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…
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.
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.
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.
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)
1 gallon of milk (2% or whole milk)
1/4 lemon juice (fresh or from the bottle)
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 recommends placing the paneer in the freezer for 30 minutes to harden it up.