Making Paneer

If you’ve been joining me in trying a hand at homemade ghee, you know I decided to carry out a little experiment to see how much it would cost to make my own ghee using butter bought in bulk from Costco. The results are stacked in my fridge…two large jars worth. The savings were so inspiring that I began to wonder what other ways I could cut kitchen costs.

My new curiosity: would this work with paneer? Twice a month, I buy two full gallons of milk at Costco. Even though Hubby and I are avid chai addicts, this is much more milk than we need, but it’s still so much cheaper than shopping at my local Safeway. So I decided to use the surplus of milk to make my own paneer and see how much I’d be saving. How much paneer can I make using a full gallon of milk? The answer is, a little over 24 ounces. Store bought paneer comes in hard rectangular bricks which cost 36 cents per ounce at our local store.  Using wholesale milk, I can make pillowy light paneer for only 11 cents per ounce.   Is it worth it?  Let’s find out…


Paneer Recipes:

Palak Paneer, Paneer Tikka Pizza and Vegetable and Paneer Jalfrezi

 

IS HOMEMADE WORTH IT?

There’s something slightly magical about taking typically store-bought items such as paneer or ghee or even peanut butter and making it yourself.  It feels empowering.  When I sit down with a bowl of apple slices and dip into a jar full of almond butter I made over the weekend, it’s more than just a quick snack, it’s a memory of a summer afternoon in my kitchen.   Even though it’s easy enough to pick up a pack of paneer while you’re already at the store buying tomorrow’s dinner, it’s a fun experience to try your hand at homemade.

Making your own paneer will cost you 40 minutes of hands-on effort. Then the cheese needs to set for a few hours. The result is a fresh, slightly tangy paneer with a melt in your mouth texture that is impossible to get from store-bought cheese. Like most things I try for the first time, the process is much easier than expected.

Colleen

I’ve now cleaned my fair share of milk-scorched pots and I’ve learned it’s less time consuming to simply stir occasionally during those forty minutes, rather than soaking for hours later.  How do I combat the boredom of standing in front of the stove for 40 minutes?  I bring over my laptop and watch some TV…courtesy of YouTube.

Colleen

NEW TECHNIQUES FOR PANEER

I’ve updated the way I make paneer since my original post.  It’s almost identical, except I don’t squeeze the paneer by hand, preferring to just let it hang. I also found an easier way to press the paneer in the sink, rather than on the counter, where things tend to topple over.

RECIPE

Equipment:

cheese cloth (also known as muslin cloth)

colander or large strainer

large pot (one with a heavy bottom will result in less burning of the milk)

Ingredients:

1 gallon of milk (2% or whole milk)

1/4 lemon juice (fresh or from the bottle)

Directions

1. BOIL THE MILK

Pour a gallon milk into a large pot and heat on medium.  Bring to a low boil, stirring occasionally. This takes about 30-40 minutes.

If you have any burnt milk at the bottom of your pot, check out my tips for (somewhat) effortless cleaning.

 

Tips for cleaning off burnt milk...

If you’re like me, you probably now have a large pan scorched with burnt milk. Don’t fret, your not in for an hour of elbow grease.

To clean off any burned milk, and I always burn the milk, cover the bottom of the pot in water and bring to a boil. As it boils the burnt milk will loosen. Adding a pinch or two of salt will help get rid of any strong milk smell. Once the burnt milk loosens, simply scrape it away.

 2. CURDLE THE MILK

Once the milk comes to a boil, add a 1/4 cup of lemon juice to the milk and stir. The milk solids should separate almost instantaneously, but if they don’t let the milk come back to a low boil, which will help the curds separate.

3. STRAIN THE MILK

In the sink, place  a colander lined with cheese cloth. Pour the curdled milk into the colander.  Allow it to drain naturally, without squeezing it. I’ve discovered this helps keep the cheese a bit softer once it’s done.

4. PRESS THE CHEESE

The cheese needs to be weighed down so the liquid drains away.  The thing to consider here is that it needs to either lay flat without sitting in a pool of drained liquid, or be hung.

Laying it flat is quicker because you can press it.  My solution was to pull out my flat sifter, which would allow the cheese to lay flat and stable and yet the liquid would drain away.  If you have a surface of sink unobstructed by a drain, this is a perfect place to press your cheese as the liquid will literally drain away.

I weighed my paneer down using a pie plate which I filled with water.  You can also stack a heavy bowl on top of the pie plate and fill that with water, or place a container of heavy beans on it instead.

If you do not have anything flat which allows drainage, just hang the cheese over a bowl in the refrigerator.  You’ll need to hang it for about a day, till the cloth is only slightly moist to the touch, rather than wet.  This may take longer, but it’s still effortless.

FOR EXTRA FIRM PANEER

If your homemade paneer is crumbling as you cook,  it may be too soft.

Mummy-ji

MUMMY-JI’S TIP:

Mummy-ji recommends placing the paneer in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden it up.

Mummy-ji


8 Comments

  1. 8-9-2012

    Lovely! Admire your efforts- and agree that making stuff on your own is rewarding and empowering!

    I am going to read your other posts one by one as time permits!

    One suggestion- the whey from the paneer is very nutritious and tasty! You could use it to knead dough for chapati, bhatura or bread. This water is good to add in curries instead of water and also useful to make kadhi, a yoghurt based curry! Once you get the hang of it, you will come up with more uses!
    Cheers! :)

    • 8-9-2012

      Hi Shruti – I love your suggestion of using the whey rather than letting it go to waste. I’ll be trying one of those on my next go around. Does it have a sour taste at all?

      • 10-9-2013

        Hi Colleen, There are cheeses made in Scandinavia that are simply whey that is cooked/boiled down for hours into a sweet cheese. You can stop cooking when it’s spreadable, or keep cooking it down to a consistency that will set up when it cools, so that you can slice it.

        The milk solids left in the whey come together as the water is cooked out, and they caramelize. This is usually made with the whey from either cow or goat milk, or a combination of the two. Make it with the whey left after making curd type cheese. It’s fabulous, and so easy! Just boil all of the whey you need to use up until you have a thick mixture at the bottom of the pan at the consistency you want. Keep stirring as you come down to the final stages. If you want, you can add a splash of cream near the end for a smoother product, or don’t. It will have a slightly grainy texture without the extra cream, but still delicious.

        • 10-11-2013

          Hi Judi – Oh my, that sounds so tasty. So you separate the curd and whey, but then instead of throwing out the whey, you actually cook it down into a cheese? That sounds great. I bet it’s pretty creamy. I’ll have to look more into that. Thanks for the tip.

  2. 6-16-2013

    Silly question perhaps…but how do you wash the cheesecloth between uses? I want to check before I throw it in with my clothes :-). This recipe is great, made my first yummy batch of paneer!

    • 6-18-2013

      Hi Taryn

      Thats a great question! I never seem to have trouble with it by scrubbing it with some soap and water and then letting it hang dry. If the cheese is really stuck on, maybe a soak in hot soapy water would help it loosen up first. I’ve been reusing my cheese cloth for a few years.

  3. 11-11-2013

    I enjoyed your site a lot and ended up bookmarking it so that I can come back for recipes and the simple pleasure of reading your anecdotes. I have been an employee at Shri Lakshmi Narayan Mandir for 12 years. I have been to India (just once) and I appreciate your travel suggestions. I just want to say you have a great site and I will share it with others from the temple.

    • 11-12-2013

      Hi Vikki – Wow! What a wonderful comment :) Thank you so much for your kind words. It is wonderful to know you enjoy the site.

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