In Hungary the most common types of cheese are young and fresh ones. In this category túró is definitely the most popular, accounting for half of all cheese consumed in the country. At market halls it is scooped from large bins and sold by the kilogram, and even the smallest grocery store stocks several brands (with varying fat contents) which come in 250 gram blocks.
Túró is often translated as cottage cheese. But it is very far from the watery, flavorless, squeaky cottage diet food as Americans know it. Hungarian túró is a fresh, soft curd cheese, similar to farmer’s cheese or quark. It is most often made with cow milk, but sheep milk produces a richer version, and goat milk is occasionally used.
Túró is the main ingredient in a number of classic Hungarian dishes, both savory and sweet. One of the most common is körözött (better known as Liptauer), a spread made of túró seasoned with sweet paprika, onions, salt, and caraway seeds. When túró is mixed with pasta and topped with diced bacon and sour cream, it becomes túrós csusza (which is even better when it’s served with lecsó). Túrógombóc are slightly-sweet dumplings made of túró, which are rolled in buttered bread crumbs. Both strudel and palacsinta (crepes) can be filled with sweetened túró. Túró is even coated in chocolate to create the túró rudi, a beloved Hungarian snack. But with fresh túró from the market, the simplest preparation can be best: mixing it with a handful of chopped herbs and a sprinkle of salt, spread over good bread.
Hungarian recipes really require authentic túró—which is not easy to find everywhere. Luckily, it’s easy to make at home the old-fashioned way. It requires no special ingredients or equipment, just patience. It really involves little more than patiently letting milk sit and sour naturally.
For best results use the freshest and highest-fat whole raw milk that you can find. First the cream will rise to the top (in Hungarian this is called aludttej, or sleeping milk), and after about two days of maturing (depending on the season, it takes longer when room temperature is cooler), you can cook the milk and make the túró. After you strain it and drain it, you have your túró … and the recipe possibilities are endless!
TÚRÓ (CURD CHEESE)
12 ounces (340 grams)
- 1 liter (1.5 quarts) fresh raw milk
- Pour milk into the pot, cover, and let sit for about two days at room temperature. Do not move it during this time.
- On your lowest burner, very slowly heat the milk. Do not stir. As the milk heats, notice the whey (the yellowish liquid) separating from the curds. Heating the milk should take 1-2 hours depending on the strength of the heat. Check the progress occasionally with the slotted spoon; remove from heat when the curds are set in a large clump on the bottom (it should look similar to sour cream).
- Place the strainer in a bowl and line it with cheesecloth. Use the slotted spoon to transfer the curds into the cheesecloth. Drain the whey from the curds by tying the cheesecloth to something secure and hanging over the bowl.
- Drain for a few hours, until the consistency is right. The longer it is drained, the drier the túró will be. Reserve the whey if you plan to use it for something else. The túró will keep for four or five days.