If you tried the ricotta from my last post and are finding yourself wanting “more” in the way of homemade cheese, paneer is a great next step. This version is a spiced paneer, but you can omit the cumin and make it plain, if you'd like. I find that the addition of spices to most fresh cheeses will extend the shelf life of the cheese by a few days—not to mention, it makes them very tasty!
All you'll need is:
• 1 gallon milk, raw or pasteurized, goat or cow
• a scant ½ teaspoon ground cumin
• 4-5 tablespoons lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (with goat milk, I prefer lemon juice; with cow milk, I use apple cider vinegar. The difference is subtle, but there)
• 2 tablespoons salt
• cheesecloth or flour sack towel
1. Pour your milk into a non-reactive pot; stainless steel or enamelware work perfectly for cheesemaking. Stir in the cumin. Bring the milk to a boil (yes, boil), very slowly. I use a portable infrared cooktop for cheesemaking, because I can control the temperature. If you have an infrared cooktop, set it to 275 degrees. If you are using a conventional cooktop, use no higher than medium heat. It takes a good while to bring it to a boil, and either way, you'll be keeping a close eye on it and stirring frequently. If you try to rush the process, you'll end up with scorched milk. Not only is that not palatable, but you will hate the cleanup process!
Cumin in goat milk. Photo By Pier Jones.
2. Once you have a slow boil, not rolling, add your acid of choice. Because paneer is a solid mass of cheese (not crumbly), you will get a better curd if you add the lemon juice or vinegar slowly while stirring the milk in one direction. If, after about a minute, you are not seeing the curd separate from the whey, add more acid, one tablespoon at a time. Remove from the heat, add the salt (paneer is quite bland without it, even with the addition of the cumin) and stir for a few more seconds. Allow the curd to settle to the bottom of the pot for 10 to 15 minutes.
Paneer curd. Photo By Pier Jones.
3. Line a colander with cheesecloth or a towel and drain the cheese. I find this step easier if I begin by pouring off the whey, down to the level of the curd. You'll get less splashing that way. Then wrap the paneer in cheesecloth, place it on several thicknesses of towel (several, so think about using a couple of bath towels here), and place a weight (a cast iron pot works well) on top for a few hours. Or, you can hang it until firm, as I prefer....after all, why dirty more laundry?
Drain the paneer using a cheesecloth-lined colander. Photo By Pier Jones.
Hang the paneer until it is firm. Photo By Pier Jones.
You may wonder, “Why cumin?” I have used turmeric, and that adds a nice flavor and tint. And garlic powder, added sparingly, is good. But because I generally cube and marinate the paneer in a curry blend, the cumin seems the most complimentary. (To add the paneer to a curry blend, add your favorite curry powder to buttermilk, yogurt or milk and pour it over the cubed paneer. Cover and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight.)
Marinate the paneer in a mixture of your favorite curry blend and butter, yogurt or milk. Photo By Pier Jones.
Once marinated and browned in either butter or ghee, the paneer will keep for at least a week in the refrigerator. It is a great snack or finger-food, and of course just begs to be added to your next dish of curried anything! Try adding it to soups and stews, for a meatless variation of those old favorites. Paneer is a mild cheese and will pick up the flavors of whatever you cook with it.
Browned paneer. Photo By Pier Jones.
You may be wondering what you can do with all that whey you have just poured off. I drain my cheeses over a big pot and feed the whey to my chickens, who love it.
Until next time, remember: Eat Real Food!
Pier Jones is an Oklahoman who is passionate about many things—her family, gardening, yoga, food preservation, herbs and all things food-related. Like most Southern women, she lives to feed people! Follow her on her Facebook page, A Year of Traditional Living.