Monday, January 31, 2011

How to make Paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese)

Homemade Paneer

Next month it will be one year since Indian Simmer came into existence and in this short span of time, I am so blessed to have touched so many people and their lives in some way. It sometimes surprises me when I think of how appreciative everyone has been of what I'm doing here and I get overwhelmed when I read your emails and messages. Sometimes with a kind word of appreciation, sometimes with a critique and sometimes with a request. Recently one such request came from @everynothing (her real name is Tricia, just so you know!) and she requested that I share my recipe for Matar Paneer. And being a lazy bum that I am, I mulled over it for quite a while. Finally, I picked it up yesterday. As soon as I started working on it, I knew that I have to make paneer at home - because I know what store bought tastes like! I had attempted this a few times before and every time it had turned out "not so pretty". My search for the paneer holy grail took me to Radhika's blog where she had shared her own method. I tried it and that was the first time my paneer tasted like "paneer".

Making Paneer

For those who are not familiar with paneer, it is a type of cheese very common in Indian cuisine and is a good source of protein. But unlike most of the cheeses it doesn't need rennet for coagulation. Instead, a form of food acid is added to hot milk which helps in the curdling process. The common food acids used are lemon, vinegar or yogurt. The curdled milk is then collected in a cheese cloth, hanged for sometime for all the excess water to drip out and then also pressed under weight for a few hours to squeeze the remaining water out (this also gives a firm shape to paneer). This might sound like a lengthy process, but it is so worth it! Now, making paneer at home is not exactly rocket science but there are a few subtle things/tips that I've realized can make or break the deal. So let me list them real quick before sharing the actual recipe.

Deal breaker tips in the process of making paneer at home:
  1. Try stirring the milk with a plastic spatula while heating it. Stirring will prevent the milk from sticking to the bottom. But if some milk still sticks to the bottom and burns, a plastic spatula will not scratch the bottom and spoil the whole milk.
  2. Stop the cooking process as soon as the milk curdles. I add ice to the milk. This way your paneer won't come out rubbery.
  3. Don't hang your paneer for too long. Take it off as soon as water stops dripping.
  4. The fat % in the milk doesn't really change the way it tastes, the type of acid used DOES. But the taste variance is so minute that I can't really tell a difference.

Homemade Paneer

Ingredients:

1/2 a gallon of milk (equals 1.8 liters)
3 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

You will also need:
3-4 cups of ice
Cheese cloth

Method:

Boil milk in a thick bottom pan. Stir it from time to time to keep it from sticking at the bottom.
Once the milk is boiling, turn off the heat and add lemon juice while stirring it continuously.
It will take just a few seconds for the milk to curdle and that's exactly the time you have to stop the cooking process, so add ice to the pot.
Let it sit for about a minute and then strain it through strainer lined with cheese cloth. Once again wash the collected cheese with cold tap water (this helps wash that extra lemony flavor).
Take all the sides of the cheese cloth and tie them together. Hang it somewhere to let the extra liquid drip off (place an empty bowl below it for the liquid to collect).
Once the liquid (or whey) stops dripping, take out the cheese and make a big ball of it. Wrap again with the cheese cloth. To press the cheese and give it a shape, place it over a chopping board and put a heavy pan or pot over it. (I usually use my wrought iron pan and to add more weight I put a few cans of beans on top of it).
Let it sit for an hour or so.
In an hour you'll have your homemade paneer which you can use to make all kinds of things. I made Matar Paneer with mine!

59 comments:

  1. Ever since I made ricotta last year, I've been dying to try paneer. This looks terrific and has reminded me I have to give it a shot. :-)

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  2. Lovely! That is a speciality I absolutely have to make...

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  3. I have to try this! Lovely photos!

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  4. Awesome, Prerna! How much cheese does this recipe end up making? And, just out of curiosity, can you do anything with the liquid that is left?

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  5. Love the pics Prerna! You can make a hung paneer looks so beautiful :-)

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  6. Looks so gr8 .... uv d clicks :) And thanks for sharing the method for making paneer.

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  7. This is so fun to do! You made the whole process look so beautiful!

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  8. I like to make fresh cheese. As you said it's worthwhile. I'm always amazed how many things you can make and get from milk...

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  9. Wow, what a great post. I've always wondered about paneer. Your photos are truly breathtaking...just gorgeous.

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  10. I'm making this TODAY! I'm so excited - it's true, real paneer can't be beat and store bought just isn't it. Thank you so much Prerna!

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  11. My grandma just made paneer yesterday! Your photos are all simply stunning, especially the one with the cheesecloth.

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  12. Do you happen to know if using lactose-free milk will still work with this method of making paneer? I've always wanted to make paneer but am lactose intolerant. Thanks!

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  13. Yes! I've been eagerly awaiting this post, Prerna :). I was using lemon and lime juice before and let it stay hot for a while after curdling, so I'll definitely have to try again with this method. Thanks!

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  14. Prema, this recipe is very similar to a home-cooking version of ricotta. True ricotta is made from whey leftover from the making of other cheeses. But you can approximate it by heating milk with lemon juice (or vinegar or buttermilk). The only difference is that you don't press the curds afterwards. This looks delicious, by the way.

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  15. I love the picture of the cheesecloth bag hanging over the bowl, the lighting is lovely. On what exactly do you hang your cheesecloth bag? Thanks for all the great tips on making paneer at home, you've made it seem so accessible.

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  16. I so agree that nothing can beat homemade paneer. I find it really easy to prepare at home. I always gobble down some chunks of fresh paneer. :)

    what do you do with residue/whey water? You might know that it's equally healthy and can be used in chapati dough, daal or anywhere in cooking. I store the leftover whey in refrigerator and use as needed. These are my suggestion though. :)

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  17. It sounds much easier than I thought it would be. Yum! Thank you for sharing.

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  18. Who would have thought paneer would be beautiful.....i'm not s fan of it but just had to comment on your photos- beautiful!

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  19. I always make my one ricotta, and this looks very similar. I had paneer in restaurants, but have never bought it at the store.
    Definitely worth a try:)

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  20. I love when I learn something in a blog, Thank You!!! I did not know exactly what Paneer was, and now can not wait to enjoy it:-) This sounds like a fun, but challenging recipe:-)
    Take care,
    Terra
    www.cafeterrablog.com

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  21. Is it something like the middle eastern Labna?
    From your picture and description, it looks similar:

    http://profumodimamma.blogspot.com/2009/11/il-formaggio-nel-calzino.html

    I've used just yogurt and salt, instead.
    Next time I'll try out your version!

    thank you!

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  22. Love the pics Prerna...beautiful!!!

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  23. very well made and sucj lovely clicks !!

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  24. I have been making Paneer for about a year now! This is a very typical recipe for making it. For some variety, try adding some chopped chives or some Indian spice to the milk just as it starts to curdle.

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  25. That`s it??? Milk, lemon, and ice?? Now I don`t have any reason not to make this. So excited here! By the way, how long can we keep the paneer?

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  26. Your photos are beautiful! And the recipe perfect.

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  27. Asbolutely gorgeous shots..love each and everything ... Home made paneer is best..love it...

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  28. I absolutely LOVE everything about this post! And your tips are just awesome. Like, using a plastic spatula ... something so simple but so, so helpful. Thanks, Prerna. You're a doll!

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  29. Can I assume you started with whole milk? I have 2% right now -- do you think that'd work?

    Cheers,

    *Heather*

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  30. You are amazing and that is all there is to it. I love my cheese cloth, always use it to make my greek yogurt extra, extra thick! Homemade paneer needs to happen over here. Gorgeous pics!

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  31. wonderful post love paneer in curries :-) will share with Girlichef she is a star cheese maker

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  32. who can make hanging paneer look good? Ofcourse Prerna! lovely post as always..I love making paneer at home, it just so much better and the feeling is almost therapeutic!

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  33. Lovely clicks Prerna! And a perfect crumbly paneer to match with.

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  34. Beautiful! What a gorgeous blog you have. Rebecca from Chow and Chatter sent me over...can't wait to get lost here for a bit :D

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  35. Great stuff Prema ... I just covered this story a week or so ago about making your own cheese. Check it out when you can.

    http://ftwopercent.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/do-you-speak-cheese/

    Cheers,
    Justin

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  36. I never know it was so easy to make. I can't wait to try this.

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  37. Wow, Prerna.. your photo are stunning. And i love that you make paneer from scratch. See, now it's your turn to make me smile. :)

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  38. Oh i'm such a lazy bum to make panner at home, after all you have said, i SHOULD try at home! and your photos are instigating me towards it! :) Gorgeous!

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  39. You are amazing! this is going to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship! Your beautiful photos have already made me hungry!!!

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  40. And you have already inspired cookie ideas! BEAUTIFUL blog!

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  41. This looks terrific. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  42. I come across so many great recipes starring paneer but I know I cannot get it where I live so this is perfect! I am kind of afraid of making cheese but I really want to try paneer! Great recipe!

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  43. I've just celebrated my first blog - anniversary and it really was a lovely day. I had some very kind comments including some that said 'can't believe you've only been posting for a year'. Well that's what I'm saying right back to you - what a wonderful achievement ...keep on doing what you're doing so well.

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  44. The moment I saw the picture of hanging paneer..I knew it would be you.Beautiful pictures. I make it at home sometimes and more often buy the brand I like if I can find at indian store.

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  45. After spending 16 days in November in northern India, I am so happy to see this recipe! I fell in love with the food and even took a cooking class while I was there. I plan to go back and read your older posts now!
    So happy to have found you!
    xx

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  46. I used to think making paneer at home was a next to impossible task. Seeing this makes me confident I can do it. Thanks for sharing!

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  47. Gorgeous - I love the photo with the cheese cloth. Yay paneer :)

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  48. So I tried making panner for the first time in my life using this recipe. It turned out fantastic!! I was a surprise to realize 1/2 a gallon of milk makes so little panner. Any ideas on what to do with leftover water?

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  49. Wohoo! I am glad it turned out good Pragati :-)
    From the leftover whey you can either use it in making daal, knead your dough for bread from that and rotis and paratha will turn out to be softer than you would have ver eater, make rice with it or pulao. Whey is very high in protien so very good for kids.

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  50. Great recipe! I've tried to do this same thing with queso fresco and it never turns out well...I loved your ice trick :) I made your recipe and posted about it in my blog here: http://sojournerfood.blogspot.com/2012/04/curry-crazed.html

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  51. For years I've been making paneer (I haven't yet found a shop that sells it in Holland), but I never cooled the cheese down with ice. So yesterday I tried it and I had the softest and yummiest paneer ever. It took great self control not to eat it all, but to keep some cubes for my matar paneer!

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  52. thanks for the step by step!
    i just had one question - placing the weight doesnt make it hard or rubbery? whenever i do that at home, the paneer turns out hard. and if i just let it hand in the cheesecloth, its more crumbly but nice and soft!
    ive never added the ice before. so maybe thats the difference?

    thanks!
    nandini

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  53. I make panner. I want to improve sliceability and softness.How can I do it?

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  54. In the US we call this "Farmer's Cheese." For those people who are lactos intolerant,use RAW goat/cow milk and you wont have any problems. Thanks for the tip about the ice and your pics are beautiful.

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