Thursday, June 18, 2009

How To...Make Indian Cheese - Paneer

Paneer is an un-aged cheese made by curdling hot milk with some sort of acidic agent. It's a drier version of cottage cheese and a close cousin to queso blanco. The reason I started getting fascinated with paneer is that it is typically the only type of cheese that is used in a lot of Indian recipes, and then I found out that its fairly easy to make at home which can give one a lot of boasting rights.
I make my own cheese.

Pretty impressive. Loser.

However, I do have a lot of conviction to make this at home now, because store bought paneer, usually frozen and chock-full of preservatives and well past their prime, tastes absolutely, well, tasteless. It would be the equivalent of grating chalk into your curry.
Soul Food is a hip blog run by an equally hip and talented and cheery web friend of mine, and her exacting post on how to make your own paneer sealed the deal for me. Do check out her post for some awesome tips on how to flavor the paneer as well. What??! You can flavor the cheese too???
Cardamom paneer.
Sweet paneer.
Chilli paneeerr...
Oooohhhh, my head is spinning.

I'm just documenting the method below with some super cheesy pictures (he he), but it was sourced completely from Soul Food.
1. You need full cream or full fat milk. The less percentage fat in the milk, the less cheese you will be able to strip out. In terms of quantity yielded, I used about a litre of milk, and ended up with a a little less than a cup of paneer. Pour your milk into a heavy based pot or stainless steel utensil.

2. Boil up your milk to a roaring boil.

3. Add your curdling agent and take the milk off the heat. Vinegar is the most preferred based on what I've read, but lemon juice comes in a close second. For 1L of milk, I used 100 ml vinegar.

4. As seen above, the cheese curdles from the milk and separates to form a soft grainy mass and a clear liquid (whey). If the whey is yellowish, add a little more vinegar till the whey becomes a light green color. BE CAREFUL, adding too much vinegar at this point will end up affecting the taste of the cheese!! When everything cools down, drain the cheese using a muslin cloth in a colander.

5. After all the whey has drained, gather up the corners of the muslin cloth, and transfer the cheese to a flat surface (that can get wet). Cover the cheese with more muslin cloth. Place a heavy object on top of the cheese (to flatten and drain out the remaining mositure. When sufficiently dry (a few hours to overnight), cube or crumble the cheese and freeze or use right away.

Shards of Paneer

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