Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Say Paneer! A lesson about cheese

Say Paneer! 

Probably not what photographers in India say to get kids to smile, but it does make MY kids smile - they love cheese!! I love cheese too but it has NEVER occurred to me to make my own cheese, never.  But you know what? It was super easy and kinda tasty.  The type of cheese we made is called Paneer and is native to India.  If you read the last post you might remember that India has about 200 million cows (!) and many of the people are vegetarians so I would have to believe that they probably get some of their protein from milk and cheese.  Paneer is a fresh cheese, like a Farmer's Cheese, not ripened or aged.  We made it that day, we ate it that day. I'll tell you the recipe so you can try for yourself (then I have a little science lesson for you)

For the recipe you will need:

  • 1 Liter milk. Whole and non-homogenized is best but I used regular whole milk.
  • 1 t lemon juice or citric acid or (and?) 1 1/2 t white vinegar (not pictured- I will explain below)
  • saucepan
  • strainer lined with thin cloth (I used sterile gauze and it worked)
  • salt and/or whatever spices you would like (I used lemon pepper)
1.Boil the milk in the pan - stir to keep it from burning on bottom
2. Add acid to boiling milk.
3. When milk curdles turn off heat and set aside for 5 mins.  This was where I had trouble.  I used lemon juice and the curds never formed. So I heated it back up, tried vinegar and INSTANT curds. Maybe my lemon was too sweet and I needed more? Who knows?
4. After 5 mins pour mixture into lined strainer and let gravity strain the whey from the curds.
5. When it seems like no more liquid is coming out (and it cools down a little) take it (and the cloth) and squeeze and shape it into whatever form you want.  You might also want to add some salt and spices or herbs at this point. 

6. Put cheese (wrapped in cloth) under something heavy for a little while to get all the moisture out.
Enjoy!!  You just made cheese, um, pardon me, PANEER !!

Ok, this was totally science in action so I looked (on the internet of course) and found out the science behind the magic :)  This type of cheese, as well as, Italian ricotta and Mexican queso blanco, is made using a Heat/Acid coagulation technique, as opposed to adding an enzyme like some others.  Here's how it works.
The heat changes the natural shape (or denatures) the whey proteins in the milk.  These denatured proteins can now "interact" with another protein found in the milk called casein.  When you add the acid the caseins and whey proteins "precipitate" or become a solid curd floating in the liquid whey.  Take away the liquid and you have cheese !!

 WARNING:  if you are disgusted by the sight of curdled milk this is not a good recipe for you. It smelled good but looked like that old sippy cup behind the couch - you know, the one you just throw away instead of wash :)


  1. Glad to see there is a little Wisconsin in your cheese loving kids! :D I love reading your posts!!

    1. Thanks Mandie! I'm getting alot of good feedback and it's giving me a project to work on so I can avoid exercising! Just kidding :)