Making cheese from scratch – Paneer

Paneer is an Indian cheese which doesn’t really taste of much – it’s gently milky, but is perfect to absorb the flavours of Indian cooking. It has a good texture, doesn’t melt when cooked and is also a great source of protein. It’s also exceptionally easy to make. You can’t substitute it for any other cheese, so if you can’t buy it – make some!

If you’ve ever wanted to have a go at cheese making, but you’re not sure where to start, making paneer could be the step you’re looking for. You don’t need any special equipment or cultures and it’s very satisfying when you see the end result.

You will need:

Equipment

  • a large saucepan
  • a large bowl such as a washing up bowl
  • wooden spoon
  • large sieve or colander
  • a piece of thin cloth such as muslin, a tea towel, an old t-shirt! Make sure that the cloth is very clean but doesn’t smell of fabric conditioner or washing powder as the smell will taint the cheese.
Ingredients –
  • 2 litres (3 1/2 pints) whole milk (don’t be tempted to use semi skimmed or skimmed – it doesn’t work)
  • 1 lemon (2tbsp lemon juice), you can also substitute the lemon juice for live whole milk yogurt or white vinegar, although the vinegar can sometimes leave a vinegary taste to the finished cheese if you use too much.

Put the milk into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Keep stirring the bottom of the pan, so that the milk doesn’t catch, if it does you’ll end up with the brown bits of burnt milk in your cheese.

As the milk comes to the boil and starts to rise up the pan, add the lemon juice and stir gently. This will make the milk separate into curds and whey. If the curds (the white lumps) look like the ones in the picture, add a little more lemon juice so that bigger lumps form. It should happen quite quickly within about a minute. If it doesn’t, keep adding lemon juice splash by splash until the curds have separated from the whey.

Curds starting to form

The whey will look a watery greenish/grey colour with the curds floating on top.

Line the sieve/colander with your cloth and put it into the washing up bowl.  Put the bowl into an empty sink. Very carefully pour the hot curds and whey through the colander, empty the bowl and then run some cold water onto the curds to wash the rest of the whey out. Move the curds around with your fingers. Gather the sides of the cloth and lift the curds out of the sieve.

Lift the cloth full of curds away from the liquid

Gently squeeze the ball to get rid of as much liquid as possible.

The cheese is ready to be pressed with a heavy weight

Place the wrapped cheese onto a clean tray, laying the cloth across the cheese and put a heavy weight, such as a saucepan filled with water, on top of it. Leave for around an hour to solidify.

When you unwrap your cheese it will look something like this:

Paneer – ready to use

The finished paneer can be cut into blocks, or crumbled (home made paneer doesn’t grate very well, it’s better to crumble it) depending on what recipe you’re making.

Paneer freezes very well in a sealed container or zip lock bag.

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