Do you ever wonder how we came up with something? Sometimes I will run into a thing and it occurs to me: how did someone think this was a good idea? A lot of these questions for me come from the food world and are usually related to things that technically have gone bad. Today it’s cheese.
Right, but have you ever stopped to think about what cheese is? Here’s the steps I pulled from online:
1. Coagulate Milk – Adding an enzyme causes the milk to separate into curds & whey. A watery substance with globs of stuff floating in it.
2. Collect the Curd – They press out as much liquid as they can and introduce bacteria.
3. Let it Rot – The cheese sits, rotting and fermenting for a few to several months.
Rotted Milk? Eww.
Right? So how did we arrive at this rather odd process. I discovered the missing link while eating Indian food. I wanted to know more about the tofu squares in the curry we were eating and was told that it’s called paneer.
What is Paneer?
After looking it up, turns out paneer is cheese. Ancient cheese. Proto-cheese. Probably the original cheese. How do you make it? Take some whole milk (non-UHT Pasteurized) and add lemon juice. If you want the cube shape you press it all together and you get something you can cut.
That’s some simple cheese.
You bet. And that’s something I can see people stumbling across. “Hey what do these two things taste like together? Mmm, I like the hard flavorless bits.”
How do we get cheddar from that?
Well, we don’t always eat the food we make the same day. If you let paneer sit around long enough and the flavor will change. Depending on what you add to it, the flavor will change. Turns out, the low water content means cheese will last you through the winter.
Still, cheese is very complex.
Yes, and we’ve had nearly 2000 years to perfect our recipes. Add this, cover with that, let sit for this long, and we get a lot of different cheeses. For now, if you want to make your own paneer, try the recipe below:
A simple cheese usually used in Indian cooking. It takes about 30 minutes to make. –Evan Davis
- 1/2 Gallon – Whole Milk (non-UHT pasteurized)
- 1/4 Cup – Lemon Juice
- 1/2 Teaspoon – Salt
- 4 Quart Saucepan
- Mixing Bowl
- Something to press with (see below)
- Heat the Milk: In the saucepan, heat the milk until it’s almost boiling (~200°F), stirring occasionally so the milk doesnt scald on the bottom of the pan. The milk should look foamy when ready.
- Lemon Juice: Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice. This is when the milk will start to look gross.
- Curds A-Whey: Cover the milk and let it sit for 10 minutes. The acid will work on the milk to separate all the curds & whey. When it’s done the liquid should look yellow and watery. If it didn’t separate all the way try adding another tablespoon of lemon juice. If it didn’t separate at all or very little, then you probably have UHT pasteurized milk (Ultra High Temperature).
- Get the Curds: Cover the colander with cheesecloth and use a slotted spoon to scoop curds in.
- Get the Whey Out: Wrap up the curds in the cheesecloth and squeeze more whey out.
- Salt Open your cloth and sprinkle the salt in. This is where your flavor comes from so take note how much you used for next time.
- Press the Curd Packet: Fold the cheesecloth into a square shaped packet and put it on a plate or something that will catch more liquid. Then put something heavy on it for about an hour (more if it seemed particularly wet).
- Cool you Paneer: You should refrigerate the paneer. It’s less likely to crumble when cold. If you leave it in the refrigerator for a couple of days it will be more cohesive.