Paneer was my next step in cheese making. Paneer is like a pressed ricotta cheese. If you're new to cheese making, as I am, it is best to start small and work your way up.
I started with yogurt cheese made in a crock pot. If yogurt sounds intimidating, try this reader tip to get you started:
"Simply boil a cup of milk, and then let cool to room temperature. Stir in a tablespoon of yogurt, let sit (don't move the cup) and voila, the next morning you have yogurt!"After yogurt, I moved to ricotta cheese, which involves heating the milk, then adding something like vinegar to curdle the cheese.
So now it is time for paneer, which is like ricotta, but it is pressed, which gives me practice for the hard cheeses.
1) Heat a half gallon or gallon of milk to a low boil
2) Add 3 tablespoons of vinegar, lemon juice or lime juice per half gallon. (I used lime juice.)
3) When you see the milk curds, separating from yellowish liquid, the whey, take it off the heat.
4) Line a colander with a cheesecloth or thin fabric. Put it in something like a pot to collect the whey.
4a) Optional: add in spices. I added some cajun seasoning and an Italian spice blend. Paneer is from India, so I am all over the place with this cheese.
5) Set up a press, wrap cheese in cloth and press until firm, about two hours. It won't be firm like a block of cheddar, but it will be more firm than cream cheese.
There are lots of ways to make a press, but for the one pound of cheese I made, I found two plates to be just right. Next time, I may put the bottom plate upside down and put it in a pan to catch any excess whey. I might have gone overboard with the books, but I wanted to be sure.
My cheese cracked because I kept playing with it during the pressing stage. I'll know better next time!
Paneer is a cheese that doesn't melt, like ricotta. We've used it on quesadillas, in place of the cream cheese, broken up in our eggs, like an omelet, and smushed on plain tortillas. It is not something we will have to have on hand all the time, but I think it will have a place in our menu from time to time.
Saving the whey and using is effectively is what makes or breaks the future of cheese making for me. One gallon of milk makes one pound of cheese... and three quarts of whey. Some of that whey can be used in lacto-fermenting, but if I'm going to be making most of our cheese, we are going to have more whey than I know what to do with. Paneer whey isn't bitter like yogurt whey, and I read somewhere that the whey of hard cheeses is almost sweet.
So, I made whey limeade. I used lime juice as the medium to make the milk curdle. To make limeaid, I added more lime juice and some stevia and chilled the drink. It has most of the nutritional value of milk and is loaded with protein. It tastes like limeade. I think there are probably a lot of drinks that could be made with whey and I'll let you know which we like best.
Next up: making mozzarella!
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