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How to Make Paneer Cheese

Regular Food in Jars contributor Alex Jones is here today to show us how to make homemade paneer cheese with just two simple ingredients – milk and lemon juice! Reading this post immediately makes me crave dairy products! -Marisa

Slices of homemade paneer cheese

We often preserve to capture height-of-season flavors or produce we can’t get for most of the year. But oftentimes in my kitchen, preserving happens in an effort to curb food waste.

That’s how I first learned to make paneer, the springy, fresh cheese that shows up as the protein in some of my favorite Indian dishes. It’s one of the quickest dairy products to make, and also one of the easiest. All you need is milk, lemon juice or vinegar, and a little salt.

Milk and lemon juice for homemade paneer cheese

One of the reasons to make cheese like this is to use up milk that’s right at or even a tiny bit past its sell-by date. Just make sure to give it a good sniff and then use your good sense and best judgment.

That said, when the list is so short, using the best ingredients you can afford is always a good idea.  I source whole raw Ayreshire milk from a small grass-fed dairy here in southeast Pennsylvania, Wholesome Dairy Farms, for both drinking and making value-added dairy products.

Milk separating into curds for homemade paneer cheese.

I find that even when I’m pasteurizing the milk for a recipe, the yields on items like yogurt, whole-milk ricotta, and paneer are higher, and the product just tastes better when I’ve started with raw milk. We’re lucky that raw milk is so available in Pennsylvania. If you can get your hands on it from a reputable source in your state, I recommend doing so, even if you plan to pasteurize it in your recipe.

While we’re heating the milk for this recipe far past the pasteurization point, it’s still a good idea to remember that the very young, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems carry a greater risk when consuming unpasteurized milk products.

Pressing the homemade paneer cheese.

To start your cheese, pour one half gallon of milk into a four-quart, heavy-bottomed pot (I use my enameled Dutch oven). Heat the milk over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally and feeling along the bottom of the pot with your spoon to make sure that it isn’t scorching. Keep a close eye on the pot so that it doesn’t boil over.

You want to get to a little below the boiling point, about 200oF. You can use an instant-read or milk thermometer for this, or you can watch for when tiny bubbles start to form on the surface of the milk. When you see the bubbles, immediately remove the pot from the heat.

Pressed homemade paneer cheese in the strainer.

Once you’ve reached the proper temperature, stir in lemon juice. This will cause the milk solids to immediately begin separating out. As the milk sits, the solids will continue to coagulate.

Strain the curds, then press out the remaining liquid in cheesecloth or butter muslin (I prefer butter muslin for home cheesemaking since it’s washable and reusable; cheesecloth is one-time use only). Press and refrigerate the cheese for at least a half an hour or overnight.

Homemade paneer cheese, unwrapped from the butter muslin.

Once the cheese is full drained, unwrap the bundle. Now you’re ready to add chunks of paneer to a curry or other dish, or — my favorite — fry slices up in some ghee and enjoy them with flaky sea salt and maybe a dollop of tomato jam or a slab of quince paste.

Bits of fried homemade paneer cheese.

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How to Make Fromage Fort

Happy New Year, friends! For our first post of the year, Alex Jones swings by with a recipe for fromage fort. It’s a thrifty and delicious spread that is the perfect way to use up those scraps of cheese leftover from your holiday entertaining. -Marisa

Scrapes of cheese for fromage fort

For as long as I can remember, cheese has always been a part of my holiday celebrations.

Growing up, a hunk of sharp cheddar and a wedge of Brie were must-haves leading up to Christmas, and Christmas Eve with relatives in Quebec usually meant a festive spread of nibbles centered around a raclette machine, melting slices of pungent Alpine-style cheeses over potatoes, bread, and veggies.

After scoring a cheap raclette machine of my own at my local Aldi last January, I had friends over for an evening of melted cheese, hot cider, and parlor games just before the Christmas holiday. After the revelry, a few scraps of cheese remained — and rather than tossing them into the compost, I tucked them away in the fridge to make one of my favorite thrifty, easy, cheesy recipes: fromage fort.

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Homemade Quark from Slow Cook Modern

About a month ago, I wrote about Liana Krissoff’s most excellent book, Slow Cook Modern. In that blog post, I promised to share the recipe it contained for homemade quark. I finally here to make good on my promise (I’m only a bit later than intended).

I know that some of you are probably reading this and are thinking, what exactly is quark? Well, it’s a soft set cheese of European origin that is made with acid rather than rennet. It has a bright, tangy flavor and can be cooked, baked, or spread on toast.

It’s also one of those things that seems like it should be quite complicated to make, but is quite easy (particularly if you have a slow cooker or Instant Pot handy).

You start with half a gallon of cultured buttermilk (this is the nice, thick stuff you buy at the store, not the liquid leftover from making butter). Once you’ve procured your buttermilk, you pour it into the vessel of your choosing.

I opted for my Instant Pot set to run on the yogurt setting (I borrowed a tip I spotted on the internet and ran the pot at high pressure for 1 minute with a little water in it before adding the buttermilk, to sterilize the pot and ensure that the quark turned out well). Once the buttermilk was in the pot, I set the yogurt setting to run for 8 hours and walked away.

When the time was up, it was time to separate the cheese curds from the remaining liquid. I lined a fine mesh sieve with cheesecloth, perched it above a bowl, and used a slotted spoon to lift the solids out of the pot.

Once all the cheese solids were in the cheesecloth, I let it drain. It was evening when I started the draining process, so I ended up letting my quark sit and drain all night. I ended up with fairly dry cheese as a result. If you want something a bit more tender, shorten that draining process.

I ate the finished cheese on toasted rye bread, and heaped on slices of cucumber. It was a tasty treat that I will most certainly make again!

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