I adore cheese. I would say that I’d never met a cheese I didn’t like, but I truly have no use for mild cheddar. Why bother? I told a friend at the farmers’ market last week that I like my cheddar so sharp it bites back. I also love some staple cheeses like parmesan, asiago, and feta, as well as some more specialized artisan cheese like Cowgirl Creamery’s Mt. Tam. While I’ve enjoyed cheese all over the country, including an epic hour long visit to the Cabot Cheese tasting room, after which I swore off cheese for five solid minutes, I’ve never made my own cheese. I’d read a lot of tutorials online, and my success with the naan lent me the confidence to try making paneer.
Paneer is a fresh cheese made by curdling hot milk with acid. I followed this tutorial with modest success. To recap briefly, heat a half gallon of whole milk to the point of boiling and then add 2 tablespoons of acid (I used lemon juice). Stir quickly, as the milk will start to curdle and separate. When there are large curds, and the surrounding liquid has become nearly clear, strain the mixture through a double layer of cheese cloth. Wash the curds well with cold water to remove any of the acid taste. Wrap the cheese cloth into a tight package, and press the cheese under a heavy object (I used a plate stacked with canned pineapple), and press the cheese for an hour.
When I unwrapped it, I was so impressed to see that it looked like real cheese! I cubed up the paneer and fried it briefly in safflower oil and set it aside.
Do you see where we’re going here? First there was naan, then paneer, and tomorrow, my favorite Indian dish, Matar Paneer! To spoil all the fun, I managed to not be too intimidated by the billion spices, and made a nearly authentic riff on one of my favorites.