As sacrilegious as this is, the shop had 4 x 2L Tilba Full Cream Milk reach their use by date without having been sold (the reason being that customers had been messing with our stock rotation). Usually we give the milk to the pigs as it’s usually low fat milk that goes out of date. However unhomogenised full cream 100% Jersey milk? Give that to the pigs? You’ve got to be kidding me!
However as the milk was about to go out of date, and I haven’t made “real” cheese in awhile i.e. cheese that requires rennet, I wasn’t prepared as my rennet was severely out of date (try a couple of years) and even though it’s still safe to consume, it generally doesn’t work anymore. I tested it just in case and the curds and whey separated however if you tried to pick the curds up they went to mush. You should be able to easily handle the curds without them breaking so easily (obviously you still have to be gentle about it however mine practically melted – not good). So what to make instead?
Kel and I LOVE Indian food. And we way, way prefer the vegetarian dishes as they are mostly authentic compared to the meat dishes as 80% of the population are Hindi so therefore don’t eat meat (think about that the next time you order some Indian). Anyway Paneer is super popular in a lot of Indian dishes and is nicknamed “Indian Cheese”. Technically Paneer is not a cheese, just a separation of curds and whey. However it was the perfect solution for me as it only requires white vinegar, not rennet.
I used the recipe from our copy of The Gourmet Farmer Deli Book that I’ve mentioned a couple of times on this blog (really if you want to be making your own cheeses, curing your own meats and pickling your own veg – you need to buy this book. It’s a great place to start and if you find you really enjoy making your own produce, there are more advanced books on each topic that you can buy).
When you make any kind of cheese, you need to make sure that you sterilise all equipment that you are using. You can do this by using a special sanitiser, or by simply boiling everything. It’s handy to have a continuously boiling pot of water on the stove so that you can just drop things in there as you go. Obviously this means that your equipment needs to be stainless steel, not plastic, otherwise you will be in a bit of trouble! That said, below is the list of equipment that you will need.
Equipment That You Will Need:
- Stainless steel pot large enough to hold at least five litres
- Stainless steel kitchen thermometer (digital is best)
- Stainless steel spoon for stirring (larger is better)
- Measuring jug
- Large mixing bowl
- Stainless steel sieve
- Cheesecloth (or muslin as stated in the recipe)
- Stainless steel slotted spoon
- Sharp knife
- Chopping board
- Storage containers
- Baking paper
As I had 8L milk and the recipe only requires 4L, I could have simply doubled the recipe and put it all in one pot however I wanted to make two separate batches for reasons you will see at the end.
Batch 1: Using your slotted spoon, spoon the curds into the cheesecloth lined sieve. This is quite time consuming so I ended up just pouring the contents of the pot through the cheesecloth lined sieve – if you do it like this then you need to be gentle and remember that the whey is VERY HOT. Also you may need an extra bowl as there is about 3L of whey that is left
Batch 1: Tie the corners of the cheesecloth up to make a bindle and find a place to hang. Kel renovated our kitchen sink awhile ago and we actually have a double laundry sink now as our kitchen sink so they are very deep and large. I placed the (now empty) whey catching mixing bowl in the sink and then tied the cheesecloth bindle to the tap to hang overnight. Make sure that wherever you decide to hang your Paneer that you sterilise the hanging instrument i.e. the tap
Batch 1: With a sharp (sterilised) knife, slice the ball of Paneer. Try and cut thick slices as if they are too thin, your Paneer may just distingrate when used in your desired dish. As you can see, the Paneer is sliced easily and holds together brilliantly. You still need to make sure you are gentle when slicing though and that your knife is sharp!
Now to batch 2 and the reason why I made two separate batches in the first place. Really it was because our larger stock pot was already in use however I wanted to show you a mistake that you could possibly make in the last stages of your Paneer that will ruin it.
When you buy Paneer, it generally comes in thick square slabs like Feta. You then dice it yourself for use in your desired dish. So considering that this recipe asks you to just tie up your curds in cheesecloth and let it hang, it ends up as a ball rather than a cube. The temptation? To squish and mold your ball into a square after it has hung all night. If you do that, this is what you will end up with:
Batch 2: By trying to “mold” the Paneer into a cube, even whilst still in the cheesecloth, I have broken the strands of protein that knitted together and caused the Paneer to disintegrate. It’s still edible however if you added it to a curry, it would probably just become a part of the sauce rather than having nice big cubes of marinated Paneer that stay firm in the dish yet melt in your mouth
The above will not go to waste, oh no. Kel suggested we could make Naan and stuff the Paneer with it (my mouth is watering already) however unless that’s what your aiming for, DO NOT MESS WITH THE BALL. If you’re wanting a cube that bad, you would need to buy yourself some square cheese baskets, line them with cheesecloth and spoon your curds into them. Then you would place the baskets onto some kind of draining rack so the whey can flow away.
You can buy square baskets for cheesemaking from Cheeselinks
So even if you’re tempted, DO NOT squish or try and mold the ball once it’s hung overnight.
After you’ve sliced your Paneer, unless you’re using it straight away, store it in airtight containers with a sheet of baking paper between each slice to prevent the slices from sticking to each other. Store in the fridge up to a couple of days. I’m pretty sure some recipes call for you to make a brine solution to store the Paneer in, which means you can also store it for longer however that’s up to you.
And that my friends, is how you make Paneer. This post is long enough already so what dish/dishes the Paneer went in will be for another post 🙂
Also if you’re wondering what to do with the leftover whey, well the recipe for Ricotta can take care of that! We fed ours to the pigs because whey is so unbelievably nutritious for them.