Friday, November 25, 2011

Making Paneer (Indian Cheese)

If I had known how simple it is to make paneer my family would have been eating it long ago!  We love Indian food, and after taking the "Flavors of India" class at the Culinary Institute I was hooked.  I know possess the absolute best, tastiest recipe for saag paneer that I have ever tasted.
We will begin with the paneer.  It is so simple you won't believe it.

What you need (equipment):
a large pot for heating the milk
a fine mesh colander
cheesecloth (enough to drape the interior of the colander)
2 plates
a jellyroll pan, or something with a lip that two plates will fit into

1/2 gallon whole milk
1 quart buttermilk

In the pot, add whole milk and heat until boiling.  Removed from heat and steadily add the buttermilk while stirring continuously.  Right away, you will notice that the mixture begins to curdle.  Continue to stir until there is a distinct separation of milk solids and whey.
Pour the mixture into the colander that has been lined with cheesecloth.  The cheesecloth should but cut large enough to drape over the edges.  Allow to drain into a bowl.  Once it is mostly drained, gather the ends of the cheesecloth and twist together so cheese forms a ball.   Don't worry too much about squeezing all the whey out.  Move to the jellyroll pan where you have placed one plate, upside down, rim exposed.  Place the cheese ball inside the plate rim.  Place the other plate, right side up, on top of the cheese ball.  This way, the cheese will "form" inside the plate rims.  Place another slightly weighty object on the top of the upper plate.  Leave this configuration in place for about 30 minutes.  The weight of the upper objects will press most of the whey from the cheese.  Our instructor at CIA encouraged us to not squeeze so much of the whey out that the cheese becomes dry.  Remove the objects from the cheese.  Gently peel off the cheesecloth.  Wrap in saran wrap and refrigerate.  This paneer is large enough for two batches of saag paneer.  It may be frozen.
heat milk to boiling

steadily pour buttermilk into hot milk, stirring continuously

milk solids begin to separate 

pour into a fine mesh colander lined with cheesecloth

remove cheese in cloth from colander

twist ends

place onto inverted plate (seated inside a jellyroll pan)

place second plate on top of cheese

allow to drain for 30 minutes

remove cheesecloth (peel gently away from formed cheese)

wrap in saran and refrigerate until use

Tip:  it is wise to prepare the cheese at least a day in advance of constructing the saag paneer, in order to save prep time prior to service.
Next post:  Making the wonderful saag recipe!

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