May 21, 2011

Chenna and Paneer

Chenna and Paneer are types of fresh curd cheeses made by adding an acid, such as lemon juice, to hot milk and unlike other cheeses, chenna and paneer involve neither salt nor rennet. Chenna and paneer are commonly used in South Asian cuisine where milk is readily available, such as Indian, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Chenna is crumbled, slightly moist curd cheese and paneer is chenna pressed into a cake. I only recently started making chenna and paneer at home as it is difficult to find commercially and I generally prefer to make things myself. I found making the fresh cheese incredibly easy and satisfying with wonderfully edible results. Though other acids including vinegar and yogurt can also be used, lemon juice seems to produce a more light and delicate cheese. Now I make chenna or paneer on a weekly basis to eat in curries, on salads or with fruits and breads. This recipe is based on Julie Sahni's recipe for chenna and paneer found in Classic Indian Cooking, a great reference for Indian cooking. I used homemade paneer when making matar saag paneer.

To use vinegar instead of lemon juice, use 3 tbsp cider vinegar and 3 tbsp water. To use yogurt instead of lemon juice use, 1 c plain yogurt.

8 c whole milk

4 tbsp lemon juice

1. Bring milk to a simmer in a large heavy-bottomed pot or saucepan over medium heat, stirring continuously to prevent burning. Once milk is simmering, reduce heat to medium-low heat and add lemon juice.

2. Stir gently until white curds form and separate from yellow-green whey, 10-15 seconds. Continue stirring curds gently and slowly until they are well separated from the whey, about 15-20 seconds. Remove from heat.

3. Strain curds and whey through a strainer or colander lined with 4 layers of cheesecloth or thin clean cloth. Place curds under medium-flow cold running water to remove lemon juice and whey from curds, about 10 seconds.

4. Bring four corners of cheesecloth together and tie them. Gently twist cloth to remove excess water and hang cheesecloth over sink or bowl to drain for about 1½ hour. The drained, crumbled cheese formed is chenna.

5. To make paneer: set the cheese, still wrapped in cloth, on a flat surface, such as a cutting board, and place a weight on the cheese, such as a pot of water, for ½-1 hour.

6. Store chenna or paneer in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Use chenna or paneer in your favorite dishes or on its own as a cheese.

Makes about 12 oz of cheese


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