Friday, August 21, 2009


Fried pieces of paneer

This is a recipe for the simplest homemade cheese. If you're making Indian food, you'll press absolutely all the whey out and call it paneer. If you're making Italian food, you won't press it as much and call it ricotta. (Traditional ricotta is made with whey, but I think this gives similar results.) In other food traditions, you might call it farmer's cheese. Basically, in this recipe you heat milk, curdle it with an acid, and strain out the chunky white curds. You can make it with any milk from whole to skim. Whole is richer, and that's what I use. I have used this cheese to make saag paneer, a traditional Indian dish with spinach or other greens, and mater paneer, or peas with paneer. That recipe will be next up on the blog. Paneer is pan-fried in both those recipes, so you want it as firm as possible so it will hold its shape. If you're using it as ricotta, you'll want more liquid in it since you'll probably be using it in a lasagna or something.

Paneer (recipe from Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Sumana Ray)
The milk amount is just a suggestion. The amount of vinegar below will curdle much more milk. You get about 1 cup of paneer for each quart of milk, so plan accordingly.
3 quarts milk
7 oz warm water
3 oz white vinegar

Bring the milk to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Combine the water and vinegar. Slowly add the vinegar solution to the milk. When the milk curdles, stop adding vinegar.
Put three to four layers of cheesecloth on a sieve or narrow-holed colander and strain the curdled milk. If you want a ricotta-like cheese, stop here and put the cheese in a container and refrigerate. If you want paneer that will hold its shape when pan-fried, press out as much whey as you can. I use the bottom of a bowl with a towel in it because the cheese is still very hot at this point and I have delicate little hands. After you've pressed out as much as you can that way, tie the ends of the cheesecloth together and hang it up to drain a little more. I sometimes wrap it in a towel at this point and wring it out. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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