How To Make Paneer At Home?

My daughter came home from school the other day with questions about cheesemaking after it was mentioned in one of her lessons. She remembered that I sometimes make paneer at home and I decided it was about time I satisfied her curiosity and introduced her to the process of making this versatile ingredient at home.

Paneer is an Indian cheese traditionally made by curdling buffalo or cow’s milk, straining out the curd and pressing it. The milk is usually curdled using a natural souring agent like lemon juice, curd or vinegar. Paneer is integral to Indian cuisine and has found its way into regional recipes throughout India

I can’t remember exactly when it was during my childhood, but my first experience of eating paneer was definitely in palak paneer at a restaurant in India. Clearly, paneer was the highlight of the dish and I remember raving about it for months. Paneer was almost always shop-bought whenever it was cooked at home or spotted on a restaurant menu. The quality of shop-bought paneer used to be great. However, these days I’ve developed a taste for the homemade variety. Shop-bought paneer is normally denser, chewier and makes a squeaky sound as you bite into it. On the other hand, homemade paneer tends to have a somewhat crumbly texture and tastes so much fresher!

As I said, I almost always used ready-made paneer for cooking in India. When I moved to the UK, I could only find yellow coloured paneer that had an off-putting acidic taste and it was then that my husband suggested we make our own. It turned out to be a great success.

If you make paneer yourself you know it’s fresh. It tastes and smells wonderfully milky and you can control the texture. Shop-bought paneer has a suspiciously long use-by date and many brands have a rubbery texture, more like cheddar than the real thing. 

What does paneer taste like?

Paneer is well known the world over. It is often referred to as cottage cheese because there is no closer equivalent in the UK. Paneer does taste a little like cottage cheese or ricotta but paneer is paneer. So I prefer to call it by its original name. Taste-wise, it is mild and subtle with a milky flavour. Texture-wise, it should be firm enough to cut into cubes but softer and crumblier than cheddar, for example. Since paneer doesn’t have a strong flavour of its own, it readily absorbs the flavours of the spices and seasonings used in the dishes it is cooked with. It is often used in both savoury and sweet dishes, making it a rather versatile ingredient in Indian cuisine.

How to make paneer at home?


The ingredients:

  • Whole milk: Make sure you buy good quality whole milk with plenty of cream in it. Buffalo milk is supposed to be especially creamy so it makes great paneer. But full-fat cow’s milk works well too.
  • Souring agent: You can use lime, vinegar or yoghurt as a souring agent to make paneer.

Step by step method:
Making paneer is so easy that I could leave my child to do it if it weren’t for the hot pan of milk!  All you need to do is curdle the milk.

  1. Start by boiling the milk over a medium flame. Once it comes to a boil, add a naturally acidic ingredient. It could be vinegar, yoghurt or lime juice. I prefer to use lime juice as it’s easily available and curdles the milk quickly without imparting any strong flavours.
  2. As soon as lime juice is added the milk will start to curdle. The curds will separate and float to the top leaving a clear greeny yellowish whey. Continue boiling over a medium flame. Ensure you stir in one direction to get big chunks of curd. Large bits of curd tend to bind well during the setting process. At the end of the curdling process, the whey should be an almost clear liquid. Then switch off the flame.
  3. Strain the curd through a cheesecloth-lined sieve held over a deep-bottomed pot. The curd remains in the cheesecloth while the nutritious whey collects in the pot. Don’t throw the whey away. It can be used for chapati or paratha dough or even to make bread. If you don’t fancy using it for cooking, simply fertilise your curry leaf plant with its nutritious goodness.
  4. Rinse the collected curd by pouring water over it. That helps wash away any residual sour taste of lime juice or vinegar.
  5. Gather up the ends of the cheesecloth wrapping the curd. Then squeeze out excess water by wringing the cheesecloth gently.
  6. Flatten the curd by hand whilst still wrapped in the cheesecloth on a wooden board or a flat plate. Once it’s more or less flat, place a heavy object on top. I tend to use a big cast iron pot but anything weighty that you can balance on top will do.
  7. If you have room, press the cheese in the fridge as this speeds up the binding process a little. If not, just keep it on your worktop while pressing. Either way, it should set in 1-2 hours. After pressing, store it in the fridge until you are ready to slice it.
  8. Once set, it should be possible to cut the paneer into cubes or any shape you like, using a sharp knife.
  9. Use it to make some of the popular Indian dishes – palak paneer, paneer makhani, mutter paneer, paneer butter masala etc.

How to store paneer for a long period?

You can freeze the paneer to make it last for as long as possible. Simply place the paneer cubes in a ziplock bag in the freezer. It can be consumed within a few months. Once thawed, do not refreeze.

Alternatively, if you’re planning to cook with it within 8-10 days, best to refrigerate it fully submerged in water in a container with a lid on. You will need to change the water daily. This way paneer will stay soft and fresh for longer.

The other way of refrigerating it is by wrapping the block or lump of paneer in a damp muslin cloth and leaving it in an airtight container. Bear in mind that refrigeration will almost certainly dry out the muslin cloth leaving the paneer dry so it must be wrapped in a damp cloth and kept covered. You will also need to moisten the cloth every 4-5 hours by spraying or sprinkling water on it.

The other method to store it is by leaving the paneer block submerged in water with some salt in in a container or bowl.

I have also managed to store it in the fridge in an airtight container as is. It has lasted for at least a week if not more.

How To Make Paneer At Home?

Recipe by RieethaaCourse: Not ApplicableCuisine: IndianDifficulty: Easy

Paneer, the unsung hero of Indian cuisine! A versatile and delicious cheese, paneer adds a creamy touch to a myriad of dishes, from savoury curries to grilled appetisers to even desserts. Crafted from milk and loved for its ability to absorb flavours, paneer takes centre stage, proving that vegetarian options can be just as indulgent. Its ability to absorb flavours makes it a favourite among both chefs and food enthusiasts. Once prepared, paneer can be refrigerated and preserved for up to 8-10 days. Then you can use it to cook your favourite curry, snack or dessert.

Ingredients

  • 2 litre whole milk (cow or buffalo)

  • 1 large lime (cut in halves)

  • Equipment:
  • A deep-bottomed pan

  • A big spoon or ladle

  • A cheesecloth

  • A large sieve

  • A heavy-weight object like a cast iron pot or chunky books or a set of heavy plates

  • Chopping board

  • Sharp knife

Directions

  • Bring the milk to a boil in a deep-bottomed pan over a medium flame. It could take anything from 7 to 12 minutes to bring to a boil. As it starts boiling, you will need to blow the frothy cream rising on top to one side of the pan to avoid the milk spilling over.
  • As it comes to a rolling boil, squeeze both halves of the lime into the milk whilst stirring continually in one direction. Ensure the seeds are removed before you squeeze it.
  • The milk will immediately start curdling. You will see chunky lumps of curd separating from watery whey. Continue boiling until the whey starts turning yellow-greenish
  • Strain the curd through a cheesecloth-lined sieve held over a deep-bottomed pot. The curd remains in the cheesecloth while the nutritious whey collects in the pot.
  • Wash down the collected curd with water to get rid of any residual sour taste of lime juice.
  • Gather up the ends of the cheesecloth wrapping the curd. Then squeeze out excess water by wringing the cheesecloth gently.
  • Flatten the curd by hand whilst still wrapped in the cheesecloth on a wooden board or a flat plate.
  • Place a heavy object on top of the wrapped-up and flattened curd. You can use a cast iron pot or heavy books or a set of heavy plates to weigh the curd down.
  • Allow it to set for 1-2 hours either in the fridge or on your kitchen worktop whilst it’s pressed down.
  • Once set, it should be possible to cut the paneer into cubes or any shape you like, using a sharp knife. Your paneer is ready to cook in curries, desserts, Indian savoury and sweet snacks etc.

Notes

  • 1. Please only use whole milk not skimmed or semi-skimmed.
  • 2. You can use lime or lemon juice to curdle the milk. You can also use vinegar or yoghurt.
  • 3. Don’t forget to rinse the curdled milk with fresh cold water.
  • 4. At the time of boiling the milk, stir in one direction for slightly chunkier curds.
  • 5. The leftover whey can be used to make breads or flatbreads such as chapati or paratha. You can also use it to fertilise curry leaf plants.

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