Home made paneer / cottage cheese is so different from what you buy outside. I am always a bit concerned that shop bought paneer has something added as a thickener. Blotting paper ? That used to be a favourite thickener for kulfi /boiled down milk icecream, or so I was told several years ago.
In any case, if not for reasons of strange additives, then for reasons of taste, you should try making your own paneer for just once in your life. One good reason to do so, in India, is that you can then eat it without cooking . Sliced wafer thin, topped with lettuce or cucumber, with salt and pepper or chaat masala it makes a mouthwatering and healthy sandwich or veggie burger.
Milk products are a haven for bacteria especially here where we get raw milk. Our milk man, who owned a large herd of buffaloes, was known for increasing the daily yield by the simple method of adding water from the garden tap.
He is now our local corporator.
I don't know if this proves anything about milk or corporators but at least he insists on giving all visitors a cup of tea to drink before which he will not attend to any complaints or requests.
Another story about adulterated milk is the one about tankers of milk making their way from farm to city, stopping enroute to be topped up with water and soap suds (of a particular brand of soap, which I shall not name) that had the right milky colour.
A friend who distributes rennit and yeasts to produce different types of yogurt and cheese can keep an evening going with his tales of dastardly deeds done to milk in India and it will make you swear off raw milk forever, unless you have a stomach made of iron, one that will not turn easily.
Okay, so the main issue here is that most commercially made paneer is formed at a degree below boiling point and is therefore bacterially suspect. Not only that, covered as it is with fine muslin, soaked in heaven knows what water, to keep it damp, about which flies hover and dive bomb.....need I say more?
So are you are now ready to try your hand at making paneer at home? If so this is what you do: Get your paneer making tools together.
- Large stainless steel pan
- Slotted spoon
- Paneer strainer
- Measuring cup
Squeeze two lemons and keep the juice ready.Take one litre of cow's or buffalo's milk. Heat is till it boils. Turn the heat to low and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
Very slowly start pouring the lime juice into the simmering milk while stirring it in at very leisurely pace with a slotted spoon.
The milk will start to seperate. Continue to stir very gently while adding the lime juice.
The curds should now form a large mass.When it does so, stop stirring and take the pan off the heat.
Let the curds sink to the bottom of the pan. Then pour off the whey into another pan. Keep aside for other uses *( see below).
Turn the curds into a paneer maker or a sieve and let stand without pressing till water is further released from the curds.
Cut the curds to release any extra liquid and let stand till well formed.
The top of the paneer should remain wet not dry. 1 litre of full cream milk makes about 250 gms of paneer.
The paneer can now be used to cook , grill or fry.It can also be used as is, in salads, sandwiches, toppings or in a cheesecake.By the way paneer made from buffaloes milk is white and that made from cows milk is a pale creamy yellow.Homemade paneer must be refrigerated and used within 3 days . If you intend to use it later, keep it covered with water, like tofu, in the fridge, till you are ready to use it which should not be more than 5 days after making in any case.
*The whey of the paneer is full of nutrients and can be added to wheat flour when kneading it for chapathies.This makes the chapathies very soft.It can also be added to the gravy if you are making paneer curry or to any other curry to add flavour.
(Thanks to Leela Broome for her expertise generously shared with me. She began making superb Gouda, Edam, Cheddar and several other cheeses in Pune long before anybody else did.) We now look to Amul for a new range of cheeses.
I used cubes of this cheese, well salted,to make Melissa's yummy Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Spicy Feta -Olive Salad . It was nothing like Feta but tasted good nevertheless.