Making cheese at home sounds daunting, difficult, and all of those other words we attach to things we would rather have someone else do for us. It’s true, making some cheese is insanely complex and requires a skill set I will most likely never possess. Paneer though, is something I can make. If you can boil things, you can make it too.
Paneer is a fresh cheese, popular in Indian and other South Asian cuisines. It’s non-melting, and completely vegetarian (Instead of using rennet to curdle like many other cheeses, it uses citrus juice or vinegar.) It has a subtle sweetness from the raw milk, and a lovely crumbly but springy texture. The taste is very similar to ricotta, and this versatile fromage will take on the flavors of any dish it is used in. This makes it a spectacular accompaniment to spicy curries. Little bites of milky cheese running through a spicy curry are a perfect respite for tingly taste buds. It’s a versatile cheese, and can even be marinated or grilled.
I’m planning to marinate this batch and use it in a lovely curried couscous with grilled veggies. Stay tuned for more recipes
- 2 liters fresh whole milk, unpasteurized/raw is best (skim milk will not work)
- 4 teaspoons lime juice
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar (set aside)
- Herbs of choice (I used fresh mint)
- Stock pot that can accommodate 1 gallon. (Milk will foam and rise)
- Cheese cloth
- Large mixing bowl (if you would like to retain the whey)
- 2 plates
- Heavy Object
- Slowly bring milk and herbs to a boil, stirring constantly to avoid burning the milk on the side of the pot. Keep an eye on it, as it will foam.
- Tip – Use a rubber spatula to stir the milk. If the milk scalds and sticks to the pan, a soft utensil won’t scrape it up and ruin your batch
- Milk will rise and foam when it comes to a boil. When this happens, remove from heat and stir in lime juice.
- Return to heat, and lower to medium/low
- Stir gently, and wait for milk to separate into curds and whey. If this doesn’t happen after a minute or two (acid content in citrus can vary), add white vinegar one teaspoon at a time.
- When milk curdles, prepare colander by lining with a cheesecloth, and placing inside the mixing bowl.
- Pour curds and whey through the cheesecloth and rinse gently under cold water.
- Running the curds under cold water will stop the cooking process and prevent your paneer from going rubbery on you.
- Gently lift cloth and twist into a pouch
- Place cheese between 2 plates, forming a disk and add heavy weight on top.( I used the lid of my dutch oven here – about 4 pounds)
- Press cheese for 30-40 minutes. Shorter for a softer cheese, longer for a hard cheese. I went for longer as I have plans to marinate and grill the firm paneer.
Your cheese should look something like this after the pressing stage. Yield will be approximately 8 ounces of cheese.
Fresh paneer will keep for up to 5 days in an air tight container in the fridge, but tastes best within a day or two of preparation.