How to Make Paneer

Paneer is a kind of Indian fresh, unripened cheese. It is quite crumbly and delicate and so is often fried and lightly browned before it is cooked. It is a good idea to do this in a well-seasoned cast-iron or nonstick pan, as the cheese tends to stick a bit. There are some dishes where the cheese is not fried at all. Somewhat like tofu, fresh paneer has very little taste of its own. It does have texture, and lots of protein. The taste comes from the flavours of the foods with which it is cooked. It is frequently cooked with with spinach {Saag Paneer). It can also be crumbled and added to grated vegetables which can then be rolled into balls and deep-fried.. It can be crumbled, layered with partially cooked rice, and baked.

What You Need
1 quart whole milk 2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

What Now?
Bring the milk to boil. As soon as it begins to bubble, put in the lemon juice, stir once, and take the pot off the heat. Leave it alone for around 15 minutes. The milk will curdle and the curds will separate from the whey.

Strain the curds through 3 layers of cheesecloth. Squeeze out as much whey as you can easily (do not discard the whey, refridgerate it and use for cooking instead of water). Tie the curds in the cheesecloth, using twine to make a small, round bundle. Use sufficient twine, as you now need to hang up this bundle somewhere to drip overnight (hanging it on the tap over the sink works well).

Next morning, remove the hanging bundle and untie it. Gently flatten it out to make a 4 inch (10 cm) patty, keeping the cheese loosely wrapped in the cheesecloth. Put the patty on a sturdy plate and place a very heavy object on top of it. Perhaps a heavy pot filled with water. Or a stack of unread manuals from software. Leave the weight on the cheese for 4 to 5 hours. After the cheese has been pressed, you could cut into diamonds or rectangles with a very sharp knife, about 1 inches/2 1/2 cm long each.

(Hindi) Paneer is unique; there is no substitute for it. Being homemade cheese, in India it is eaten either by itself, or as an ingredient in recipes (e.g. subji!). Surpassing other cheeses, it is unique for its versatility, fine taste, high melting point. Complementing sensei's w/u above, I thought I would give the recipe I learnt along with some yield amounts, and information on curdling agents.

Ingredients

Total time: approx. 30 mins

Method

  1. Heat the milk over a medium heat in a pot large enough to allow the milk to rise without overflowing. Whilst waiting for the milk to boil, prepare your choice of curdling agent and get a strainer/collander ready by lining it with two layers of cheesecloth(*) and propping it above a receptacle to collect the whey.

  2. If you want it to be rich, add the butter once it is at a suitable temperature. Stir gently anyway, to keep it from sticking.

  3. When the milk begins to rise, stir in the curdling agent. Stir in one direction only at this time. The sponge-like paneer will now begin to separate from the clear yellow-green whey. If the whey does not become clear, add a small amount more of the curdling agent, and keep stirring.

  4. After the curds and whey have separated completely, remove the pot from the heat. Pour the contents into the cheesecloth (make sure it's big enough!). After a large amount of the liquid has drained, wash the curds under cold water to remove any excess curdling agent. Then press out the liquid.

  5. If you want firm paneer (e.g. for cubes, or for kneading into dough), then bind the paneer like a package withing the cheesecloth, pat into a block, and press it under a heavy weight for some time. The longer you leave it, the firmer it will be. You can then cut it afterwards.

  6. If you only need soft cheese, then simply tighten the cheesecloth around the paneer, squeeze a bit, and leave to drain.
(*) If you do not have cheesecloth, you can use muslin or something similar. I use a old worn-thin dhoti personally.

Sometimes paneer is known as chenna when it is soft, and only as paneer when it is pressed.

Yields

2 1/2 cups (600 ml) yields 4 oz (100 g) chenna or 3 oz (75 g) pressed paneer
7 cups (1.7 l) yields 9 oz (250 g) chenna or 7 oz (200 g) pressed paneer
12 cups (3 l) yields 14 oz (400 g) chenna or 12 oz (350 g) pressed paneer

Commonly used curdling agents

  • Lemon Juice - this will give a light, sour taste. Approx 1 tbsp lemon juice will curdle 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) of milk.

  • Citric Acid (sour salt) - these crystals (which you can buy in supermarkets or pharmacists) are easy to use and store. For firm curds, bring the milk to a full boil. Then add the citric acid a little at a time. Too much will result in mushy curds. Approx 1/2 tsp citric acid will curdle 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) of milk.

  • Yoghurt - this results in the cheese being thick and soft. Before adding you may want to dilute with a small amount of warm milk. Approx 4 or 5 tbsp yoghurt will curdle 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) of milk.

  • Whey - Whey resulting from this recipe can be kept over to use the next day. As it sours it becomes more effective. Store at room temperature for up to 2 days. (Of course you can use it for something else, e.g. cooking Dal in.) Like lemon juice, whey can give a slightly sour taste to the paneer. At least 2/3 cup (150 ml) sour whey is needed to curdle 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) of milk.
N.B. If you want to use the whey for something else, then take care about the amount of curdling agent you use. Of course, if you only want the curds then you can use plenty (it will be washed out anyway).

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