Cottage cheese is known the world over. It is among the most basic of English or American foods and an ordinary component of a meal in France or Greece. But the Indian version, known as paneer, is just a little bit different. Similar to ricotta, it adds not just dairy but a delightful hint of tang to any dish. Making your own paneer, the Indian version of cottage cheese, can be a challenge, but a fun one at that.
- Pour the milk into a saucepan. Bring slowly to a boil, taking care not to brown the liquid. To avoid that, stir continuously.
- Add the vinegar while still simmering, stir then turn off heat and cover. Alternatively, remove from heat and add the vinegar, stir well and cover for a few minutes. The milk should begin to curdle into chunks and will end up separated into curds and whey.
- Line a colander with clean muslin. Drain the soupy mass through the muslin cloth over the sink. Then gather the edges and hold the ball over cold running water for a minute. Squeeze out the excess water. Fold the muslin with the cheese still inside and form into a squarish slab.
- Place the muslin sack on a clean carving board. Place a heavy object on it to squeeze all liquid out. Pressure should be applied for at least 2-3 hours at room temperature; some recommend 8 hours.
- Dice into 1 inch (2.5 cm) chunks.
Pressure completes the process and that can be applied in any of a number of ways. One good way is to use a flexible plastic bowl placed on top of the sack, pressed down by a heavy brick. For those who wish to have one around, a cheese press can be purchased.
Lemon juice can be used instead of vinegar. It will give a different, citrusy flavor. It is best to shallow fry paneer chunks before adding to the recipe.