For the next time you’re feeling a bit uninspired (with yourself, with life…), I have a suggestion for you: make paneer. It’s a simple task requiring a minimal amount of work, ingredients and equipment but delivers near-magical results sure to pick you up out of a rut.
What is Paneer?
Paneer is a fresh cheese which comes from India. According to Meera Sodha, author of Made in India, it’s the only type of cheese native to Indian cuisine. As with all fresh cheeses, it tastes mainly of the milk from which it’s made, so best to use top quality. Paneer, like its fresh cheese cousins (think ricotta, cottage cheese, queso blanco), is all about texture, in this case soft and springy are accurate descriptors. If you’re familiar with store-bought paneer, Sodha says to expect a creamier product when you’re making your own.
How to use Paneer
Once it’s ready, cut into cubes, lightly fry, season and add to a savory dish. My paneer is destined for Sodha’s recipe for Palak paneer, her fresh take on Saag paneer, the mainstay on Indian restaurant menus.
How to use all that Whey
When you make your own paneer, you’ll curdle the milk and separate the curds from the whey. The curd will become the paneer and the whey…well, there’s not an obvious purpose for it, but there sure is a lot of it. Consider following one of these recipes for Nutritious Whey Drinks from Spice Up the Curry. Or use it in place of water when cooking whole grains or making bread.
I was fortunate enough to find and afford a bottle of whole, un-homogenized and low heat batch-pasteurized milk from grass-fed cows. If this criteria isn’t an option for you, choose a whole milk that is not ultra-pasteurized (just make sure this term isn’t on your milk container), as the high pasteurization temperature damages the milk molecules making it difficult for them to coagulate into curds.
How to Make Paneer
Buy 1/2 gallon whole milk, 2 medium-large lemons and assemble a large pot, a spatula, a large bowl with a sieve/colander placed inside and a few layers of cheesecloth or a nut milk bag (easier to work with). Then follow the directions below.
- ½ Gallon Whole Milk
- ¼ cup Lemon Juice
- Bring the milk to a boil in a large pot, stirring frequently so it doesn't burn.
- Once at a boil, reduce the heat to low and pour in the lemon juice, stirring constantly. Once the milk has curdled, remove the pot from heat and let sit 10 minutes.
- Place a sieve or colander over a large heatproof bowl or another large pot, and line your strainer of choice with cheesecloth or a nut milk bag.
- Carefully pour the curds and whey through the cheesecloth/nut milk bag, the whey will fall into the bowl while the curd remains within the cloth.
- Allow to sit until cool enough to handle, then squeeze the curd in the cloth extracting as much liquid as possible. Return the cloth-wrapped curd to the strainer, and press down with a weight (such as another heavy bowl), and allow to sit for 3 hours.
- Chill wrapped in plastic until ready to use. Enjoy within 3 days.
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Image Credits: Homemade Panner