For many the idea of making cheese is a bit intimidating. We don’t really know where the stuff comes from other than it starts with milk. And with a whole lot of cheese requiring equipment we don’t have, like that perfect cave in France, we’re left thinking we either can’t make cheese or just don’t know where to start. Want to know where to start? This post is for you.
In the past I’ve always told people to start with mascarpone when learning to make cheese. A simple cheese with easy ingredients and no waiting. After all, who wants to wait to see if your cheese turned out when you first start making cheese? Plus homemade mascarpone is much cheaper than store-bought and it makes the best tiramisu you’ve ever had ever so it’s a double win. That said, when it comes to what cheese to start with I’m changing my tune. Yes there’s something out there even easier with ingredients you can find at any grocery so get yourself ready because we’re making paneer!
“But wait”, you say, “what will I do with this cheese? Isn’t Indian food super hard to make and doesn’t it take all day? I don’t have time for that!” That’s what I thought too. Ages ago a roommate slaved over the stove for hours to make what turned out to be absolutely awful Indian food. From that point forward I figured I’d just need to go out to eat to get the good stuff. But not anymore.
So folks, here’s a recipe for easy cheese requiring things you can find easily in most any town, making paneer (expensive in the store) the new winner for beginning cheese.
What you’ll need:
1 gallon whole milk
good quality cheese cloth (This has smaller holes than the stuff you find at most groceries. You can find this at a restaurant supply store, better kitchen store and often at your local fabric store)
That’s it other than the pots and pans and sink and stove you hopefully already have.
Heat the milk to just under boiling. If it boils a bit that’s OK (as long as it hasn’t boiled to the point of smelling bad… no way to make it better once it gets to that point). For those with a thermometer we’re looking at just over 200 degrees F.
Add your lemon juice, starting with about 2 T. Stir for a while and keep adding lemon juice (slowly!) until you have a nice clear yellow whey. Remember to add a bit, stir and then keep stirring before you add more. Also make sure to check that your temp is still right around boiling or no amount of lemon juice in the world will give you that clear yellow whey!
Once your whey is clear and you have nice fluffy curds put your cheesecloth over a colander and wet it down so it sticks. Pour the curds and whey into your colander and drain. From here you can hang to drain or place a plate on top of your curds with something to weigh it down (a heavy can of something will work as will anything else you have handy). You don’t need to do the weight part but it will make for a slightly firmer curd. Drain overnight and then place into your fridge or use immediately.
And what will you make? Why Paneer Butter Masala of course. This recipe is easily as good as the dish at my favorite local Indian restaurant so do give it a go. Of course the ingredients for this aren’t quite as easy to find though I will say if you have an Indian store or a Halal store nearby they should have most of this stuff and likely a LOT cheaper than you’d get it at the local grocery or food co-op.
Amazing Paneer Butter Masala Recipe (and great blog for all sorts of other Indian food recipes!)
Well there it is folks, the easiest cheese outside of Chevre and something you can make with the stuff you find locally. I know you’ll love how easy it is to make this cheese and my guess is you’ll love this butter paneer recipe too. Let me know!