Fresh Herbs

A fresh and fun recipe catalog by a girl who likes to play in the kitchen the "from scratch" way.

|PONDERING PANEER| 01/26/2012

Filed under: cheese,Savory — |FreshHerbs| @ 7:40 pm

So I can’t quite fathom how I purchased a gallon of whole milk (with the intent to make mozzarella) and let it expire by A WHOLE WEEK! Yes, it got shoved to the back of the fridge, but I knew it was in there and had the best of intentions. How did the mistress of “Don’t waste that!” let dairy, of all things, languish in the fridge? I know, work! I’ve been on the run with some work travel that threw me off my game plan. So when I did FINALLY have a night to myself (because hubs has been working like gangbusters too and I haven’t seen him in weeks!) I decided that it was time to pour that milk down the drain…or make cheese.

I didn’t have the energy to make even 30-minute mozzarella (which is ridiculously yummy and easy) so I opted for a cheese recipe that I’d been dying to try that literally uses just two ingredients: milk and lemon juice. I have a friend who is Indian so after some recipe searching, Facebook Q&A with Shubh, and a consult with my cheese book from Stephanie I embarked on what would either be a sour milk disaster or absolutely delicious. [spoiler alert…this story is going to be continued]

First, I learned that milk doesn’t necessarily go sour if it sits unopened in the back of the fridge and passes its expiration date. Now, I wouldn’t go chugging a glass of it, but it was whole milk and I wouldn’t have done that anyway because I prefer 1%. Since cheese is made with boiled milk, I figured that anything sketchy would be boiled away and the acidity of the lemon would do the rest. I was right.

Paneer

1 gallon of whole milk (not ultrapasturized)
2 fresh lemons, juiced (about 6Tb)

In a large pot, bring milk to a boil. I scorched the bottom a bit so you might want to stir to avoid that. When the milk comes to a boil it will foam and rise quite rapidly so move off the heat quickly and stir in your fresh squeezed lemon juice (which I also strained to avoid any seed bits) for about 2-3 minutes until whey is clear. (I started with 2Tb and had to add 4Tb to get a clear whey.) Then, leave it be for about 10 minutes so curds form.

Cheese cloth... the magical kitchen tool. Like my new faucet?

Pour curds and whey into a colander lined with a double layer of cheese cloth. Then bring the corners of the cheese cloth together and tie it around your faucet to drip dry for at least 2 hours. Make sure you squeeze out the paneer as much as you can by twisting the cheesecloth before you hang it. It will be pretty hot so I’ve found that a cheapo pair of clean “cheese making only” dish gloves is a good barrier so you don’t burn yourself. If you have asbestos hands, don’t worry about the gloves.

After the curds have drip dried, you essentially have paneer. Some recipes say leave it in a bowl, still wrapped, with a weight on top for 2 hours, some say overnight. I left mine overnight, but in the morning didn’t have any residual moisture, so the drip dry is very effective. I tasted it last night and this morning (there was no difference in flavor) and it tastes like a very bland ricotta or cottage cheese. I can see why it would be the perfect canvas for Indian flavors.

If you just wanted to eat it plain, I hear that the best way to enjoy it is fried so it’s lightly browned. If you don’t want to use it right away, it’ll keep for about a keep (I unwrapped mine and put it in a plastic bag). If you want to freeze it, make sure you fry it first then freeze it.

Me? I’m going to attempt saag paneer – that lovely Indian spinach dish. Hubs usually gets chicken saag from our favorite Indian restaurant and I’ve never been bold enough to try an Indian dish from scratch – talk about a complex array of |fresh herbs| and spices – so I think it’s time I tackle my fear…

{I must just pause here for a moment to record what’s happening in front of my house. It’s snowing, and the plows are finally out and about. Well, the guy driving the one that keeps passing my house broke his plow. I keep hearing a loud BOOM when he drops his plow…a BEEP BEEP BEEP when he backs up to see what happened…and lots of man-type GUFAW as the plow operators try to figure out what’s causing the BOOM. They’ve finally given up and driven off}

…anyway. So yes, I’m going to attempt saag with homemade paneer as soon as my jar of garam masala arrives in the mail. This post will have a follow up so stay tuned!

[Cook often and eat well!]

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