Paneer, also known as Indian cottage cheese, is one of the easiest and most versatile fresh cheeses to make at home. It is full of protein, yet, like tofu, bland enough to take on the flavor of other ingredients in a dish. It is used in many traditional Indian dishes, but also makes an ideal protein extender for many Western dishes. It doesn’t melt like other cheeses so it can be crumbled or cut in cubes and still retain its shape.
1 gallon pasteurized or raw whole milk (do not use ultra-pasteurized or UHT milk)
2 teaspoons citric acid dissolved in 1/2 cup lukewarm water
Heavy skillet, brick, or something else about 5 pounds
Heat the milk in the large saucepan over medium heat until it reaches a full boil. Stir occasionally, being careful not to let the milk scorch. When milk reaches a boil, turn the heat off.
Slowly stir in the citric acid using an up-and-down motion. Continue to stir as large curds form and the whey becomes more clear than milky (about 20 to 30 seconds). Remove the pan from the burner and let sit undisturbed for 10 to 30 minutes, until the curds have settled to the bottom of the pan.
Meanwhile, line a colander with butter muslin. If you moisten the muslin it will stay in place better. Scoop the curds into the colander. Rinse them under cool running water for 15 to 20 seconds. Gather up the four corners of the muslin and hang the curds for about 30 minutes, until there is no more whey dripping from the curds. If you are in a hurry you can gently squeeze the bag of curds to remove excess whey.
Open the muslin and shape the curds into a 2-inch thick disk. Carefully fold the muslin back over this disk, making the cloth as smooth and evenly distributed as possible. This assures a smooth surface on the cheese.
Place the wrapped disk on a plate or tray that can collect whey. Put a heavy skillet (cast-iron works well) or other heavy object on top of the wrapped cheese for 30 to 60 minutes. Turn the disk over and press the other side for an additional 30 minutes.
Unwrap the cheese and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Fresh paneer will keep, refrigerated, for 4 to 7 days.