Fermented Milk Products from All Over the World • Tvorog (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus)
Tvorog is a type of fresh cheese specific to the Russian cuisine, very similar to cottage cheese. It has a pure white color, it is soft and creamy, and has a pleasant sweetish taste. Practically, tvorog is the solid part that remains after culturing fresh milk, as the liquid is removed. Russians love tvorog so much because it is extremely versatile. It can be served as a savory snack, with salt, garlic, herbs, and anything else you may like, but it is also a much-used ingredient for a wide variety of traditional desserts. Because it has a soft consistency, it can be easily spread on bread, so it is the ideal solution for breakfast or in case you are looking for a healthy and nourishing snack. It is packed with proteins, calcium, vitamins, and, of course, good bacteria that promote a good digestion and strong immune system.
The best part about tvorog is that it can be easily prepared at home. Each time you are in the mood for some fresh cheese, all you need is fresh milk and sour cream. Kefir can be used as well, but it may give your tvorog a more sour and tangy flavor. Thus, if you will use 1 gallon of milk, then you will need 16 oz. of sour cream. In case you have access to raw, whole milk, like the one available on cattle farms, then you don’t need any additional ingredients, as the milk has all the useful bacteria you need. If you work with raw milk, all you have to do is allow it to go sour and thicken at room temperature, in a pot, without doing anything to it. Once it is thick, use a cheesecloth to strain the liquid. Then wrap the solid part and hang it over a large bowl for a while, so that more liquid is drained.
If you don’t have raw milk, then you can mix fresh milk, of your choice, with sour cream. The best way to mix these two is to put the sour cream in the pot first and then add the milk, in small quantities. Thus, add a bit of milk and mix until homogenous and so on, until you manage to pour all the milk in the pot. This way, you make sure that the sour cream is well mixed with the entire quantity of milk. This process will produce a soft and uniform tvorog.
Next, you will have to set the pot near a source of heat, like a stove or oven, and allow it to thicken. It may take 2 to 3 days for the fermentation process to complete, depending on the temperature in the room. So check on your tvorog to see if it is ready. When it is indeed ready, it should be able to come off the pot’s walls, having a compact shape, rather than the liquid that was there before when the milk was still sweet. After it is clogged, place the pot in the oven at 250 degrees Fahrenheit and leave it there for 1 hour. Then take the pot out and allow it to cool overnight. The next day, you will have to drain the tvorog, with the help of a cheesecloth or gauze. Place the cheesecloth or gauze over a large bowl and put the tvorog over it. Then bring the ends of the cloth together and raise the solid part so that the liquid remains in the bowl. Try to hang the tvorog over the bowl, inside the cheesecloth, for a while, so that excess liquid is properly drained. Hang it like this overnight would be great. Once it is ready, place it in the fridge and consume it within a week.