Project Paneer

Paneer is a fresh cheese from India that is enjoyed extensively in savory dishes. Personally I might love it best made that day and served as a salad, although I’ve eaten it lots of different ways. It’s most common occurrence, at least in America, is in the dish Saag Paneer, in which chunks of fresh cheese are cooked with minced Spinach and onions and a dose of cumin. Done well, it’s a rich dish, silky in texture and surprisingly nuanced in flavor. I’m a big fan of Saag Paneer and Regina is borderline obsessed with it. We decided on a whim to whip up a batch of fresh paneer.
Pretty killer snack: super-fresh paneer cheese with beefsteak tomatoes, basil, and extra-virgin olive oil.
I haven’t made paneer in probably eight years, and I’d forgotten how easy it is to make!
You’ll need 8 cups of whole milk and a 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice. That’s it!
Oh, and a half-cup of warm water. 
Do this: 
Strain lemon juice of any seeds or pulp. Mix it with the warm water. 
Over medium heat bring the milk slowly to a bowl. Better use a stainless steel, non-reactive pot (no aluminum). Stir gently every once in a while to make sure it doesn’t stick on the bottom and burn.
When the milk is at 212 degrees F (100 degrees C) pour in the diluted lemon juice in a slow and steady stream. Stir carefully. 
The milk curd will start separating from the liquid (whey). Turn off the heat.
Line a strainer with several layers of cheesecloth. Put the strainer into a large bowl to catch the excess liquid. Using a large ladle, remove curd gently and strain. Gather the cheesecloth together and rinse the paneer bundle under cold running water, occasionally dunking it in cold water to rinse it. Squeeze the paneer of excess water. Put the cheese bundle back into the strainer. You’ll want to press the cheese under something heavy for a little while to expel more whey, so cover the cheese with a small saucer and put a can of beans or something like that over it. Wait an hour.
Unwrap cheese and discard the cheesecloth. It’s now ready to eat. 
You can wrap it in plastic wrap until you’re ready to eat it. We plan to make Saag Paneer, very soon.
Heat your milk right up to the boiling point. That’s 212 degrees F, people!

The acid in the lemon juice acts as the coagulant, separating the curd (milk solids) from the watery whey.

Rinsing the fresh paneer in cold water helps remove excess lemon juice.

Fresh paneer, one hour later. How do you say “awesome” in Hindi?

7 thoughts on “Project Paneer

  1. Looks awesome, Chef!! How do you tell the difference between paneer and any other fresh cheese, like ricotta that is made the same way? I am new but interested in fresh cheese making! And I love Indian food! Nice blog, beautiful pictures, and well written. Thanks – your twitter friend, Phurstluv

  2. i can not wait to try this! how long do you rinse the bundle? guess i'm picking up more milk, tomatoes and basil at the farmer's market tomorrow. that capresesque salad looks yummy!

  3. dude, im a friend of kalin's up here in the bay and i have to say that your blog is f'ing awesome. love love love love it. thanks for what you do. ps: can i use goats milk for this recipe instead? PEACE! kim

  4. Nice to meet you Kim! I'm pretty sure you can use goat milk, although I haven't yet tried that. Thanks for the kind words. Hit me up on FB or Twitter if you'd like. A friend of James is a friend o' mine.

  5. i hope you don't mind, but i am hijacking your project paneer post, and doing one of my own. i will completely give you credit and link to your blog, but this is just too good and too easy not to let my readers (as few as they may be) know about it.btw, i love all of your salad posts!

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