Homemade Indian cheese, or paneer, is similar to pot cheese or Italian ricotta, except that the curd is much drier. It is one of the primary sources of protein among Buddhists and Hindu Brahmins, and is very easy to make. In its curd form it’s called chenna; when chenna is compressed into a cake and cut into small pieces, it is called paneer. This is the protein used in the classic Indian dish Saag Paneer. It’s essential to lightly sauté the paneer so that it holds its shape when cooked with the spinach sauce.
6 cups whole milk
¼ cup cider vinegar
- Bring milk to a boil. Reduce heat and add vinegar and continue cooking, stirring very gently, until the cheese separates from the pale-green whey. Carefully pour into a fine sieve lined with muslin. If you don’t have muslin, a clean man’s cotton handkerchief is a great substitute.
- Strain thoroughly, then gently wash the cheese with cool water to remove any residual vinegar. Gently twist the cloth to squeeze out excess moisture.
- To make paneer, carefully fold the cloth holding the cheese into a rectangle, making sure it’s not too tight to allow the cheese to expand as you press it.
- Place a heavy pot or pan (a large cast iron skillet works great) on the rectangle set on a plate to hold the whey as it drains. Weigh it down for about 5 minutes. When done, the paneer should be firm, yet moist and slightly spongy.