Updated: May 8
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Tvorog is a wonderful fermented dairy product that is enjoyed on its own or cooked in many typical Ukrainian dishes. Without question any Ukrainian kitchen is incomplete without tvorog. This beautiful soft cheese has a texture that lies somewhere between feta and ricotta cheese. It is curdy, soft and mildly sweet in flavor.
It is a soft cheese made from fermented cow’s milk. It has a wonderful creamy flavor as well as plenty of tanginess. There are so many recipes Slavonic cuisine offers using this cheese.
Two years ago, I posted a blog about tvorog and wrote in detail on how to do it. Also, my very first recipe using this cheese that I shared with you a while ago is Tvorog (Farmer’s Cheese) + Bonus “Tvoroznaya Zapekanka” (Baked Farmer’s Cheese).
Be sure to give this a try if you haven't already!
LITTLE BIT OF HISTORY
According to a famous language lexicographer Vladimir Dal, tvorog got its name from the verb “tvorit,”which means, 'to create.' This specific name wasn’t used until the 18-19th century. Before that, the product was called “syr,” which now stands for regular cheese in most Slavic languages. My mom still uses the word "syr" when she actually means 'tvorog.'
Therefore, traditional tvorog pancakes are called “syrniki,” which I'm planning to show you in my next blog/vlog. Keep your eyes open for it. My recipe has some tricks and tips for the best cheese pancakes. I promise, you will like it. These pancakes have a surprisingly cheesy middle. Enjoy them at breakfast with jam, honey, or creme fraiche for a lusciously rich way to start the day!
RECIPES THAT FEATURE TVOROG
WHICH KIND OF MILK IS BEST FOR THIS RECIPE?
If you live near a dairy farm without a doubt purchasing raw milk is best, because the higher fat content produces a richer texture and flavor for this cheese Jersey cows are famous for super creamy milk. Even some farms offer slightly pasteurized milk, which is an excellent choice for this recipe as well.
But if you are like most of us and don't have access to acquiring milk from a farm, use the best quality that you find at your local grocery store. I recommend organic grass-fed whole milk.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED:
1-gallon whole milk (get the best quality you can; organic grass-fed is best).
1 cup of Kefir (plain).
4 layers of cheesecloth.
When it comes to making the cheese, rushing is not an option. Take your time especially after the milk has gone to the next stage after the 24 hours at room temp. At this point, the milk is now a big bowl of yogurt. Now is the time to start reheating using extremely low heat, I would even say further do it in a few stages, normally when I see it simmering and a few bubbles appear. I turn off the heat and let it sit for one-two hours or until it's almost room temperature. Then I repeat this process because doing this step a few times increases the amount of cheese and decreases the amount of whey. MORE CHEESE AND LESS WHEY!
You end up with a good amount of TVOROG (farmer's cheese) and WHEY (yellowish juice). I highly recommend that you keep the whey and do not throw it out!
FEW WORDS ABOUT WHEY
As I mentioned earlier, whey is a liquid that you do not want to throw away. Some people call it GOLDEN LIQUID!
Lactoferrin, a special protein in whey, acts as a powerful antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. It also contains vitamin B2, or riboflavin, which helps the body to convert carbohydrates into fuel. Bovine Serum Albumin, which is present in whey, is an amino acid that is an effective scavenger that removes toxic substances and supports white blood cells and helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Whey is rich in potassium and can help balance and remove excess fluids in the body. Whey also removes toxins, which will take a great strain off the kidneys.
So, as you see there is a reason why whey has been called liquid gold, and it has been used throughout history to help with many diseases. In fact, Hippocrates, the founding father of medicine, recommended whey to his patients for their ailments.
Pour milk into a large heavy bottom saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover and slowly heat until the milk reaches (105 ˚ -110 ˚F). Should be lukewarm.
Remove from the heat, add the kefir and stir with a big wooden spoon.
Cover and leave at room temperature for 12-24 hours. The time all depends on the temperature of your kitchen. In the summer it seems like everything ferments faster.
After the 12-24 hours, put the pot back on the stove on low heat, and gently bring it to a simmer for 15-20 minutes, BUT DO NOT STIR. What I like to do is turn off the heat as soon as it starts to simmer and let it cool down. I repeat that process two-three times. This way I end up with more cheese and less whey. However, you can just let it simmer for another 15 minutes without turning the heat off and on.
Line a strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth and set it over a large bowl. Slowly drain the milk through the cheesecloth, and let it sit for 3-4 hours until the curds are firm. Transfer the curds to a storage container and refrigerate for up to a week or freeze up to a month.
Transfer the whey to a clean jar and store in the refrigerator for another purpose. You should get a little bit more or less than 2 pounds of cheese with this recipe.