Since I have big plans to make makhani paneer this weekend, I decided to have really good paneer, which means homemade, as opposed to factory produced. I’ve gotten away from making paneer lately, since the frozen stuff is so easy to get, and the taste is acceptable. But acceptable paneer isn’t good enough when the dish is centered on the stuff! It’s easy to make:
4 litres of whole, full fat milk (which means 3% around here)
2 lemons, juiced, or 8 tiny limes, juiced
vinegar, if required, (to be explained)
Heat the milk to the almost boiling point, stirring often, to prevent the bottom layer from caramelising. Add the juice, and stir. It will start to coagulate as you stir it. If you’ve added all your juice, and the milk has begun to coagulate, but hasn’t fully separated, add about a spoonful of vinegar, and keep stirring. You know you have enough acid when the milk suddenly lets go of its yellowish water. So you may need to add a bit more vinegar to make that happen. Because the paneer takes on the taste of the lemon or lime, I like to use that for the most part, but if more acid is needed, I prefer to go with the less expensive stuff, a tiny bit of vinegar.
Stir a bit more, just to make sure the acid has hit every milk molecule, and then let it rest for a few minutes. It won’t be pretty.
Place a colander in your sink, and line it with a clean dry cheesecloth or thin dishtowel. (If you’re using a dishtowel, be sure to rinse it like mad to get rid of all traces of laundry detergent, and let it dry out)Pour the coagulated milk and whey into the cloth . Tie the cloth up over the faucet and let it drip for about 20 minutes. Then get a large flat surface, such as the bottom of a lasagnia pan, and keeping the cheese in the cloth, arrange it over the bottom of the pan. You will still be using the sink to catch the liquid coming off the cheese. Place another pan bottom over the cheese to uniformly press it flat. You can use some weights on the top pan, but you don’t want to squeeze the bejeebers out of the cheese, as it will try to escape out of the holes of the fabric you’re using.
|I should have left well enough alone, but I added more blue bottles and then my own body weight. Sigh...|
Keep the cheese in this press for about four hours, to let it drain and set. Turn it out onto another clean flat surface, and refrigerate for a few hours. Finally, peel the cloth away, cut into squares, and voila, you have paneer!
To give an idea of the economy of making paneer, I pay anywhere from eight to ten dollars for a 14 ounce bag of frozen paneer. This made about 18 ounces, and cost me five dollars for the milk, and maybe fifty cents worth of limes. That’s a pretty good saving, and it tastes great.
Words to the wise: Don’t you go and try to outsmart me by using a lower fat milk! I tried this with 1% once, and got about a half cup of paneer out of the deal. Also, I must confess I used too many weights and I squeezed the bejeebers out of this batch. I wouldn’t leave well enough alone, and also used my body weight on the weights to really press and press and press all the water out. The sad result was having to scrape out about four ounces of paneer imbedded into cheesecloth.
Anyway, the picture shows the basic block, and the scraped paneer I formed into little lumps were not photographed, although they don’t look bad. The mistake was time consuming and annoying, so ‘don’t you do what I had done’, as the song goes.I’m looking forward to making the makhani paneer, and will post that recipe when it happens!Meanwhile I’ve had little nibbles, and yes, it does taste better than the frozen stuff. Please let me know if you try it!