Tvorog: Let’s get "creative" with Russia’s most popular dairy product
I have adored tvorog since I was a child. My mother told me to eat tvorog if I wanted my bones to be strong and my teeth to be sharp. And I didn't need much convincing. I used to devour the snow-white substance with enormous pleasure. Practically all Russians love tvorog and anything made with it. The possibilities are endless.
Russian cuisine is famous for baked goods, and among the most popular are the vatrushka - rings of dough with a tvorog filling in the middle. They’re an indispensable feature of Russian teatime.
Alongside the Russian favorite of pelmeni (meat dumplings that resemble ravioli), there is a dish prepared in a similar way, except that the meat filling is replaced with tvorog, potatoes or berries. They’re called vareniki and, in my opinion, the best vareniki are made with tvorog.
Tvorog is an ingredient of many other dishes. I have much fondness for the tvorog pie that is regarded as the ancestor of American cheesecake. There’s a theory that the recipe for this dessert, which has now conquered the world, came to the New World with immigrants from Eastern Europe. Over time it underwent a number of changes to become the dish we know today.
After getting a uniform consistency, I spread it on dark sourdough rye bread and top the sandwich with some herring. My wife initially found this way of eating tvorog peculiar and said she wouldn't eat it like that for anything. But one day I caught her making sandwiches using my recipe: she had tried it and come round to the view that it was tasty and interesting.
The good thing about tvorog is that its high concentration of protein and nutritious components makes it a health food that is easily digested. It’s particularly good for growing children and athletes engaged in strenuous activity. The bacteria in tvorog have a positive effect on the gut’s microflora. But these bacteria are absent from ordinary cottage cheese - they have to be sacrificed for the sake of lengthy storage.
I have even heard that tvorog has an effect on the nervous system, acting as a sort of homemade anti-depressant. I can't vouch for the veracity of such claims, but every time I have some tvorog, or eat something tasty made of it, my mood markedly improves.
How to make it:
- 4 liters of milk (preferably low-fat, pasteurized)
- juice of 2 large lemons (approx. 120 ml)
2. Reduce the heat to a minimum, and stir constantly until the curd fully solidifies.
3. Separate the solids from the whey; pour the contents of the saucepan into a colander with muslin placed on top, then squeeze out to drain.
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