I’m gonna try something new here. I’ve had some friends recently ask me for some recipes. I spouted off some nonsense, but in reality, very seldom do I actually use a bonafide recipe. When I meal plan, I have an idea of what to make by looking through my Everyday Food, but then I don’t revisit the recipe. I just use it as a base for ingredients. In any case, there are things that I make repeatedly because they are good and I figured, eh, I’ll share here. First one, homemade paneer.
Hello Bianca, I don’t really know what paneer is. Can you help?
Sure! Paneer is a South Asian type of cheese rich in milk protein. I find the texture amazing. There isn’t much flavor, per se, but it totally soaks up flavor in whatever dish you prepare, which makes it all the more delicious! You can buy it at the store, BUT if you don’t live near any Asian/Indian/Indo-Pak/Pakistani markets, then you wouldn’t find this stuff. Here’s how you can make your own paneer:
1/2 gallon whole milk (remember Moo Mondays at Central Market, half off milk!)
1 to 3 tablespoons of white vinegar (you can use any type of acid like lemon juice)
cheesecloth over a strainer
container (like a pyrex dish) to mold your paneer
- Bring the milk temperature to just below boiling and turn off your heat. This is when those tiny bubbles start to form. It’s a short time from when that happens and when it is rolling to a boil. I usually add a pinch of salt. You can stir it as it cooks. You can also enlist the help of your 5 year old to stir and pretend you are witches over a boiling cauldron. This is great until your almost 2 year old wants to help and stir too, and then they will both start to fight over who gets to stir more, which will eventually lead them to bickering. In which case, you try to settle with an alternative food snack since you are in the kitchen, after all, and all is well until you maybe burn your milk a little bit.
- Add your vinegar to the milk one tablespoon at a time, stirring after each time. (This is where it gets all fun and science-y!) The curds will separate from the whey. (Those bits of brown in my pot are b/c I was multi-tasking and burnt my milk, but hey, bonus flavor! Remember from earlier??)
Wait a bit to pour over because you could get quite a bit of steam and I don’t want you to burn yourself! In my case, my smallest one had to potty and big sister took her, so I raced off to make sure all was well with them. Once we had all of that done, enough time had passed for me to be able to strain it.
- Now pour the mixture into the cheesecloth covered strainer. (I don’t have a photo b/c I forgot to snap one during this step because the house was eerily quiet and I was rushing to strain my curds from whey because things are too quiet!! All was well. The 5 year old covered the nearly 2 year old with some lotion on her hair because “she needed a style, mommy” ‘eh, extra conditioning and a nice smelling head never hurt anyone.)
Note: When you do this, have it over a bowl so you can save all of that whey*.
- Try to strain out as much of the whey from the curds as possible. Transfer the curds into your pyrex dish and spread to your mold. Set in the refrigerator overnight or up to a week from when you will use the curds. Again, the brown spots in mine were from where I burnt the milk. It’s ok, it won’t compromise the flavor, just the look. Mine isn’t in the cheesecloth just for the sake of the photo. I typically leave it wrapped and press it flatter with a pickle jar just to really get it into that rectangular shape.
You can eat the curds immediately. Collectively, it looks almost like ricotta. When it is warm, I’ve given it to my girls and they think it is a warm cheese treat. Also, they know when I pour the whey into mason jars we will be having pancakes and soup soon! whey pancake recipe coming soon!
*Whey is still highly nutritious and can be used in a variety of ways. Don’t waste your whey! My friend Dadthebaker taught me that!
Now go on out and make some paneer. You’ll feel like a scientist in the kitchen!