Adventures in Cheesemaking: Paneer

And so my journeyman’s venture into cheesemaking begins anew.  It’s not that I had an emotional break from the cheesemaking process, it’s just that for a short while, other things occupied my mind.

But now I’m back.  A girl’s gotta practice, after all.  Otherwise, how else will I ever be able to build my cheesemaking empire? I’m looking at you, Kraft.

I didn’t want to do anything super-challenging since I haven’t made cheese in a while, so I decided to try the paneer.  Paneer is a very simple, basic Indian cottage cheese that’s kind of the equivalent of queso blanco.  It’s unaged and mild, with no melt or stretch, but it holds up well to frying and that?  Is pretty awesome.  I used the recipe found in the book Artisan Cheesemaking at Home and like it, but I’m always willing to hear from more experienced cheesemakers than myself (which is, pretty much, anyone else out there making cheese) regarding tips and techniques for mighty cheese mastery.

Here’s what you need:

About as uncomplicated as it gets.

Note: Have a backup plan for the leftover buttermilk, because you won’t need all of it and then?  Who wants to find a carton of buttermilk you’ve forgotten about and has been sitting in your fridge for untold months?  Not this girl.

As I’ve mentioned before, cheese is viciously boring to photograph.  It doesn’t turn brown (you hope), it doesn’t start out white and then caramelize, it doesn’t wilt.  What it does, is slowly get raised to the appropriate heat…

Bringin’ the sexy to the cheese blog.

…and once you add the coagulating agent, it will start to curdle.

Early curds. Oh yeah, it gets even better.

So, OK, I know I sort of posted a spoiler, but once you bring your 2 1/2 quarts of 2% milk to 175-180°, then you pour in 5 cups buttermilk, your coagulant.  The above picture is what you’ll start to see almost right away, and once you get the temperature to about 195°, the curds will have fully reached tight cheese cohesion and formed a giant mass in the middle of your pot.

Kind of like Pangaea, only with delicious cheese.

Before you pull the curds out to drain, you should remove the pot from heat, cover said pot and let the curds “ripen” for five minutes.  Then retrieve them, gently, with a slotted spoon, into a colander lined with cheesecloth (any notion about where the name comes from?) so the whey can drain off.  You should try to find some productive use for whey as I understand it can be murder on one’s waste disposal system.

Ooh, murder.  Tres dangereuse.

Anyway, tie up the corners of the cheesecloth so the cheese is in a nice, secure package and give it a good drain…

Show it no mercy.

…for ten minutes, then toss it with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and return it to its draining spot for another ten minutes.

Finally, you press it.  This cheese has been through so much–boiled, drained, hung, tossed.  And now?  Pressed.  Keeping it in the cheesecloth wrapping, get it relatively flattened and then?  Fill one of your used milk containers with water, which will create roughly 4 1/2 pounds of weight with which to press your cheese.

It’s a pretty effective presser.

Notice I used the old “rack in the rimmed baking sheet” approach.  Works like a charm.

Once you’ve pressed it for at least a half an hour/when it’s as dry as you’d like it to be, it’s ready to use.  Either put in the fridge for later use or cook with it right away.  Us?  We made a palak paneer that was so good and creamy and rich that I didn’t want to take the time to photograph it because that would interfere with me getting my eat on.  But when you’ve got cheese this fresh and sexy…

Who loves ya, baby?

…there’s not much that can go wrong with a meal.

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10 responses to Adventures in Cheesemaking: Paneer

  1. [...] Adventures in Cheesemaking: Paneer (beyondpaisley.net) Share this:PrintEmailFacebookStumbleUponTwitterDiggRedditLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in Artisan Cheese, Awards, cheese, croatia, Island of Pag, Press releases, The Making of Sirana Gligora Paški Sir and tagged Artisan cheese, Cheese, Cheesemaker, Dairy, France, International Taste and Quality Institute, internship, Pag, Paški, sheep cheese, sheep milk cheese, Sirana Gligora, Žigljen by Sirana Gligora Paški Sir. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

  2. Who needs Mastering the Art of French Cooking when they have access to BeyondPaisley? You really do make this look so practical and easy…and tasty. ;-)

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Oh, you’re too kind. Though it was good, I’ll tell you what. So far, cheese making is more time consuming than difficult, but we’ll see how things go once we start getting into the more and more complicated cheeses…face your fear, right? LOL *sigh*

  3. I did not develop a love of cheese until after I was 20 (and learned that Kraft singles was NOT cheese). I love it now.. the entire process looked very scientific and a bit gross.. but beings I love science and gross things that end in a deliciousness that most gross things don’t end in .. I might give it a whirl. Of course if you read my home brew blog you might already have a premonition of how this might end..

    • beyondpaisley – Author

      Hahaha! I just read it. The first (and only) time I made beer we made the critical mistake of not using distilled water, we just used plain tap, and so a month later we had twenty-four bottles of perfectly fermented minerals and chlorine from an aggressive snow melt that had to be quickly sanitized. Mmmmm. It was terrible.

  4. hazeldazel

    *cough* *cough* fricking awesome buttermilk pancakes, waffles, french toast et al…

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