Makes about 1 ½ cups cheese
- 8 cups (2 qt) whole milk
- 2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained to remove pulp and seeds
- ½ tsp sea salt, optional
Paneer is a fresh Indian cheese with a firm, crumbly texture and mild flavor. When used in a recipe, paneer soaks up the flavors of the dish and holds its shape. It’s somewhat like tofu in that regard. Paneer is fairly easy to find in supermarkets these days. But it’s also easy to make at home with nothing more than milk, acid, and heat.
Line a large colander or wire-mesh strainer with two layers of clean cheesecloth and place over a large bowl.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring the milk to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. When it boils, gently stir in the lemon juice (and salt, if using). As the milk curdles, liquid whey will separate from white curds. Continue stirring gently in a way that helps the curds clump together instead of breaking them apart. The whey should be a pale yellow-ish color. If it looks slightly milky, add a bit more lemon juice. Remove the pot from the heat.
Strain the curdled milk through the cloth-lined colander or strainer. Gather up the cheesecloth to form a pouch around the curds. Run cold tap water over the cheese in the cloth for about 1 minute, jostling the curds around inside the cloth to get them thoroughly rinsed.
Tie up the ends of the cloth around the curds. Squeeze the pouch to remove excess liquid. Transfer the pouch to a colander set in the sink or in a large clean bowl. Place something heavy on the pouch to weigh it down. Compress the cheese for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature to produce a firm block of paneer.
Remove the paneer from the cheesecloth and cut into cubes for immediate use. Paneer is best when very fresh. But it can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days.
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