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Tvorog. It doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. The cluster of Slavic consonants can fill up your mouth and twist that tongue silly. Fortunately, tvorog the food (not the word) is a delicious Russian treat that goes down much easier than its name. Tvorog is the name of a traditional Russian cheese, a farmer’s cheese (also called quark). It’s easy to make at home and an absolutely delicious addition to many dishes, like my children’s favorite breakfast: syrniki.
For tvorog you’ll need:
There are a ton of tvorog recipes out there. Some use buttermilk or kefir to sour the milk, others can be made quickly with lemon juice curdling the milk. This is, however, the recipe I learned from my mother-in-law, and it’s the one that we use. It’s simple, with consistent results.
Open the gallon of milk and drop the dollop of sour cream or yogurt into the jug. Put the lid back on loosely — too tight and the jug will swell and burst. Set the milk on a room-temperature kitchen counter until it sours, usually two to three days, depending on the weather. When the milk is thick and lumpy, more solid than buttermilk, pour it into a saucepan. Heat the milk slowly, but do not boil it. When it gets to the steam point, it will separate into curds and whey. The curds will rise and clump together.
Strain the milk through the cheesecloth, and tie the remains into a bundle. Hang the cheesecloth and let it drain for fifteen minutes or so (I prefer to hang it from the kitchen faucet and let it drip into the sink). After it has drained, put it into a container and refrigerate it.
So what do you do with your new Russian cheese? It’s delicious served fresh with a bit of honey for breakfast, but it is also amazing in small pies (grab a fresh one next time you’re in a local Russian store), and it makes some of my favorite dumplings (called tvorog vareniki). In my household, though, most tvorog doesn’t last long enough to be made into anything but syrniki — cheese pancakes.
For syrniki you’ll need:
Combine all of the ingredients except the vegetable oil. Stir until it is all uniform. In a skillet, heat two or three tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Don’t overheat.
Make the dough into small patties 2 to 2 ½ inches in diameter, no more ½-inch thick. Fry the patties 3 to 4 minutes on each side, flipping once, until they are golden brown.
Serve warm with a dollop of sour cream and jam.