Paneer is the only cheese India can lay claim to – it is a simple, un-ripened farmers cheese, except that it has no rennet (an enzyme that curdles casein in milk), only vinegar. It has a simple & pure milk flavor that blends well with most herbs or spices. You can even add spices as the milk is coming to a boil to flavor the paneer. Once again, the better the milk, the better the quality of the paneer. If you can find raw milk, by all means, use it.
makes 1 wheel
1 gallon whole milk
½ cup distilled vinegar
2 tsp salt
2-3 Tbsp EVOO
*Whey is a very good source of protein that can be turned into a drink (substitute water in a lassi) or added to bread instead of water.
- Add saffron & fenugreek seeds to step 1 or try black pepper & cumin.
- In a heavy-bottomed stockpot, bring the milk to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Just when the foam begins to rise, pour in the vinegar and add the salt (and other spices if you wish). On medium heat, simmer the mixture for 5-6 minutes. The milk should form big curds, which should rise to the top, separating from the whey (the clear liquid in which the curds are floating). As soon as the liquid is clear, turn the heat off and let the paneer rest in the liquid for 20-30 minutes.
- Over the sink, pour as much of the liquid as possible into a cheesecloth lined colander (triple layer of Bounty paper towels will work also), without disturbing the curds. Using a slotted spoon, gently lift the curds out of the pot and place on the cheesecloth. Pour the remainder of the liquid over the curds to catch any that may remain. With the back of the slotted spoon, press the curds lightly to squeeze the liquid out and set the whey aside for another use*. Fold the cheesecloth over the paneer to cover it completely and let it drain in the sink for 2 hours.
- Refrigerate the paneer wheel with the cheesecloth. Be careful when picking it up - it is still fragile and can crack easily. When ready to finish the paneer, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Oil a baking sheet and gently unwrap the wheel directly onto the oiled baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the paneer top has a nice golden color. Remove and let it cool. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or the freezer for up to 3-4 months.