DIY Recipe: Homemade Paneer Cheese

I LOVE CHEESE!

2008_07_21-Paneer1.jpgPaneer is a Indian cheese with a slightly chewy consistency and mild flavor, very similar to queso blanco.

It holds its shape well and doesn’t melt, so you can saute it, grill it, or crumble it into just about anything. And of course, it’s a must for classic Indian dishes like korma and palak.

Paneer also happens to be one of the easiest cheeses to make at home, requiring nothing more than milk and lemon juice. Here’s how!

This recipe is easily halved or doubled (and probably tripled!). It’s best freshly made or the day after, so we usually just make enough for what we’re planning to use right away. Honestly, we’re not sure how long it keeps in the fridge because it’s gone so fast! It will keep at least a week and probably longer since the salt and acid preserve it.

Homemade Paneer
yields about 1 1/2 cup

1/2 gallon milk (whole or 2%)
2-3 Tablespoons lemon juice

Special Equipment:
a colander or strainer
cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel (without “fuzzies!”)

Line a colander with a double layer of cheesecloth. If you’d like to keep the whey for another purpose, set the colander over a bowl to catch the whey. Otherwise, you can just set it in your sink.

In a large sauce pan over medium-high heat, bring the milk to a boil. Keep an eye on it because it can boil over very quickly.

When it comes to a boil, turn off the heat and add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Stir until milk separates completely separates into curds and whey (see below). If it doesn’t seem to be separating completely, add another tablespoon of lemon juice.
2008_07_21-Paneer2.jpg
Pour the mixture into the cheesecloth-lined colander. When it’s cool enough to handle, gather the corners of the cheesecloth into a bundle and squeeze out as much of the excess liquid as you can.
2008_07_21-Paneer6.jpg
This can be used it immediately as cottage cheese or ricotta cheese.

To press it into a solid cheese, set the bundle in the middle of a plate with a good lip to catch the liquid that will be squeezed out. Put another plate on top and press until the bundle has flattened into a 1-inch disk. Leave the plate on and weight it down with something heavy (like a few cans of tomatoes).

2008_07_21-Paneer5.jpgPress the cheese for at least 20 minutes, though an hour is ideal. Drain off the liquid that has collected and unwrap the paneer. Use or store immediately. The cheese will firm up even more in the fridge.

It would be fun to experiment with infusing flavors into the cheese by throwing some spice or aromatics into the milk while it’s coming to a boil. Lemon grass? Ginger? Whole curry spices?

We’d also like to try pressing herbs into the cheese as it sets. Thyme would work well. We’re also thinking of chili flakes for an extra spicy kick!

Related: DIY Creme Fraiche

(Images: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)

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