A while ago, I made my first-ever paneer aka cottage cheese at home. It was a first for our family, in fact. While it wasn’t perfect, the first paneer I made was quite good, a whole lot better than store-bought versions.
Since then, I haven’t bought a single brick of paneer off a supermarket shelf. Since then, I have made the cheese at home several times over, and can say I have learnt the art of preparing it to a reasonable extent.
I’m so happy to have this one item off my grocery shopping list. Now, I know exactly what goes into my paneer!
Today, I’m here to share the paneer-making method that works for me, in little, step-by-step instructions. If the task of making cottage cheese at home has always felt daunting to you, I hope this post demystifies it. I hope you begin to see it for the simple and beautiful thing it is, and make your first batch soon. If you are a paneer-making pro, I’d love for you to teach me a few tricks of the trade.
So, here goes.
Steps to make paneer at home:
1. For about 150 grams of paneer, heat 1 litre milk on high heat. I use Nandini full-cream milk.
2. When the milk comes to a boil, switch off gas. Let the milk cool for about 2 minutes. Apparently, you get the best, softest paneer when you use milk that is a few degrees less hot than boiling temperature. (Alternatively, switch off gas when the milk starts bubbling and forming a top layer. In this case, proceed to the next step immediately, without waiting for the milk to cool down further.)
3. Add about 4 tablespoons of white vinegar or lemon juice, one tablespoon at a time. When the vinegar or lemon juice is added slowly, vis-a-vis adding all of it at one go, the paneer turns out softer.
4. Once you add the vinegar or lemon juice, wait for a couple of minutes, without disturbing the milk. By this time, the milk should separate and form whey. If the milk doesn’t split at all or doesn’t split fully – which can happen in case of homogenised milk – you need to add more vinegar/lemon juice the next time onwards.
5. While you are waiting for the milk to split, layer a colander with a soft cotton cloth, and place this above a large vessel to gather the whey in.
6. When the milk splits, pour all of it into the cloth-lined colander. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, by which time the whey will have fully drained out into the bottom vessel and all the solids would have collected in the cloth inside the colander.
7. Place the cloth – with the solids in it – in a round or square box to give the paneer shape. The water from the solids will continue to drain out into the box below. Let the paneer sit this way, covered, for about 5 minutes. I usually throw away the residual water, but I hear it is full of protein, and can be used to make various delicious dishes.
8. Now, the paneer is ready. Let it cool down fully, and then store in a dry, air-tight box. Refrigerate till you get around to using it. This paneer stays well, refrigerated, for up to 10 days.
I hope this is helpful! Do write in to tell me if you liked it.