Monday, March 24, 2014
The Easiest Cheese Ever, Or, Farmer's Cheese (Or Paneer)
Seasoned or plain, this cheese is hard to beat for ease of preparation and delicious flavor.
I don't exaggerate when I say this cheese takes under ten minutes to make. Then you just let the whey drain, and you're set! Because it takes too much dinero to buy raw milk, we just buy regular store milk. As long as it's not ultra-pasteurized, it turns out fine.
$2.05 for one gallon of regular, pasteurized milk + ten minutes = one pound of cheese and a giant bowl of whey to use for baking, to add to shakes, soups, or sauces, or for feeding your chickens.
Not too shabby, huh?
Here's what you need:
-one gallon whole milk
-1/2 cup white vinegar (to make traditional paneer for Indian cuisine, substitute lemon juice for the vinegar)
-salt and/or seasonings
-a large, heavy-bottomed pot
-a double layer of cheesecloth
Not necessary but fun to have
-a cheese press, the Real Deal or a makeshift one (to see my makeshift press, see below)
-helper elves to squeeze out whey faster (ditto)
Pour milk into pot and bring milk to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Turn off heat and add the vinegar (or lemon juice) to pot while stirring constantly. Within a short time, you should see the curds begin to solidify near the top of the pot, leaving the greenish-yellowish whey behind. Once they've all separated, remove pot from the burner and carefully pour into a colander lined with your double layer of cheesecloth and resting over a large bowl to catch the whey. At this point, you can add salt or seasonings, as desired-- for farmer's cheese, we add one tablespoon salt--, mixing them gently into the hot curds. Note! If you don't want your large bowl of whey to become flavored with seasonings or salt, then transfer the cheesecloth to another bowl before adding seasonings and squeezing out the rest of the whey.
Once your seasonings are mixed in, lift the cheesecloth and twist it around the ball of cheese, squeezing to remove excess whey. Then tie it on something high (a kitchen beam, a wooden spoon you slide into your upper cupboard's handles, the sink faucet, etc.) to drain out additional whey for about five minutes. If you stop here, you'll end with a delicious, mild, crumbly cheese for salads, munching, curries, etc.
For a firmer, slicing cheese, squeeze out the whey as shown and then take the cheesecloth filled with still hot curds and place in a cheese press. Don't have a cheese press? No problem. Just place it on a plate with the excess cheesecloth on the side to ensure a smooth top to your cheese. Place a second plate on top of the cheese and weigh down the top plate with enough Heavy Stuff to press out the last of the whey and compress the cheese curds into a solid disc. Refrigerate until firm and then gobble whenever you feel the urge.
Notes: If you make paneer using the lemon juice, you can gently rinse the curds with water after you drain them into the colander in order to remove some of the lemon flavor, if you want to take the extra step.
My current cheese press was given to me by Mrs. Terry and is showcased below. A large coffee can with nail holes punched along the bottom edge works well. Place the cheese inside, top it with a small saucer, and weigh down the saucer with Heavy Stuff. Voila! Slicing cheese!
Gobbled by Abigail on 3/24/2014