Biezpiens (also known as cottage cheese, curds, quark and farmer’s cheese) is a staple in Latvian kitchen. Mixed with sour cream, dill, parsley, cucumber or radish on rye bread, it makes for healthy breakfast, but most will have fond memories of biezpiens with boiled potatoes, pickled herring, and, you guessed it, dill.
Biezpiens outside Latvia is a bit of a hit and miss. In Australia it is very moist, sweet and with large grain, and when used in biezpienmaize (cheese cake) or Jāņu siers (cheese) recipes it can yield very different results from expected.
It turns out, it is very easy to make proper biezpiens with basic ingredients in very short period of time. Latvian recipes always seem too daunting as they call for full fat unpasteurised milk (good luck finding it here), couple days of creating rūgušpiens, then not overworking the mixture etc. Yet, the recipe I found online and tested myself, has none of that.
You start by heating up milk just up to boiling point. Recipe mentions 80 degrees (180 degrees Fahrenheit), but, as I did not have a thermometer, I went with “this will boil over in a second”. Then add buttermilk and vinegar, and mix until curds separate – it will happen almost instantly.
Leave the curds for at least 10 minutes (I allowed mine 30 minutes), then ladle the curds with slotted spoon or skimmer in to a cheesecloth (I used muslin cloth folded in 4 layers) placed over a colander. To preserve the whey or not, it is up to you. It can be used for tenderising meat, so if you have šašliks going soon, it may not be a bad idea.Gather up the edges of cheesecloth, tie a string around it and hang it up to drain for at least 30 minutes.
Then just untie the parcel, loosen the curds, sprinkle with salt and enjoy!
- 2l full fat milk (8 cups)
- 500ml buttermilk (2 cups)
- 1 tbs white vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- Heat up milk in heavy based pot to 80 degrees (180 degrees Fahrenheit) or just before it starts to simmer. Stir often.
- Add buttermilk and stir through vinegar. Turn off the heat.
- Stir until curds (solids) separate from whey (liquid). Leave to rest for at least 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile line a colander with double folded cheesecloth or muslin cloth. Ladle the curds into cheesecloth with slotted spoon or skimmer.
- Gather the edges of the cheesecloth in a parcel, tie a string around it and hang over a container or a pot to drain for 30 minutes. (I tied it to a wooden spoon over a plastic container.)
- Untie the parcel, loosen the curds and sprinkle with salt.
- This amount of milk will yield 400g of biezpiens.