Just before coming to Korea, I was fortunate to be a part of a (private) raw milk co-op for a three month period. During this time, I enjoyed making mozzarella and experimenting with other simple cheeses each week. Oddly enough, during this time, I never created a firm block of paneer (Indian cheese), but instead kept what I called “lemon cheese” the consistency of ricotta. Somehow thinking that paneer was actually more involved, I continued to purchase it from my favorite Indian grocer.
One look at the price of a block of paneer in a foreign food store in Seoul (a two hour subway ride from my current city), however, and I made the cheese at home – for half the cost of what I normally paid in the States. Paneer is the simplest of cheeses to make, needing neither rennet nor citric acid. With just two ingredients and a little over 30 minutes, you, too, can have delicious, fresh paneer.
4 cups/1 liter milk
2 teaspoons white vinegar or lemon juice
Cheesecloth or muslin
A fine mesh sieve
Gently heat the milk in a large pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally to avoid a skin forming on the top.
When the milk comes to a gentle boil and begins to foam (do not let it get to a rolling boil), stir in the vinegar or lemon juice and turn off the heat. The curds and whey should begin to separate. If the milk has a bit of trouble curdling, you may need to heat it for another moment or add another teaspoon of the vinegar or lemon juice.
With a fine mesh sieve, gather the curds and place them in the center of the cheesecloth or muslin. When you have gathered all of the curds, bring up the edges of the cheesecloth and give the bundle a light squeeze to remove more of the whey from the curds. *Be sure to not discard the whey. Instead use it to make a refreshing beverage with mint, or as a nourishing water for your plants (tomatoes especially love whey). I’ve also used whey when making chapatis.
Now it is time to press the cheese to remove excess whey, creating a firmer cheese. Use books or sturdy kitchenware to create a makeshift cheese press to form your cheese into the shape that you would like (a round or a block). Living in Korea, I use a dolsot bowl and plate set to create a nice round of paneer.
Leave your cheese to press for 30-40 minutes. When the time is up, unwrap the cheesecloth and slice the paneer into cubes. You can immediately cook with the cheese, or cover the cubes with whey and store it in the refrigerator. If storing in the refrigerator, use within a week. *Paneer is also known to freeze well, though I don’t suggest this.