I promise, I’m not crazy. As much as I enjoy cooking, as much time as I spend in the kitchen, There are still things I buy pre-made every time, because I do not have the time to make my own tortillas or ice cream or cheese.
But this time, I made cheese. Not because I’m some kind of food nut who has to have everything made from scratch, and I can’t stand fussy, finicky recipes unless the payoff is huge.
I’d been wanting to make saag paneer for a while, but I couldn’t find paneer anywhere. Turns out making paneer at home is easier than finding it in a store. After trying six different grocery stores, I finally looked up how to make it. With just two ingredients, and a recipe that took less than 15 minutes of actual in-kitchen time, it was hard to resist. Plus, it made some awesome cheese.
I adapted this recipe from the delightful Goat cookbook. I have since made a half batch with goat milk as the cookbook recommends, and while the difference was more subtle than I’d expected, but on balance I think I prefer the slight tang of the goat milk version.
Ingredients (makes about 2 cups)
1/2 gallon milk (or goat milk, or a mix)
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
Pour the milk into a large pot and heat over medium heat.
When the milk rises in the pan and begins to simmer, Turn off the heat and stir to ensure that the entire volume is evenly heated.
Pour in the lemon juice and stir to combine.
Walk away for 20-25 minutes. Really. During one batch I was impatient and kept checking in and stirring every couple of minutes. The curds that formed were broken up so that many of them passed right through the cheesecloth and were lost forever. It was tragic. After 20 minutes undisturbed, the curds should have separated nicely.
Line a colander with cheesecloth and pour the curds and liquid (whey) through. Walk away for another hour or so, to let the majority of the whey drain.
Once the cheese had drained, gather the cheesecloth and tie it off.
Set the bundle in the refrigerator on a plate or in a bowl with a weight on top of it (I used a 10-lb medicine ball atop a second plate) overnight. This will press out the remaining liquid and firm up the cheese. Pour off the liquid and wrap the cheese in parchment paper and plastic wrap until ready to serve or cook with it.
This went to a lovely batch of saag paneer two days later. This was worth the hassle, enough so that I’ve now made three batches. A combination of mild cheese and rich greens made for a perfect dish.