[caption id="attachment_4312" align="alignleft" width="135" caption="Paneer Indian Cheese"][/caption]
Paneer is home-made, unsalted, white cheese. It has a fresh quality and a dense, crumbly texture that goes beautifully with strong flavors. Paneer is one of the most varied and fascinating dairy products. In its most basic form, cheese is the curdled milk of sheep, goats, cows or other mammals.
Paneer derived from a Persian word panir is a fresh cheese very popular all over South Asian cuisine. It is commonly used in the north Indian cuisine. It is known as Chhena in the eastern parts of India. It’s a un-ages, acid set, non melting farmer cheese or curd cheese made by curdling heating milk with lemon juice or other food acid. Unlike most cheeses in the world, the making of paneer does not involve rennet as the coagulation agent, thus making it completely lacto-vegetarian and providing one of the sources of protein for vegetarians in India.
The preparation of paneer diverges based on its use and regional variation. In most of the cuisines, the curds are wrapped in cloth and placed under a heavy weight, such as a stone slab, for 2–3 hours, and then cut into cubes for preparing in curries. Pressing for a shorter time (approximately 20 minutes), results in a softer, fluffier cheese. In Eastern Indian and Bangladeshi cuisines, the curds are beaten or kneaded by hand into a dough-like consistency called sana in Assamese, chhana in Bengali or chhena in Oriya & Bihari. In these regions, sana/ chhana/ chhena is distinguished from ponir, a salty semi-hard cheese with a sharper flavor and high salt content. Hard ponir is typically eaten in slices at tea time with biscuits or various types of bread, or deep-fried in a light batter. In surrounding parts of Gujarati city of Surat, surti paneer is made by draining the curds and ripening them in whey for 12 to 36 hrs.
Paneer, the Indian cheese or also called as Indian cottage cheese has left an indelible mark on Indian cuisine. It is used in making many popular delectable recipes like mattar paneer, paneer tikka, palak paneer and many more. As paneer is a non-melting kind of cheese it is often fried before being added to the dish. Unlike a lot of cheeses in the world, paneer is not made by the addition of rennet; it is therefore completely vegetarian. Homemade paneer is much creamier than the ones bought outside and you can also add few herbs like coriander leaves, thyme, pepper powder etc to enhance the flavor of the paneer and appear wonderful.
To prepare the Paneer, Indian cheese, pour the milk into the pan. Bring the milk to a boil and simmer. Start to slowly stir in the lemon juice or vinegar, about a tablespoonful at a time. The milk will begin to curdle. This is "curds and whey". Drain off the whey, keeping the curds. Dump the curds out onto the cloth (it will be messy), wrap them up, and squeeze the cloth to get the whey out. Fold the curds up in the cloth, then balance the big pot, full of cold water, on top cut after resting it for an hour and is ready to cook.
The curds are drained in muslin or cheese cloth and the excess water is pressed out. The resulting paneer is dipped in chilled water for 2–3 hours to give it a good texture and appearance. Homemade paneer is always the best and can make it as per your choice with or without adding herbs or spices. Rasgulla and Rasmalai are popularly made in the north Eastern region of India.
Paneer has enormous health benefits as it is a good source of calcium, which helps build strong bones and teeth, and also prevents osteoporosis. Cheese provides 25% of the calcium in the food supply. Paneer in moderation is associated with lower body weight as well as reduced risk of developing insulin resistance syndrome. It is a good source of protein and it reduces cancer risk and also can prevent stomach disorders and even help with your bones as you get older, especially in women. It also helps in lower, back and joint pain.