Monday, October 15, 2012

Indian Paneer

Don't you love it when you follow internet instructions on something like "Indian Paneer" making, and it comes out great!

Paneer is Indian cheese.  The texture is a lot like tofu, and can be used in the place of tofu if one wants (and it sure is a whole lot easier to make than tofu!).  However, I like to use it the way it is meant to be -- in Indian dishes.

Right now I have a LOT of greens in the fridge -- turnip and mustard greens, not to mention pak choy, from our CSA, chard, spinach and kale from my garden and the grocery.  I need to use some of this up pronto -- so I thought, how about some panak paneer (or saag paneer, as it's sometimes called).  Any kind of greens (saag) can be used for this -- one of my "must gets" when we go an Indian restaurant.  The paneer part is the Indian cheese.  They don't have paneer in my Kroger, or Aldi's, or Costco.  We do have a good number of Indian/middle eastern markets around -- but that would mean a special trip, and who knows how expensive a box would be?  A check of Amazon revealed sale prices of around $5.00 for a pound, with $10.00 or more shipping!!

A quick google of making paneer showed that home-made paneer is considered far better in quality and flavor (i.e. only the pitiful and those that have no access to an Indian aunt/mother/mother in law buy it from a store), and that it seemed doable.

Only 2 ingredients needed:  whole milk and lemon or lime juice (if you use vinegar for the acid, it becomes Mexican Queso Fresca).  No rennet.  No special equipment.

I bought a gallon of whole milk from Costco ($2.67), put it in my big red stockpot and set it to boil.  And waited and waited, stirring, while it came to a boil, and waited and stirred, and stirred and waited, and then turned my back for a minute to check email on my laptop sitting on the kitchen table.  And you know what happened then.  What always happens when you lose patience with waiting for milk to boil and go do something "for just a minute".  The milk rose up and frothed over the side as I sprung back to the stove to stir it down and remove it from the heat.  All was not lost, but don't let it do that if you can help it.  I ended up with some scalding on the bottom, so my cheese has brown spots in it -- but I figure that is just charm and extra flavor.

Anyways, hopefully YOUR pot of milk will come nicely to a boil without boiling over or scalding on the bottom.  As it boils, add your acid tablespoon by tablespoon, until the milk breaks (I think my gallon took about 5 tablespoons).  Continue heating and stirring gently until the whey (kind of yellow-greenish) totally separates out -- all of this took maybe 5 or 6 minutes.

Then pour the contents into a colander lined with cheesecloth and set over a large bowl.  The whey drains into the bowl and the curds are caught in the cheesecloth.  Let drain a few minutes then wrap the cheesecloth over the top and place a weight on it (I used a large jar of beans) for an hour or two.  After that, take the weight off and place the paneer in the refrigerator for another hour or two.  Then it looks like this after you unwrap the cheesecloth and set the paneer out:

Then you can cut it into cubes and use in recipes.  It will store in the refrigerator for about a week, and I have read that the paneer cubes can be frozen.  Some of the whey can be used for the next batch of paneer, and is also good to use in baking.

See how nicely it cubed up?  It was very firm.  I will sautee the cubes for my palak paneer tonight.  One gallon of milk yielded a bit over 1 pound of paneer.

1 comment:

Shine said...

How fun and interesting!! Your instructions are knows? Perhaps I'll go grab a gallon of milk and give it a try! Never tried Indian cooking, but must admit, I am intrigued:) Have a great day!! ~~Shine