Paneer is tasteless and saltless unaged Indian cheese. Paneer is made by heating milk to boiling point and curdling it with acid (lemon juice, vinegar, sour yogurt, etc…). The curdled milk is then strained into cheese cloth and pressed hard to remove excess water. Paneer can be pressed into a block by putting a heavy weight on the curds that are wrapped in a cloth. The squeezed curds are quite soft and can be used as a spread. The paneer that is pressed for short while called chenna is little soft and crumbling and can be used to make various sweets.
Makes: 1 1/2 cups of cubed paneer
Full Fat Milk 1 gallon (app. 3.8 Litres)
Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice 2 – 3 tbsps
Method of preparation:
Bring milk to boil in a heavy bottomed vessel on medium flame.
Stir the milk frequently to avoid scorching.
When milk starts bubbling, switch off heat and stir in lemon juice into hot milk.
Stir once or twice around the sides with a spatula and let the milk coagulate.
After a minute or two, all the milk breaks down into white mass and floats on top of yellowish / greenish liquid called whey.
Place a cheese cloth or muslin cloth on a sieve and pour the milk into lined sieve.
Whey is drained out while white curds are left behind in the cheese cloth.
Wash the collected curd under cold running water for few seconds.
Squeeze off the excess water by twisting the cheese cloth.
At this stage, the collected cheese is soft and spreadable.
Twist and tie the cheese cloth tight and hang it for around 2 hours to drip off the excess water.
When most of the water is dripped off, cheese is chunky and breakable with little moisture. This can called chenna which is used for making various Indian sweets.
Loosen the knot, place the cheese still wrapped in a cloth on a perforated plate.
Put a heavy weight on top and leave it for 3 – 4 more hours to set the cheese in to a block.
Chop the paneer into small chunks and freeze it in a zipper freezer bag. Don’t freeze it again once taken out.
Use the paneer within in 3 – 4 days of preparation.
Notes: After adding the lemon juice, if you don’t see the milk coagulating, add more lemon juice.
Suggestions: Use milk having more than 5% fat (buffalo’s milk) to get best paneer. Use either vinegar or sour yogurt to break the milk instead of lemon juice. Use of yogurt doesn’t change the taste of paneer while use of vinegar gives it a light acrid taste.
Variations: Skimmed milk can also be used to make paneer especially chenna but full fat milk is best suited for paneer. Paneer can be flavored during the process of preparation. When the milk is boiling, crushed spices like cumin, black peppercorns, fennel etc… are added.
Other Names: Cottage Cheese, Indian Cheese, Paala Virugudu, Sanna, Chhana, Chenna, Chhena.