This is a quick DIY ingredient post. Here I talk about how to make perfectly shaped, firm yet moist paneer at home without any fancy cheese press.
Paneer is the most widely used version of cottage cheese used in Indian cuisines. It can be simply made by curdling milk with the help of some acid. Acid separates the milk curdles and the hay. Then the hay is discarded and milk curdles are collected. The key here is to press it well to release most of the water and obtain a firm yet moist paneer.
Coagulant or curdling agent
A coagulant is a chemical agent that causes the milk to curdle and separate its protein and fat globules. There are numerous chemicals that are used to coagulate milk in different ways and to different levels. From Rennet ( enzymatic coagulant) to sheer lime juice ( acidic coagulant) there is a wide array of coagulants used.
In case of paneer acid and heat, coagulation is used.
Commonly used coagulants for paneer making are:
- Lime juice
- Vinegar ( Acetic Acid)
- Commercial Citric acid Granules ( naturally found in citrus fruits)
I like to use vinegar for making paneer. The quantity of vinegar or any other acid required will depend on the type of milk. Raw milk curdles much easily than homogenized milk. This recipe is specifically for homogenized milk. For Raw and Pasteurized milk refer to the recipe notes.
Pressing the curdles/ Chena
If you have a cheese press or tofu press, you probably are not reading this blog. You are already a pro. So, for those of you who are here, let me tell you don’t need any of these fancy equipment.
DIY your own set up for paneer. Or you can simply place the cloth with cheese in a colander and press with some heavy pans or books etc..
My Setup to make paneer at home
I have retained two empty tofu trays. They are my cheese press. I have made small holes in the base of one tray in which I place the cloth. Milk curdles are gathered in this tray and the cloth is wrapped and folded. Over this, I place another tray. It gives me a uniform plane to put weights. Sometimes I fill it with marbles, put a heavy book, or place my heavy pestle and mortar inside it. This setup yields me a perfectly rectangular shaped and evenly thick paneer. ( Refer to the images)
Whole milk- 1 liter (Homogenized)
Vinegar- 3 tbsp
Instructions to make paneer at home
- Add milk to a heavy bottom pan.
- Bring the milk to a boil and reduce the flame to low. Stir regularly to prevent the milk cream from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Dilute the vinegar with an equal volume of water and add to the boiled milk. Stir well and let it rest for 2-3 minutes. Stir again. Milk will curdle leaving behind the hay.
- Turn off the flame when the milk has curdled completely.
- Place a cheesecloth or a similar lint-free cloth on a colander.
- Strain the curdled milk through the cheesecloth.
- Squeeze the curdled milk well by twisting the cloth. Place it in the mold and put weights on it. Let it press and become firm for at least 3-4 hours before unmolding.
- Take out the paneer from the cloth into a container and fill with water to submerge the Paneer. Let it rest for a minute and then drain the water. This step is essential to get rid of any kind of acidic flavor from the Paneer.
- Again fill the container with water till paneer is submerged.
- Place it in a refrigerator till ready to use.
Raw milk will curdle at a comparatively lower temperature. As the milk boils, turn off the heat and wait for a minute or 2 before adding the coagulant.