the sour milk( kefir) can be saved and used as a starter for the next batch, instead of buying buttermilk again? And can this starter be stored in the refrigerator? Please email me if you know the answer. Thanks, Ann

Julia (alias Yulinka Cooks) said...

Hi Ann--I've never tried this, so I can't help...

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