Recipe: Homemade Paneer/Panir (cheese)

Makes 1 block of cheese

Cheese lovers, come closer. I have a secret to tell you.

I never thought I’d be able to do this. I thought it would be hard. I thought I’d just waste a bunch of milk.

I didn’t.

The truth is, the only thing standing between you and great cheese is a half gallon of milk, salt, and a little lemon juice.

That’s pretty ridiculous.

And empowering.

Trust me. If you’ve never made homemade cheese before, you’ll delight in the simplicity of Indian Paneer. And it just might make you feel better if you’re having a rough day.

Ingredients:

2 quarts (8 cups)  whole milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 Tbsp strained lemon juice
Cheesecloth

Method:

Every once in a while life gets frustrating. Everything just… drags. Like you have too much on your shoulders. Maybe you feel a little bit lonely. Maybe you’re bored. Or maybe you’re just hungry.

It’s hard to know for sure, sometimes.

On days like this it’s nice to take a stroll in the desert – to clear your mind of all the junk. If you’re not hungry when you start out, you certainly will be when you’re done.

Hello, Indian desert! You’re beautiful.

Thar Desert. Photo by Josh Nguyen.

Take a deep breath and go. Just go. Walk and walk, until your legs tire and your mind tires. Until the slopes and sands have done their work.

Then stop in a nearby village.

Be sure to say hello to the cattle, while you’re there.

“Hello!”

Cattle in Tikar. Photo by Vinod Panicker.

After a few “moos” you’ll feel better. Relaxed, even.

Which means you’re ready for the next step: to make some cheese. It’ll help you clear you mind. It’ll help you strain out any remaining junk. It’ll help you smile, especially after that first bite.

First step: Add milk and salt to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and add lemon juice. Cook for 1-2 minutes until fully curdled, stirring as needed.

Step 2: Pour the curdled milk into a cheesecloth lined colander, placed over a large bowl.  The cheesecloth should be triple layered so the little curdles don’t fall through. Strain for 30 minutes.

When done, squeeze the extra liquid out. It’s therapeutic. Really, really therapeutic.

Step 3: Leave the curds in the cheesecloth and press between two plates, weighing it down with a heavy pot filled with really heavy stuff. I rather like to use a watermelon. The absurdity of it totally cheers me up.

Right: Earth in the Rann of Kutch desert, cracking as it dries. Photo by Vinod Panicker

Press until desired consistency is reached, pouring off any accumulated liquid every thirty minutes. I pressed mine about 1.5 hours, but you might need to do more or less depending how much you squeezed off in the last step.

As the cheese dries out, feel all the frustration strain out of your brain.

You are in control. You can sift out the unwanted “water weight” in your life and end up with the most beautiful, luscious life you’ve ever imagined.

As for the cheese? You are in control of that, too.

Want it creamy? Sliceable? Crumbly? Depending how long you let it press out determines all that. Play around with it – less time means creamier, more time means drier. You can’t go wrong. No matter what you do, with very little effort you’ll be in cheesy, cheese-tastic bliss in no time.

When the cheese is all done, unwrap…

And slice up! Mine was still rather soft and I loved it.

I couldn’t stop picking at it.

Now that all that junk was out of my brain I could really enjoy myself.

I wish the same for you.

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Comments

  1. Wow! This is amazing…I never made cheese and you make it sound so fun. What about flavor? Do you add anything like herbs or seasoning (besides salt)? Will it work with low-fat milk? “Misss yoooo” <3

    • Sasha Martin says:

      I’d suggest making it once without flavorings, then – once you’ve tasted it – play around with herbs. You could really make some tasty combinations. I’ve not made it with low-fat milk, but I believe it will work (it won’t be as richly delicious though).

  2. Really want to try this… and I’d save the drained off whey for baking. I make yogurt all the time and the whey is great in bread and other baked goods! I think paneer might be in my future.. I’d love to try it with skim milk. I wonder if you add in some dry milk (like I do in my yogurt making) to get more solids if that would help the consistency… I’m going to have to try it. :D

    • Sasha Martin says:

      What a good idea Astrid, thank you… I’ll remember that next time, instead of water. Yum. Let me know how it comes out… good luck.

  3. Jessica Bennett says:

    I always keep my cheese plain because I put it in dishes with spicy sauces, so it winds up tasting like whatever spices I use. But keeping it out of sauce and just adding some herbs sounds like a good idea. I wonder what herbs would be good in paneer?

  4. elisa waller says:

    ridiculous….absurd…delicious writing…..this adventure is nothing less than fun. I really am proud of you and I love you.

  5. How cool, you do make the process sound fun. I’ve heard that some recipes for cheese call for the addition of an animal enzyme (rennet), maybe the lemon juice takes the place of that. This recipe is nice since I don’t think that enzyme is extracted from the animal in an animal-friendly manner :)
    I’m going to hold you to the sifting out the water for the beautiful luscious life ;)

  6. Okay I have to admit I’ve tried making cheese before and it was a total failure– and yes I kept thinking– this is such a waste of milk!! But now that I’ve seen this– I may just give it another go… and i just LOVE paneer :)

    • Sasha Martin says:

      This was my first time and I was so happy with the results. Did you try something more complicated? This is definitely the way to go for newbs ;)

  7. I laughed out loud when I saw the giant watermelon on the little saucepan. Really great post. I’ve had paneer a million times, I never knew it was so easy to make at home – and I probably would not have read through the entire post had it not been for your wit. You made me really want to make paneer, not just look at a recipe ;)

  8. Hey! I was at the meetup tonight and both my husband and I were really interested in the idea behind your blog – we do a lot of vegetarian cooking and have learned to make several Indian and Thai dishes but would love some new ideas. William made paneer a few years ago and it was great (and super easy), but somehow we’ve never gotten around to doing it again…

    • Sasha Martin says:

      Hi Angeline – so great to “meet” you ;) – I have a “lifestyles” dropdown in the menu above – the vegan and vegetarian recipes are sorted out there. Like you, I also eat that way a lot, so usually there’s at least one recipe a week in one of those categories. Best wishes to you and keep in touch!

  9. Great to meet you tonight. If you ever need any taste testers I would be more than happy to come over. I can’t wait to see what new countries you go to.

  10. Hi,
    I am an Indian (South Indian). I am ur frequent visitor. I was just waiting for ur version of Indian meals. Beautiful looking Paneer.

  11. I made my own cream cheese once and it was very satisfying. I have to say this looks even better. I will definitely try it.

  12. Ahhh such beautiful pictures!

  13. Celeste says:

    muy cool–i want to try it! The only cheese i ever made before was just yogurt cheese…you just put the yogurt into the cheesecloth (can add herbs if you want or leave it plain), and let it drip out and then “tomorrow” it’s cheese! (like the consistency of cream cheese). Have you ever made a hard cheese, Sasha?

  14. what i usually do is… take a dish with holes in it.. like a colander … put the cheese cloth with paneer in it… and put heavy weight on the cloth..this way we dont have to bother about draining off the excess water..
    do it overnite and we get fresh paneer in the morning

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