Monday, July 25, 2011

Paneer is not for sissies

When I first moved to California seven years ago, I cooked for myself all the time. I was dirt poor, so couldn’t really afford to go out to eat often, but I also comforted my lonely self with cooking. I have always associated Indian food with my family, because my mom and sisters and I always went for Indian food together. Since I was little, I’ve adored Indian cuisine. So one night in my tiny little shack of an apartment, I decided to try making my own paneer.
I bought some milk, followed the instructions perfectly, and wound up with…a completely disgusting curdled mess. No lie, this attempt to make cheese was my first utter failure, and all of it ended up going down the drain.
So when I stumbled on a recipe for paneer in my Culture magazine, recently, I saved it, but had my doubts. Bravely, I decided to try it once more. I followed the instructions very carefully- heated the milk and adding the vinegar. Suddenly, the cheese came together, exactly as the recipe described! It was gorgeous. I drained it, pressed it, and tasted some of the best paneer I’ve ever had (and trust me, that’s a LOT of paneer).
What went wrong on my first attempt? I’ll never know, but now I know that this is not only one of the easiest cheeses to make, but one of the most delicious!
PS: We had homemade palak paneer this week, which is my absolute favorite Indian dish of all time. So proud!

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Little Fuzzies

With the humidity thing somewhat under control, I decided to try another mold inoculated cheese last week. This time, I followed a new recipe for St. Maure, but made it with cow’s milk, which produces a cheese I call St. Laure. I had some new molds to use, so ended up with three beautiful little cheeses.

Instead of directly salting the cheeses like I always have, the new book recommended dunking them in a salt solution for 10 minutes. I did this, and they softened a bit but the salt seemed to be more evenly distributed on the surface. After some air drying, they are stowed away in the cheese fridge in their mini-cave bags, and I’m already seeing some white mold on the surface.

I'm still tasting a little bitterness in some of my aging cheeses, even though I changed the rennet. I guess that wasn't the problem. Perhaps it's our water? Yet another obstacle to overcome...

Monday, July 11, 2011

Proud Amateur Cheesemaker!

I decided to warm up to cheesemaking again by starting with a little cow’s milk farm cheese. This is a relatively simple cheese that I’ve made a million times. It forms the nicest little pats that can be eaten within a few weeks or inoculated with a white mold (candidum) and aged a bit longer for a creamier cheese. I made several of these and served one on a cheese tray to some friends who came over- they loved it, even more than the professionally made cheeses I served as well! And I didn’t tell them until AFTER they tried them all that I had made it.

Three little farm cheeses are now in the cheese fridge aging away in their own little “caves.” As you’ve read, I’ve had trouble with humidity in my dry state of California. The book suggested a large Ziploc bag around the cheeses- what a simple fix. I had thought more air needed to circulate so had never tried this myself, but it seems to be working. We tasted on this weekend and there was some bitterness, but perhaps that will phase out with time. We shall see.