Back in the day when we lived in the country and had milk goats, I used to make different kinds of soft cheese on a regular basis. The easiest of the cheeses was paneer, an Indian frying cheese used in curries. I hadn’t made it in years but decided to try it with cow’s milk when I had a surplus recently. It is absurdly simple and fun to make. My only suggestion is that if you decide to make this or other cheese on a regular basis, you should buy some fine cheesecloth. I have never seen it for sale in a store, but I recently ordered some from Caprine Supply, my cheese-making supplier of choice. Buy a couple of packs to give to the cooks in your life. The cheesecloth can be reused for years if you hand wash it and boil it to sterilize it. While you are ordering from them, you might as well get some liquid vegetable rennet too. You can use that to experiment with different kinds of cheese making.
Bring a gallon of milk of any type to boil in a large pot. Once it reaches a roiling boil, turn off the heat and shock the milk with about half a cup of white vinegar. Stir for a few minutes as the curds form.
Line a large colander with fine cheesecloth or triple layered normal cheesecloth or a large handkerchief washed in hot water without detergent. Pour the curds and whey into the cheesecloth and let it drain for a minute.
Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together with a piece of kitchen twine and hang the ball of cheese over the sink to drip for about half an hour.
Remove the cheese from the cloth. Cut it up and fry, stir fry, bake, broil, whatever.
To clean the cheesecloth, soak it for an hour or so in a pot with a little hand dishwashing soap. Swish around and rub lightly to get the clumps of cheese stuck to the cloth to dislodge. Rinse well, then boil in clean water. Squeeze out excess water and hang to dry. DO NOT WASH IN THE WASHING MACHINE WITH DETERGENT or your cheese will taste like laundry detergent.
Palak Paneer (Spinach with Homemade Cheese)
Two bags of frozen spinach or two pounds of triple-washed fresh spinach, stems removed
Olive oil or ghee
1 big onion, chopped
3 to 6 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 jalapeno or other green chili, chopped, remove seeds if you don’t want too much heat
1 teaspoon red chili pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 ½ teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon paprika
½ to 1 cup sour cream or half and half or milk
1 batch paneer, cubed and sautéed in ghee or oil until lightly browned
- Thaw spinach in the microwave. Pour oil or ghee in pan and sauté till soft. Remove from heat and puree in a food processor. Set aside.
- Fry onion in oil or ghee until tender, add garlic, ginger, red chili powder, turmeric, curry, paprika, jalapeno, and sauté till well blended. Remove from heat and puree in a food processor.
- Add a little more oil to the pan and cook spice/onion paste for a few minutes.
- Transfer reserved spinach to pan, add salt and sour cream or milk and heat to a thick boil. You can add water as needed.
- Add sautéed paneer and mix well.
- Serve with roti or rice or nan.