Paneer

Paneer (A.K.A. queso fresco) is a unique style of cheese whose only close cousin is Ricotta.  Unlike other cheeses, it is made not with cultures or rennet, but rather with a combination of heat and acid.  To make this cheese, all you have to do is bring milk to a high temperature, then add an acidic ingredient to the  pot.  The acid causes a change in the shape of the milk proteins which causes them to emerge from the whey as cheese.

Paneer can be made with any milk, homogenized or un-homogenized, full fat or low fat (though a high fat milk will yield more cheese because of its higher solids content).  You can use pasteurized milk or raw milk (though raw milk will be pasteurized by the heating process). Only UHT milk will not do.    THe ultra high temperature processing denatures milk proteins and destroys any hopes of making cheese…alongside much of the milk’s vitamins and nutrients. You can recognize UHT milk as it doesn’t have to be refrigerated, though in North America, it is increasingly found in the refrigerated dairy case…Read your labels closely.

As for the acid,   any vinegar will do.    Every variety of vinegar or lemon juice will yield a different paneer, each with very distinct flavours.  My favourite vinegar to use is apple cider vinegar – the appleyness comes out in the cheese.

Lemon juice will work too, though it is not as acidic as vinegar. You will need to use twice as much to curdle the same amount of milk: one cup of juice per gallon of milk.  Paneer made with lemon juice will be softer and more difficult to strain then when made with vinegar. You may have to pass the contents of the pot through cheesecloth to strain it.  Use fresh squeezed lemon juice, otherwise  you’ll be underwhelmed by the taste of the reconstituted lemon juice in the cheese.

In India, paneer is made traditionally by adding yogourt or kefir to the hot milk.  Yogourt is much less acidic than vinegar or lemon juice, and as much as a half gallon of it is needed to curdle a gallon of milk.  This is the most natural way to make paneer;  it makes a paneer whose flavour is most delicate, and not shrouded by vinegar or lemon juice.

————- Technique —————-

Step 1: boil the milk

Bring a gallon of milk to a boil.  Use a heavy bottomed pot to keep the milk from scorching, and stir, stir stir.  The more time you spend stirring, the less time you’ll spend scouring the pot.

When the milk comes to a full boil – you’ll see foam rising rapidly in the pot, and big bubbles rolling at the surface – take the pot off of the heat of the stove. Let it cool for one or two minutes until the milk comes to rest.

Step 2: add the acid

Pour in one half cup of vinegar(or one cup of lemon juice or half a gallon of kefir).  Give the pot of milk two steady stirs, no more.  Watch as the curds separate from the whey.  You’ll see billowy white curds emerge from the bright yellow whey.

Step 3: strain the curds

The curds will be soft and delicate at first,  quite difficult to handle.  But if you wait five minutes, they will firm up and be much easier to strain.   Strain the curds with a slotted spoon to get the curds out of the whey and into a wire-mesh strainer or spaghetti colander suspended over a large pot (if you pour the curds from the pot straight into the strainer, they will get broken up and mixed up with the whey, and will become waterlogged and harder to press).

Step 4: flavour the curds

if you wish to flavour the curds with herbs or spices, this is the time to do it. Add in dried or fresh herbs to give the cheese another level of flavour.  Or add fresh edible flower petals like calendula to give the cheese some vibrant colour.  my favourite addition to paneer is dried and smoked chipotle peppers, which give the paneer a wonderful smokiness without having to smoke it.

Step 5: Press the curds

If you wish to have a firm paneer that is easily sliced, you will have to press your curds.  If you just leave the curds to hang out in the strainer until they cool, then the curds will have a cottage cheese-like consistency.  If you press them, though, the cheese will be much firmer and can be cut into cubes which can then be added to curries.

To press your paneer, you don’t need any fancy cheese presses.  You can easily improvise a cheese press at home, using a pair of yogourt containers.  One yogourt container, to be used as a form, can be carefully punctured with holes using a skewer or a sharp tipped knife all around.  This container will hold onto the cheese while  allowing the whey to escape.  The second yogourt container can be filled up with hot whey and capped with its lid to be used as a press.

Scoop up the paneer from the strainer, and fill up the yogourt container form most of the way to the top. Place the yogourt container press on top of the paneer in the form.  And wait.  The warm whey will press the cheese into an extra firm round.  Once the cheese has cooled, it can be taken out of the form, and sliced into cubes for cooking…

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21 comments

  1. great instructions. I am trying it right now as somehow there got to be 8 litres of organic full cream milk in the fridge. how long will the paneer last in the fridge?

  2. Hi Heidi
    Paneer will last about two weeks in the refrigerator. As it is a pasteurized cheese, it lacks the bacterial cultures that help to protect it, so it won’t last that long.

    bon fromage….

  3. shaun

    shaun,
    i spoke to two dairy technologies, they both gave me different answers.
    1) he said> the by product (whey) of the cheese can used to make paneer.
    2) he said> use milk
    Which one is correct?

  4. Here’s my ideas on the subject.

    Milk is used to make paneer
    Whey is used to make ricotta.

    Ricotta is italian for ‘cooked again’ and refers to the fact that this cheese is the second one made from a batch of milk. The milk is first used to make mozzarella or another italian cheese, then the leftover whey is ‘cooked again’ to make ricotta.

    However, many ricottas that you might find in a grocery store are made with a mixture of whey and milk. This is often the case because whey does not yield much cheese, and so whey is often cut with milk in order to increase the cheese yield.

    Paneer is an ancient indian word that simply means ‘cheese’. Indian cheesemaking traditions are simple compared to european traditions, and usually do not result in leftover whey that can be reused for cheesemaking in the manner of ricotta. Paneer is made only with milk, and the milk it is usually made with is goat or buffalo.

  5. John

    Hey David,

    I’ve seen paneer in the freezer section of the grocery store. Is it cool to freeze the home made stuff. Also, do you know where I can find some kefir grains in Vancouver?

    -John

  6. Paneer may just be the only cheese that freezes well. In fact, freezing is the only half-decent way of preserving Paneer, as it can’t be preserved using any of the methods of aging other, live cheeses. I don’t know where you can go to buy live grains in Vancouver, however, check craigslist and Kajiji, there’s often somewhen who’s got grains to share…

    Bon fromage…

  7. Anonymous

    Hi David,

    I only have access to UHT milk, living in a country without fresh milk. Is there anything I can do to make paneer with UHT? Add anything to it?

    Thanks,
    K

  8. Hello K
    I wish I could offer some guidance, but I’m not too familiar with cheesemaking with UHT milk. Have you tried making paneer with it? what was the final result?

    David

    David

  9. Anonymous

    Hi David,

    I was somewhat successful. I had to boil for a long time though; I used vinegar. It was really crumbly and soft, the taste was that of UHT milk though, which is somewhat masked in a curry recipe. Do you think if I boil it longer it would not be so crumbly? or put a heavier weight on it for a longer time?

    Thanks,
    K

  10. I find that a long boiling actually makes the cheese more crumbly! Try taking the milk off of the heat when it comes to a boil, then add the vinegar. Let me know what happens…Where in the world are you making paneer?

    D

  11. Yum, I’ll be making cheese tonight.
    I got about 2 litres of week-old kefir, and 2 litres of fresh milk

  12. Cyd

    What are some good uses for pander whey?

  13. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this
    topic to be really something that I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complex and extremely broad for me.
    I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of
    it!

  14. Maggie Foster

    Just finished making Paneer with UHT milk.. 1 litre = 200 grm paneer. Brought it to the boil, turned off added lemon juice and voila’ ! Cheese cloth and pressed till not whey left. Its very firm and crumbly – but – I’m thrilled, next batch will not be so dry, will not press to much.

  15. Glad to hear the process worked with UHT milk. Where in the world are you making cheese?

  16. Cyd

    I am making paneer in Portland, Oregon. I’m still curious if you know of any uses for the paneer whey. Thanks!

  17. Sadly there aren’t as many uses as other wheys. When I make paneer I generally pour the whey on my compost, or on plants in my garden. The slight amount of acidity from the vinegar doesn’t seem to have an effect. However the vinegar flavour in paneer really makes it only suitable to use in cooking where the vinegar flavour is appreciated. Certain soups like Borscht seem to do well with it. And if you don’t mind the sourness, you can add it to bread dough as well.

    Cheese!
    David

  18. Littledove

    Will you please give instructions or making india paneer cheese. I get a quart of raw goat milk daily from my Pygmy goat, and I usually use that quart of milk to make kefir.

  19. Hello littledove

    The Paneer recipe on this site http://thewayofcheese.com/2013/02/18/paneer/ should work well with your raw goats milk. Save up a few days worth of milk (your kefir grains may not like that!), and follow the recipe!

    David

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