The smell of the Brownies just removed from the oven is wafting through the air, a fire is in the wood stove, Ebo is curled up on Ed’s lap.
Last month a friend mentioned making simple paneer cheese. A quick internet search yielded a recipe, a jar of milk and I was on my way to making a cheese. These pictures were from the first attempt.
Note: I’m still very much a novice. These are instructions come from my own experiences making the cheese.
1 – 2 Quarts/Liters of milk
3 – 5 Tablespoons of Lemon juice or Apple cider vinegar. You may need more or less; start out with 3 Tbls then add more as needed to get the milk curds to separate.
Pinch of sea or Himalayan salt The recipe I looked at didn’t include salt but the first cheese seemed almost tasteless so now I add it.
You can use any type of whole milk though it works better to avoid milk that is labeled as “Ultra-pasturized”.
The quantity doesn’t need to be specific. If you want lots of cheese, use 2 quarts (2 liters) of milk. 1 quart will render a small chunk of cheese.
I used about 1.75 quarts since I needed to keep some milk on hand.
Heat the milk in a pan over medium heat, stirring slowly and often across the bottom. You do not want the milk to scorch on the bottom of the pan!
Have the lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, the measuring spoon, and a sprinkling of salt at hand. Once the milk begins to froth and simmer remove the pan from the heat and pour enough juice or cider to make the milk solids come together into curds and separate from the whey. Stir, cover and let it sit about 10 minutes
The first time I used cider and it took 5 Tablespoons to do the trick. When I made it again several days ago I used 4 Tablespoons of lemon juice. The lemon juice seemed to do a better job of bringing the solids together quicker.
This picture shows it close to being finished. At this point pretty much all the milk curds had separated from the whey. I expected the whey to be a mostly transparent watery liquid but it stayed a milky-white.
Pour the contents over a towel lined colander placed over a bowl to drain off the whey. Sprinkle the sea salt over the cheese and massage lightly with your hands to work in the salt.
Briefly run the bundle under cold water to remove any cider or lemon residue. The first time I made it I didn’t rinse it off and it had a slightly cider/sour taste.
Bring the four corners of the towel together and squeeze out all the remaining liquid. Put the cheese, still in the towel onto a plate, pat cheese into the shape and thickness you’d like then fold the towel firmly over the cheese and place a heavy plate on top to firmly press it down for 30 – 40 minutes. This step is important to make the cheese firm enough not to easily crumble apart. If you don’t have a heavy ceramic plate put a jar filled with dry beans or any heavy, clean container on top of the plate.
During the 30 minute wait Violet played the piano.
Perhaps someday she will be able to play the music in front of her. :)
Pat off any remaining moisture with a clean, dry cloth and let it set in the air for an hour or so then wrap in plastic wrap, or place in an airtight container and place in the refrigerator. It should keep several days.
A simple, mild cheese. We like it sliced into finger lengths and eaten with rustic breads, or cubed and added to soups or salads.
When Allison was here this past weekend she told us about eating it when she visited India several years ago. Paneer doesn’t melt and is often used in curries.
With future batches I’ll experiment with breading and frying pieces, as well as dusting them with seasonings and briefly toasting on a hot skillet.
The pay-off with the price of good milk might not be worth the small amount of cheese. I enjoyed making it and like having it on hand.