26 June 2010

Fresh Paneer

The other weekend was my last completely lazy one until August. Between travel and (very welcome and appreciated) out of town visitors, the wide open stretches of time on Saturday afternoon spanning into Sunday made me think of filling them with, what else, cheese making.  Yes, you read that correctly. 

This was my first cheese making attempt, and as such seemed best done without an audience. Despite my limited chemistry skills, cheese-making 101 couldn't have been easier. After sorting through a handful of googled recipes, it appeared most versions of making paneer were all similar, using two basic ingredients. With this in mind, I splurged on the very best milk and yogurt, returning to Murray's my old neighborhood cheese store where I found adorable jars (jars!) of yogurt and locally produced organic milk, which I promptly boiled the hell out of.
My cheese-making expedition also took me in 90-degree mid-afternoon heat, waking 14-blocks amid a street fair, dodging guys offering 10-minute chair massages, and trying not to step onto any onions and peppers trailing off anyones sausage sandwiches, to the only kitchen supply store in my neighborhood where I purchased a double supply of cheesecloth. (Because I forgot to get it at Murrays the day before.) I was a sweaty mess when I arrived home, and the prospect of standing over a hot stove of boiling milk didn't hold much attraction.  Luckily, paneer is cooked in practically the amount of time it takes to boil water. Thank you cows.  
I later used the paneer in a nice, if slightly experimental rendition of Saag Paneer using a combo of spinach and rainbow chard. More on this in a future post.  
Fresh paneer
4 cups whole milk
3/4 cup yogurt
Bring milk to a boil in a large saucepan. Stirring constantly add the yogurt -- within about 5-10 seconds the milk will begin to separate into curds and water-like whey. At this stage, continue stirring/cooking the mixture for another minute, before pouring the entire contents through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. Let it sit for a minute and then gather up the four corners of the cheesecloth and tie them like a hobo's knapsack (circa 1930) over the top of your sink faucet to sit for 20-30 minutes. Place wrapped cheesecloth in a dish and press down to about 3/4 inch thickness, keeping covered with the cloth, press down another smaller plate or dish on top and weight down with something heavy for about an hour. 
Makes 1 cup of cheese.

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