Making cheese: super noms, super easy

January 11 |

This post originally appeared on my personal blog Hipster Housewife

Our friends are a crafty bunch. I can't really think of a person in our group who doesn't make things – we've got it all, from photography and graphic design to beer and cupcakes and art and clothes. It's pretty awesome now that we have a house and the space to be more creative.

My friend Kyle makes food. All kinds. He makes pesto with foraged garlic mustard and burritos loved by crowds. He recently started learning about cheesemaking using The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cheese Making and I tagged along.

Turns out that cheesemaking is a process of building upon steps, so first he started with yogurt and then cream cheese. The third cheese is paneer – a firm Indian cheese a lot like tofu.  I had no idea how easy the early stages of cheesemaking could be. This recipe took us about 15 minutes of cook time, an a few hours of prep — mostly waiting!

Paneer is really, really, deadly simple. We ate it in a spinach curry, but you could use it in place of tofu just about anywhere. Here is a recipe, with exact instructions. But they aren't a ton more difficult than my casual walkthrough here.

So you have two ingredients. Milk and lemons. We used two quarts of whole milk and about three tablespoons of freshly squeeze lemon juice.

We boiled the milk lightly. All of it. Lots of stirring. 

Then we cut lemons. Probably too many — I think we really only needed two. We added the lemon juice to the cooling milk, a bit at a time.

One minute the milk was normal, and the next it was like, BAM. Curds and whey. We let it cool for a while. 

Then we strained it in cheesecloth! About now is when I started feeling super old-timey. We made a cheesebag (lol) and let it drain for a bit, it was time to form it. 

We formed it into a wheel and set it under a can-filled-pan to let it press and drain whey for 30 minutes a side. 

The cheese sat in the fridge overnight, and Kyle came to my house and used it in an amazing spinach curry. Paneer is fantastic because — like I said — it's much like tofu. It has a bit of its own taste, and you sear it up for some proteiny goodness. It was delish — and I'm totally giving paneer a go all on my own soon.

  1. I never imagined making my own cheese but I might actually have to try this!

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  2. I might try this – I've made yogurt before, and this is only slightly more hands-on. Raw milk paneer – yum!

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  3. Does it work with 1% or skim milk or do you need the fat?

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    • Definitely need the fat! And different kinds of cheese like fresher — or older, or more or less pasturized milks better. Paneer's pretty straight forward, though. If you don't get the results you like, generally just try a different brand of whole milk.

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      • You can also make paneer with milk that's slightly off – it's already gone sour – it's already partially converted to curds and whey.

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  4. If you hand press the paneer, sort of roll it/knead it on a cutting board or counter, the paneer/curd texture become very smooth. Grinding it in a food processor also works. In India paneer that is used in sweets is softened this way first. The softened/smooth texture paneer rolls into balls easily for pan frying patties or deep frying curd balls.

    Other curdling agents besides lemon juice that also work: citric acid, yogurt and buttermilk but lemon juice is definitely the most common/easiest to use.

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  5. I totally bought a book on cheesemaking, but I haven't used it yet. It does seem intimidating! I finally busted out the pressure cooker and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be so maybe I'll tackle the cheese making next. I think it'll be ricotta … mmmm ….

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    • I had my mom's pressure cooker for more than a year before I finally got the courage to learn how to use it, and of course, it's a breeze! Haha. :) I guess I always thought cheesemaking would be really involved too…

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  6. I love making cheese! I've only made yogurt cheese so far but paneer, here I come! yay!

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    • We've made three more cheeses since this: a molded round cheese, fromage, and mozzarella. They need more ingredients, but still simple and AMAZING.

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  7. I recently made my own mozzarella — using the microwave. It look about 30 minutes…. and was super-fun. I have some serious cheese-making fantasies, and keep meaning to take a class with the "Cheese Queen" in the Berkshires. Maybe someday…

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    • link? tutorial? book recommendation? the amount of cheese we go through in my house is INSANE and i would love to make it myself!

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  8. Awesome! My husband has wanted to try cheese making for a while now. I'm pretty certain it's in our near future :)

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  9. "GO ISU!" (Love the shirt Kyle has on.)
    Now that the cheering is out of the way, I have to say I've never thought cheese making would be so easy. I'd love to give it a shot soon.

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  10. Totally did this yesterday! It works!

    A word to the wise: don't use anything that's "ultra-pasteurized." The half & half we tried to use was, and it never curdled. Only a small setback though, and regular old whole milk from the store worked great!

    I'm wondering though, if you were going to add salt or spices to it, when would you want to do that? I wouldn't want to screw up any of the chemistry going on there, but a cheese with a bit more "kick" would be fantastic.

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    • Awesome! When we made round two of mozzarella we threw in spices at the end — with the kneading. My instinct with paneer is to treat it like tofu: maybe put together a marinade for it?

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  11. I actually just bought a wine fridge so I can start making hard cheeses and for curing meat. Our goats are due to kid very soon (EEK!) so I'll need to start making lots of cheese.

    Keep the whey! You can simply heat it to near boiling and then strain it for ricotta.

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  12. My husband wants to try and make breastmilk cheese. This is NOT the cheese to try to make with brestmilk because breastmilk doesn't curdle, so don't waste it trying to make this cheese. (Not that this post was about breastmilk or anything, just posting for information purposes lol)
    Hoping to try to make some cheese soon though :)

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  13. Cool post! I'm a budding cheese maker myself. I'm making a variety of cheeses to be served during the cocktail hour of my wedding in August! I have a wheel of gouda aging in my basement right now.

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  14. Did this yesterday – WOWeasy!! I can't believe I was intimidated by the idea of making my own cheese before. After draining and before pressing, I took it for a spin in the food processor, and it made the cheese so smooth and creamy! I added salt during this step and my cheese is PERFECT! Can't wait to make more. Thanks for the great post, and for offbeathome in general – this site ROCKS!

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  15. Oh wow this was easy! I can't wait to try it tonight but in all honesty even if it's a bit gross I'll still be really proud of myself for making cheese!

    I'm using the whey to make soda bread too ^_^

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