Paneer(cottage cheese) is the most widely used fresh cheese in Indian recipes. It is very versatile and is used in making tikka, curry, salad, and sweets. Grated paneer can be sprinkled on the dosa, pizza, pasta, or rice.
Paneer is a fresh cheese made by curdling heated milk with any acids such as lemon juice, vinegar, citric acid or curd. This separates thick curd from the whey. The curdled mixture or the thick curd is then strained in a muslin or cheese or soft cloth and the excess water is pressed out. The cloth with the paneer is hung for half hour to remove the excess water. This is the basic way to prepare paneer.
Paneer can be made at home very quickly almost in 30 minutes. Once you start making it at home, you will prefer to make it regularly at home. It is clean, hygienic and made with care.
Paneer made by using curd is softer, creamier and less tangy. I mostly use curd to make paneer. If curd is not available then I will use lemon juice.
I will also share the recipe for paneer made using lemon juice soon.
Few points to take care:
Use full cream milk. (Do not use fat-free milk if you want paneer to cut into pieces if you want to crumble paneer you can go for low-fat milk)
The curd should be whisked nicely before using it. It helps to get smooth paneer.
While adding curd or any acidic agent to the boiling milk, always lower the heat and then add curd or any acidic agents.
Constantly stir the milk after adding the acidic agents or curd so that it does not stick to the bottom.
After the milk is curdled-it will take another 5-7 minutes for it to separate from the whey (greenish water). Immediately strain the curdled mixture to remove excess water. If you keep the curdled mixture more on heat, the paneer set would become chewy.
The paneer would be set in 30 minutes. If you want paneer to set in a block then wrap the curdled mixture in the cloth and shape the mixture to a rectangle and place a heavy weight over it for a couple of hours. It will set in a nice block. You can cut into pieces and use to make tikkas or use in curries.
To retain the freshness, the paneer block is immersed in a bowl of fresh water. This will also help in removing excess sourness from paneer and also make it soft. The paneer kept in water can be refrigerated for 3-4 days, changing the water every 8 hours.
I started making paneer at home after my son was born. I was not satisfied with the cleanliness and the hygienic conditions of the dairy selling the milk products. I do not want Aarav to eat those. Paneer is very healthy and I prefer eating it weekly once or twice. So then I started making it at home.
So friends do try making paneer at home and you will never go to shops to buy it!
Homemade Paneer Using Curd (Cottage Cheese)
- Heat milk in a pan. Bring it to boil. Stir in between so that the milk does not get stick at the bottom of the pan.
- Take curd in a bowl and whisk it till smooth.
- The milk is boiling. Lower the heat.
- Add the smoothen curd to the milk. Stir the milk. It will start curdling.
- After a five minutes, it will be curdled fully and greenish water will be separated.
- Strain the curdled milk in the strainer kept in a bowl. You can put a soft cloth in the strainer and strain the curdled milk.( I have directly strained in the strainer).
- The greenish water will be collected in the bowl. It is known as "whey". It is very healthy and nutritious. Utilise it to make buttermilk, kneading dough, making soup, dal or kadhi, making khandvi.
- The curdled mixture will be collected in the strainer. Put the strainer in another bowl and cover it and keep aside for 30 minutes so that the excess water will be removed. (if you want to make a block then put the curdled mixture in soft cloth, squeeze it to remove excess water and then shape it in a rectangle and put a heavy weight over it for a couple of hours. I use it while making paneer with lemon juice.)
- After 3o minutes, remove the set paneer from the strainer, cut it into pieces and use as required. The paneer made with curd is too soft. Immerse it in a bowl of fresh water and refrigerate to store, Keep changing water after every 8 hours to retain the freshness. The paneer can stay fresh for 3-4 days.
- Paneer is ready to use.