I must say, I believe my favorite cheese for home cheesemaking
is Panir (pan eer) (also spelled Paneer) or Queso Blanco (kay'so blan'ko). Why is it my favorite, you may ask? Well,
for one, because it's so doggone easy to make. Secondly, there
is so much you can do with it. Panir, as it's known in India,
is also called Queso Blanco ("white cheese") in Latin America. Don't
confuse Queso Blanco with Queso Fresco (fresh cheese) just because
they have "queso" (which is Spanish for cheese) in their names, they
are quite different kinds of cheese. Panir/Queso Blanco is perfect
for "first timers" but even the more advanced "cheeseheads" should try it (or try it again). It's quick
and simple to make, and takes very little special equipment. It
is a bland cheese that is kind of rubbery and will not melt. "Why
the heck would I want to make that?" You might ask, "That doesn't
sound good at all." Well, put away your preconceived notions
about what cheese should be: melty Mozzarella pizza or tangy Cheddar snacks; and think of
cheese as what it could be: a wonderfully tasty food source and excellent
I use more Panir any other cheese I make (and I make a lot of cheese). It
is one of the few cheeses that freezes well, so I can stock up for
the dry times. It is delicious... it's just not a "table" cheese. Though,
actually, sprinkled with seasoned salt, it's not bad as a snack either.
Panir is sometimes called "Vinegar Cheese" because vinegar is used
as an "acid precipitant", that is, the acid of the vinegar (along with
higher heat) makes the curds separate from the whey. Lemon juice
or lime juice can be used as the acid precipitant also. However,
vinegar is easier, more reliable and the end results are pretty much
the same. The cheese cannot be made using low temperatures.
|Panir / Queso Blanco Recipe
can use either goat or cow milk for this cheese. You can use as much
milk as you'd like. You can use 1 gallon, or two gallons, or three
gallons. It just depends on how much milk you have, and how big
your pot is. Don't use an aluminum pot.
direct heat, warm the milk to 183°-
(not any higher), and maintain that temperature for 10 minutes.
Stir it often to keep it from scorching. If it does scorch, use
a stainless steel scrubby to clean your pot later.
With the milk still on the heat, while stirring, add about 1/4 Cup
of white vinegar per gallon of milk. I find the taste is better
with white vinegar than cider vinegar. To be honest, I don't
even measure the vinegar, I just pour in a glug, stir, look, pour in a glug, stir, etc. until the curd separates. The separation
should happen right away. When the curd separates cleanly from the
whey (it will look like very fine, white particles floating in the
greenish whey), pour it into a cheesecloth lined colander. I
put the colander over another pot, to save the whey for later use. Use
real cheesemaking cheesecloth here, not the stuff you can buy at the
the corners of the cloth together and hang the bag to drain for a few
hours. Refrigerate your cheese after it has drained. It
will keep for a couple of weeks.
Now that you have this rubbery ball of cheese, what do you do with
it? Panir is like tofu: it will take on the flavor of the food
it is cooked with. Just cut it into bite-sized cubes and throw
it into chili or spaghetti. You can cook the noodles in the leftover
whey. You will need to cook them a little longer than usual;
test to make sure they're done to your liking. I love pasta cooked
in whey. I always save whey just for this purpose. Try
serving your chili over vermicelli cooked in whey, topped with a sprinkle
of cheese, some sprouts and a dollop of yogurt (goat of course).
You could use Panir as a meat extender/replacement. Since we
are vegetarian, we use a lot of Panir. When you make taco meat, I cut
it up in tiny cubes and simmer it with the meat for about an hour. I
make "chick'n a la king" using cubes of Panir instead of meat. A
quick dinner is mac'n cheese, made from a box, but also add onions, Panir cubes,
peas and use buttermilk in place of regular milk.
You can marinade the Panir and throw it on top of salads or use it
in stir-fry. Panir is really in its element when used in curry. Serve
the curry over rice cooked with whey instead of water and add a handful
of raisins and a clove to the rice as well, to make it really authentic.
There are endless uses for Panir, so make some of this quick and easy
cheese and experiment for yourself.