Homemade Tvorog is a fermented cheese that's full of probiotics. Popular in Russia and Eastern Europe, like a Russian Cottage Cheese, a staple of Slavic cooking. Only takes 15 minutes to prepare, making homemade cheese is easy.
There are many ways to make fresh cheeses like Tvorog, and they're called by many names from different cultures. Known as Quark, Farmer's Cheese, White Cheese, Fresh Cheese and many more names. I usually cheat and make an easy Tvorog without fermenting, but the flavor isn't sour enough like traditional Tvorog is meant to taste like.
We went to Russian school every Wednesday night, Mum would get fresh raw milk from a member of the local Russian church who had some cows, to make the Tvorog. We were buying bootleg milk literally from the back of his van! There's lots of debate around raw milk and the flavors and health benefits/dangers it brings, all I remember is how great this cheese was. I always use a milk with the highest % milk fat when making Tvorog.
Tvorog with Kefir
One of the common ways to make Tvorog is using Kefir or Buttermilk. While this method requires heating in a pot, it will kill the natural probiotics. However, it's an easy way to make Tvorog.
- Bring 2 litres/2 quarts of milk to a boil
- Add 1 litre/1 quart of Kefir or Buttermilk
- Heat until curds form
- Strain in cheesecloth or fine sieve, separating curds and whey
Tvorog with Vinegar
This is the easy way to make Farmer's Cheese or Tvorog. All you need is an acid which curdles the milk. I don't like using vinegar, but prefer lemon juice as I find the whey has a milder flavor. This method also does not have probiotics but is quick.
- Heat 4 litres/1 gallon of milk and a pinch of salt to a near boil
- Remove from heat and add ⅔ cup of lemon juice or vinegar
- The milk will curdle. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before straining to separate cheese and curds
How to Make Tvorog with Yogurt
So this method of using Tvorog needs real authentic yogurt, full of probiotics and without thickeners. I use Greek Yogurt, check the label to see if they thicken it. Not all yogurt is natural real yogurt. The point of this recipe is to keep the probiotics alive as it naturally ferments.
- Mix 3 litres of milk and ½ cup of Greek yogurt in a large pot
- Cover with lid and leave on the counter for 2-3 days until it sours and thickens
- Preheat oven to a max of 120°F/48°F. Place pot in the oven for 1 hour until the milk heats. Check to see the temp of milk isn't higher than 120°F/48°F so the good bacteria don't die
- Allow pot to cool and strain through a cheesecloth. Tie up cheesecloth and hang over the kitchen faucet with a bowl underneath to separate the curds and whey
- Save the whey for other recipes, and enjoy your probiotic tvorog
Is Fermenting Foods Safe?
Like all fermenting or pickling, there are things that can go wrong. Good and bad bacteria can grow. Make sure everything you are using (workspace, utensils, pots, lids) are clean and sterile. Trust your nose. When fermenting doesn't smell right, starts to mold or discolor, don't risk it. If in doubt, throw it out. Still unsure, then try making Farmer's Cheese as a first step to cheesemaking.
How to eat Tvorog
There are many Slavic recipes that use tvorog for baking and cooking. However, this recipe is best enjoyed fresh, so you receive all the benefits of the probiotics. It's popular to enjoy for breakfast.
- Tvorog with Sour Cream - Make a Cottage Cheese Breakfast Bowl that's high in protein. Mix Tvorog with a spoon of sour cream, add sugar and enjoy with fresh fruit or raisins
- Tvorog with Herbs - Mix Tvorog with chopped dill, cilantro and salt. Great as a dip or spread over bread
- Tvorog with Honey - Sweeten Tvorog with honey, and enjoy by itself or on your toast
- Baked Blintzes - Tvorog tastes amazing rolled up in crepes and baked
- Geese Feet Cookies - easy to make, using Tvorog as main ingredient, kids love these!
Leftover Whey Ideas
Don't throw out your whey, it's too valuable as it helps the microflora in your gut! Substitute with milk or water in most recipes. It freezes well and has vitamins and minerals in it. Using whey will elevate your recipes!
- Blini - Russian Crepes are my favorite way to use whey - substitute whey with water
- Pancakes - Use whey when making pancakes, even if using store bought mix
- Homemade Bread - add it into your bread mix instead of water
- Cream of Wheat Porridge - substitute some of the milk with whey
- Smoothies - add whey to your breakfast smoothie
- Soups - add whey to your soup stock
- Rehydrate raisins or grains - don't use water, try whey instead
If you've never had Tvorog, you'll either love it or hate it. It's sharper and more sour than Ricotta or Cottage Cheese. Remember, it's a soured fermented milk product, but the probiotics are worth it. It's a great experience to know how to make your own cheese, everyone will love this recipe. Bon Appetit! Приятного аппетита!
- 3 litres of milk 3 quarts
- ½ cup natural Greek yogurt - no thickeners or kefir no sweeteners, gelatine free
- Put the milk into a large pot with a lid.
- In a separate bowl, add the Greek yogurt and some milk and mix together to remove lumps.
- Add the yogurt mixture to the pot and stir. Put the lid on the pot, but leave the vent open if available.
- Leave in a warm spot, on the kitchen counter/stove for 2-3 days or more (depending on temperature in your house). The liquid will start to thicken and give off a slightly sour smell. It will look more yogurt-y with curd formations in it, but look nothing like tvorog at this stage yet.
- Turn the oven to preheat to 120°F/48°F. Put the pot into the oven for 1 hour to gently heat the milk. Check the temperature of the milk to keep it to 120°F/48°F. When you take it out of the oven, you will see curds separating from the whey. Do not turn temperature higher as it will kill any live cultures in the cheese. Allow to cool for about 45 minutes so you don't burn yourself.
- In a separate bowl, place a colander lined with cheesecloth ready for the tvorog mixture.
- Carefully pour the mixture into the lined colander. The curds stay in the muslin/cheesecloth and the whey in the bowl.
- Tie the cheesecloth into a knot to drain. Hang on a faucet over the sink, or on a kitchen cupboard handle with a bowl underneath, or in the colander in the fridge overnight.
- Save you whey for future recipes. Untie the cheesecloth and enjoy your tvorog!