The Hubby has become half (well, maybe 80%) of the man he used to be! He was feeling poorly after eating high carb/sugar foods, like pasta, and beer. Beer was his most favorite thing, so that was a tough one! At his own bidding, he cut carbs and sugar entirely. And almost 60 pounds later, he is reborn and feeling infinitely better! And so, my quest for feeding my vegetarian husband has taken a turn into a new territory! Zucchini ribbons instead of pasta? Yes, please!
How has this changed his diet, you ask? It’s almost entirely different. He comes home each lunch hour and cooks himself a veggie stir-fry, sometimes with a protein, like tofu or a meat replacement. Other days, he has a salad. He is eating full fat yogurts and cheeses, uses coconut oil to stir fry, avoids carbs entirely, for example little to no beans, no bread, no pasta, no chips or potatoes. I am so in awe of his dedication, and really so proud of him! But this brings me to a place where I am not really helpful to him much any more, not being able to cook much for him really put me a few steps back. It has taken some time to figure my cooking role out, but I am speeding ahead this week and doing what I know best how to do. Make all I can from scratch!
We are now in a routine, if Hubby comes home for a salad for lunch, I have salad dressing made for him. I have been making lacto-fermented pickles at least every other week (delicious, and full of probiotics.) And if he is hankering for a nice bit of paneer, I have it ready to get into his stir fry. I have introduced a few home made cheeses in the past, and paneer is by far the easiest. All you need is whole milk, lemon juice and salt. That’s it. Oh, and some cheesecloth/cloth tea towel and a strainer. This is a traditional Indian cheese, used in Muttar Paneer, Paneer Sagwala and several other delicious dishes. It’s pretty expensive to purchase, so making it at home makes complete sense.
As with all at home cheesemaking, try to find milk that is not ultra-pasteurized. I usually use Calders, which is a local dairy, and their milk comes in glass bottles. It’s pasteurized, but not ultra, and so will work for this recipe.
- 8 cups whole milk
- 1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 – 3/4 cups fresh lemon juice, pulp and seeds removed
In a heavy bottom pot, add the milk, cream and salt, place on medium heat, and heat until steaming, there are bubbles around the sides of the pot and there is a hint of a skin beginning to form. Occasionally stir the milk, to dissolve the salt, and to keep a full skin from forming and the bottom of the pot scorching.
When the milk begins to bubble, take it off the heat and gently stir in 1/2 cup of lemon juice. Stop stirring, and watch the milk, it should immediately curdle, and the liquid should be clear/cloudy and separated from the curds. If this doesn’t happen add up to 1/4 cup more of the lemon juice, again stirring gently. If it still isn’t happening, don’t panic. Cover the pot and move it off the stove, and allow it to sit for 10 – 15 minutes. Take the lid off and see how your curds look. They won’t be big, but will be small, almost like white bread crumbs. At this point, you can let it sit until it’s cool enough to handle, but I am usually too impatient! Line a colander with cheese cloth, enough layers so you can not see through to the collander at all. I use a clean cloth tea towel, which I find keeps more cheese, even though it’s harder to drain the liquid. Before I use the cloth, I rinse it well with cold water and wring it as dry as I can, then line the collander. The liquid draining off is called whey. Traditional Italian ricotta is made from whey, and it’s also used to start pickles, people drink it for its health benefits, and can be used in baking and bread making.
Gently pour the curd and whey mixture into the lined colander, and allow the whey to drain away. At this point, I usually lift it and gently twist the fabric so more whey flows out. I usually do this for 10 minutes or so, I will warn you, if you use your hands at this early stage, you’ll probably need gloves, it’s fairly hot still. If you have let it rest and cool, be less cautious.
I allow this to drain for a while, a good 20 minutes or so. I usually walk off and do something else. When you come back you’ll see that it’s not shiny, fairly matte, and has lost a considerable amount of volume. Once this happens, gather up the cloth, and form the cheese into a thin square or rectangle, fold the cloth so that the seam is on the top of the cheese, and nothing can escape, place it back into the base of the colander and weigh it down with a plate and weight on it. You can leave it until the desired consistency is reached. I like this quite dense, so I leave it for a few hours. Your finished product can be wrapped in plastic wrap, or placed into a freezer bag, and kept in the fridge. You can, however, eat it immediately.
You’ll start with 8 cups of milk, and this ends up being about 2 cups of cheese, I don’t recommend making a double batch of this, it may take much more lemon juice, and that will give the cheese a pronounced lemon flavor you are not looking for. This cheese should be clean and fresh tasting, with a faint lemon whiff, but not pronounced.
The best way to eat this cheese is to cut it into small cubes, and fry in a pan with a little oil. Allow them to brown well on all sides, then toss into your favorite Indian dish, our particular favorite is the spinach dish, Sagwala. It’s not a melting cheese, so treat it as you would cubes of tofu.