In our family, Easter is not Easter without this traditional Russian dessert. This version is made by heating buttermilk until it separates into curds and whey (yep, just like what Miss Muffet ate). Then the curds are combined with eggs, butter, sour cream, sugar, vanilla, and lemon zest to create a delicious creamy mixture that’s poured into molds lined with cheese cloth. As a child I always looked forward to eating it for breakfast on Easter morning before church, and then again for dessert after Easter dinner. I loved watching it come out of its mold, and then helping decorate it with almonds and raisins, making the letters XB, which stand for Христос Воскресе (Xristos Voskrese), meaning Christ is Risen!
1 gallon buttermilk
zest of 2 lemons
2 cups sour cream
2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
almonds, raisins, and/or edible flowers for decorating
special equipment: cheesecloth
Pour buttermilk into heavy 5-6 quart pan and warm over medium low heat, stirring once or twice until separated into curds and whey (about 20 minutes).
Line a fine mesh strainer (or colander) with 2 layers of cheesecloth, rinsed and squeezed dry.
Pour curds and whey through strainer. Let stand until curds stop dripping, 10-15 minutes.
Pick up the cheese cloth around the curds and squeeze to discard clear whey.
Tada! You have beautiful curd cheese made from buttermilk!
Combine the curds, lemon zest, eggs, sour cream, and vanilla bean seeds in a food processor. Process until very smooth. In the heavy pan, combine the butter and the sugar. Heat over low heat, stirring, until the butter melts. Add the processed mixture to the pan with the butter and sugar, and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
Line several 3 small bowls or clay pots with 2 layers of cheesecloth.
Pour cheese mixture into containers.
Fold excess cloth over cheese. Transfer to refrigerator to chill for 6-24 hours.
Invert onto serving plate, decorate with almonds/raisins or edible flowers, and serve. Or chill up to 3 days.