Saturday, March 5, 2011

Paneer'ish Style Cheese with Black Truffles

Paneer is the easiest cheese I have ever made.  Boil some milk, add lemon juice, drain and hang it for a few hours and then eat it...pretty simple. You can eat it as is, broil it, fry it... well you get the idea.  If you are looking for something that melts, try something else.  This isn't it.

This recipe started out (once upon a time) as a simple paneer but, I just can't seem to leave anything alone for long 8-).  I have added a bit of cheese salt and, in this case, some black truffles that a friend at work gave me.  You can add all kinds of things for flavoring.  At one time or other, I have used chives, garlic, green onions, black pepper, chili peppers and various herb mixes.

First you collect the ingredients:

  • 1 gallon of Milk -
    The only hard and fast rule is that the milk can't be "ultrapasturized".  Someone told me that "ultrapasturization" changes the protein in the milk.  My basic rule is to use what I can afford...surprise.
  • 8 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice -
    This can be fresh lemon juice (takes about 3 large lemons, somehow 2 is never quite enough) or the bottled stuff.
  • 1 teaspoon of Salt (optional but recommended)-
    I use "Cheese Salt" for this.  This is a flaky, non-iodized salt I get from the Home Fermentation Center.  The salt adds to the flavor and also keeps some types of bacteria from growing.
  • 1 - 2 Tablespoons of shaved Black Truffles
Other stuff you need:
  • A colander
  • Some cheese cloth or "butter muslin"
  • A stainless steel or food grade plastic spoon
  • A large pot 
  • Isophor or some other solution for sterilizing your tools 
  • A cheese mold and follower (optional)
  • A cheese press (optional)
OK, now for the doing part:
  1. Wash your hands and sterilize your tools.  To sterilize the tools I use soak them in a solution of 1.5 teaspoons of Isophor (you can get this at a brewing supply store) in 1.5 gallons of water.  This kills off any bacteria and yeasts that might be growing on your tools (or in your cheese cloth).
  2. Boil the milk.  Do this SLOWLY and stir it often.  The faster you boil the milk, the more likely you are to scald it.  When you stir, don't scrape the bottom of the pot.  This will get browned bits into the curds later on.  I use medium-high heat and it takes about 30 minutes to get the milk to boil.  The milk will get frothy.  This is a normal part of the process.

  3. As soon as the milk starts to boil, turn the heat down to low REALLY QUICKLY.  Otherwise the milk boils over and you have a major mess to clean up.
  4. Quickly drizzle in the lemon juice and leave on the heat for about 15 seconds.  The curds will form pretty quickly.  If your milk looks like lumpy milk instead of white curds with yellow whey, you either need to heat it longer or add more lemon juice.  I tend to go with more lemon juice.

  5. Take the curds off the heat and let them rest for 10 minutes.
  6. Pour the curds into a colander prepared with a piece of damp cheese cloth or "butter muslin".

  7. Gather up the edges of the cheese cloth and press out some of the whey.
  8. Add the cheese salt and mix up the curds well.  If you don't mix them well, some parts of the cheese will be salty and others won't have any salt...not good.
  9. Add your flavoring item.  In this case, the Black Truffles.  The flavoring should be in very small pieces so it can be mixed evenly throughout the cheese curds.
  10. Now you are going to get the excess whey out of the cheese.  However you do it, it needs to hang or press for about 2 hours.

    - I use a cheese mold and a hippy-rigged press.  The press is a wooden board, a tuna can for a follower and a gallon milk jug full of water. 

    - You can just tie a piece of string around the top of the cheese cloth and hang it over your sink if you don't have these fancy fixens.  After letting your cheese hang, put the cheese cloth wrapped bundle in a mixing bowl with a small plate on top of it and put about 5lbs of weight on top of the plate.  Let this sit for an additional hour to press the cheese. 
  11. Remove the cheese cloth and you have your cheese.  You can eat it now.  It will only have a little of the flavor of your flavoring ingredient but will still be tasty.  I wrap my cheese in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight and the cheese just bursts with flavor!
The paneer will last in the fridge for about 2 weeks (or so i'm never lasts more than a week in my house).

NOTE: Just a quick note on cleanup.  Back in my days of political activism, we used milk as an adhesive to put up posters.  When the milk dries on the poster (and the wall), it sticks really well and will only come off with a sand-blaster.  Soak your pot immediately after dumping the curds.  Wipe up spills as soon as you make them.  This will make the cleanup process go much more quickly.

I hope you enjoy making (and eating) this simple cheese as much as I do!


1 comment:

  1. Thanks, this is a really helpful post.

    I'm laughing at the milk glue - all the funny tricks of other people's trades, :D