A new friend and I were talking about our mutual love of experimenting with new foods. I mentioned that I loved Indian food, and especially Saag Paneer. She’s Indian and encouraged me to try my hand at making it. So, I found this Paneer recipe on Pinterest, and now I’ve made Paneer and will be doing it again in the future! It came out delicious and when I’ve mention this experiment to friends and family they are invariably impressed and want to try it sometime. My only complaint is that it didn’t look as pretty as it could have, but it tasted great. Next time I’ll aim for delicious and beautiful!
Makes about 10 ounces or 2 cups of cheese cubes
1/2 gallon whole milk, not UHT pasteurized
1/4 cup lemon juice or vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt
Strainer or colander
Weights, like a 32-ounce can of tomatoes
Cheesecloth, nut bag, or other cloths for straining
[I had never used cheesecloth before, and winging it was extremely messy and a little disheartening. Check out this demo on how this process goes, I think it’s helpful to see someone making this. Advice: search Youtube for demos when trying new cooking techniques!]
Heat the milk: Pour the milk into the saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring the milk to a bare simmer — just below the boil at around 200°F. Stir the milk occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pot to make sure the milk doesn’t scald. When ready, the milk will look foamy and steamy.
Add the lemon juice: Remove the milk from heat and stir in the lemon juice. The milk should begin to curdle immediately, but it’s ok if it doesn’t.
Let the milk stand for 10 minutes: Cover the milk and let stand for 10 minutes to give the acid time to completely separate the curds and whey. At the end of 10 minutes, the curds should be completely separated and the liquid should look yellow and watery. If the milk hasn’t separated, try adding another tablespoon of acid. If it still won’t separate, check your milk and be sure you are using non-UHT milk; this kind of milk won’t separate.
Strain the curds: Set a strainer or colander over a mixing bowl and line it with cheesecloth, a nut bag, or other straining cloth. Carefully scoop or pour the curds into the strainer, letting the whey collect in the bowl beneath.
Squeeze the curds: Gather the cheesecloth in your hand and gently squeeze to remove the excess whey.
Salt the curds: Open the cheesecloth and sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of salt over the curds. Stir gently and taste. Add more salt if desired.
Press the curds: Transfer the curds (still in the cheesecloth) to a large dinner plate. Shape them into a rough square and then fold the cheesecloth tightly around the curds to form a neat rectangular package. Set a second plate on top of the package and weigh it down. Press for at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour.
Use or refrigerate the paneer: Once pressed, your paneer is finished and ready to use. You can use it immediately or refrigerate for up to two days. Refrigerated paneer will be firmer and less likely to crumble than fresh paneer.
Whole vs. 2% vs. Non-Fat Milk: While whole milk is our favorite for making ricotta, 2% milk can also be used, though the ricotta is slightly less rich and creamy. Avoid using skim and nonfat milks; these don’t separate as easily into curds and whey.
Pasteurized Milk: Pasteurized milk is fine to use for making ricotta, but avoid UHT (Ultra High Temperature) pasteurized milk as this process changes the protein structure of the milk, preventing it from separating.
Using the Leftover Whey: The leftover whey can be used in place of water in any baking recipe, whizzed into smoothies, or drunk on its own over ice.
After making the cheese, I used it in this Saag Paneer recipe that was a major hit with Keith. This whole process was interesting, totally new territory for me, and came out delicious.