Thursday, March 1

MAKE IT: Paneer Cheese

Paneer is a fresh cheese from India. It is commonly used in South Asian cooking and just happens to be one of my favorite cheese ever! It has a few interesting qualities: it is a non-melting cheese, it is not aged or fermented, it uses no coagulating element which turns this into a huge hit with vegetarians. It is a pressed cheese, the longer you keep it under pressure the firmer it gets. Which makes it perfect for slicing and adding to curries and heavy sauced dishes. I enjoy eating it cut into chunks along side a peanut sauce dish.

Making paneer is easy, very time consuming, but very easy. I do reiterate very time consuming, you will need to set aside a good solid hour of time just to get the base ready. From start to finish this can take close to three or fours hours depending on how long you press the cheese. Just keep in mind your desired end product or use and follow the pressing chart (see below).I highly recommend giving this a try one day, it is so worth the work.

This will make 1- 1 1/2 lb cheese
Full time: 4-8 hours (based on desired firmness)
You will need:

Half gallon whole milk
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt

Let us begin:

Start by sitting you milk out on counter, unopened for about an hour. You want the milk to get slightly warmed up, but not room temp, this will help a lot more than you will think

Once it has set get all your work area ready lemon juice measured out, salt all ready. Once you begin the next step your in for a while. Also set a timer for 2 minutes and putting it within arms reach.

Pour milk into a large stock pot and place over medium heat, resist the urge to turn up the heat, seriously keep it at medium. You need to reduce the water out of the milk and keeping the heat constant is important in this.

You need to stir this continuously while you bring it to a full boil. This will take a good 45-60 minutes so be prepared to be here for a while. Just keep stirring or you will scorch. 

Once it reaches a full boil add in salt and lemon juice. Start your timer and keep stirring. The mixture will begin to thicken and pull together.
Once the timer goes off remove the pot from the heat, don't just turn off the heat, move the pot to a unheated area. And set a timer for 15 minutes

Now walk away, your probably tired of looking at this pot and stirring it, so take a break and let the cheese do it's thing. It will begin to curd and form.

When the timer goes off gently tilt the pot slightly, you should see the cheese move as a whole and the water or whey should freely move up to surface.
Now lets set up your drain area. Normally you want to use cheese cloth but straight cheese cloth isn't thin enough for the small curds of this cheese. I like to line a colander with cheese cloth, than top with a coffee filter, and then more cheese cloth. Place this in your sink.

Pour cheese slowly into draining area and reset a timer for 15 minutes. Let it sit in the draining area and let the whey drain away.
When the timer goes off, pick up the whole thing and squeeze it tightly to try and get out excess whey, the more you drain out the better the texture
Now carefully remove the first layer of cheese cloth and coffee filter
Shaping the cheese is easy, with the cheese cloth still on, push the cheese gently but firmly into a plate. Press until cheese is roughly 1/2" to 3/4" thick and disk shaped
Top the disk with a flat surfaced plate or dish
Top this with several books and let it sit for the press period. Keep and eye out for excess water and drain it off the plate

TEXTURE/CONSISTENCY                USE                                  PRESS TIME      
Extra firm, solid                                      sliced, curries, skewers                             3-4 hours
Firm, solid                                                      chunks, salads                                  2-3 hours
Semi-soft, solid                                          crumbles, toppings                             1 1/2-2 hours
Soft, semi-solid                                         flaky, sauces, salads                                  1 hour      

Once pressed, carefully remove the cheese cloth and place disk on a paper plate. Cover this and stick in a refridgerator until ready to use