The other day I had a craving for paneer. I am very lucky to live in an area where Indian culture is prominent because I get to enjoy some of the tastiest food in existence. Paneer cheese is one of my favourites. It is a mild, semi-firm cheese that does not have much flavour on its own but tastes amazing in sauces. Traditionally, and without getting into the details of the process, it is made by boiling milk and adding some lemon juice.
At the Indian restaurants around town, I enjoy paneer pakora where the cheese is stuffed and deep-fried. Finding this cheese in my neighbourhood is not difficult but I have been on a domestic kick as of late and thought that maybe my kefir could serve yet another purpose.
With kefir I have been able to make everything from twice baked potatoes, to buttermilk pancakes, cream cheese and even bread. Paneer was worth a shot and really only one more step beyond cream cheese.
The steps are easy. Line a non-metal strainer with a large, double layered cheesecloth. Pour about 6 cups of kefir into the cloth. From there, carefully tie the ends of the cheesecloth.
Fun fact: every cup of 2% milk yields kefir that is equal to 80 calories per cup and 8 grams of protein.
For the first 12 hours suspend the kefir from a faucet. You will notice a significant decline in size as the liquid strains from the cloth. This liquid is the whey and can be reserved for other things such as baking or making sauerkraut.
Once the size becomes smaller, you can hang it from a ladel or spoon across a large vase so it can be moved out of the way. After another 12 hours, the cheese is ready to press. As this point there should be a firm, creamy cheese texture.
Tighten the cloth tightly around the cheese and form the cheese into the shape you want with the cheesecloth. Round is easiest for me.
Once the cloth is secured, place the cheese between 2 cutting boards and place weight onto the top of it. This will help press any remaining liquid out and it will help mold the cheese. Once it is pressed I try to ensure that it is about 2 inches thick so that after the pressing and once it forms, I still have a nice thickness of cheese.
After a final 12 hours, you should be able to remove the cheese cloth. Your new creation will be a form of paneer (although not exact) but it will be filled with all the health benefits of kefir.
Warning: It will be quite tart. It is fermented dairy after all. It works best with strong flavours like curries.
6 C kefir
1. Pour kefir into a non-metal, cheesecloth lined, strainer.
2. Tie ends of cheesecloth.
3. Hand cloth on faucet for about 12 hours.
4. Move to a smaller hanging area and allow it to strin for another 12 hours.
5. Tighten the cloth so the dairy is about 2″ in thickness.
6. Put weight on the cheese and allow it to press for up to 12 more hours.
7. Remove cheesecloth and cut cheese into cubes for storing.
8. Sprinkle cheese on salads, fry, or serve with curries.
*Cheese will be tart
Protein 16 g