My household works very hard to support local dairy farms. Between me, my fiance, and the puppy, we go through several gallons of milk, about 2 quarts of yogurt, and several blocks of cheese a week. We get our milk from Nice Farms Creamery in Federalsburg, MD, and let me tell you, it’s pretty fabulous. I’ve already told you about the benefits of milk from pastured cows (see my post on pasture-raised animal products), and NFC milk not only comes from grass-fed cows, but it’s the highest quality whole milk I’ve found on the Delmarva peninsula. Though raw milk is stupidly illegal in Maryland, NFC’s milk is the closest you can get to it; it’s low-temperature pasteurized and not homogenized, which ensures that all of the good fats, proteins, and nutrients are still intact. The yogurt is simply fabulous, and, much to every local foodie and holistic health enthusiast’s delight, NFC has started making butter! Chesapeake Bay Farms in Worcester Co., MD also makes butter, though I must admit that nothing can compare to NFC butter. CBF also makes some pretty delightful cheeses and ice creams, both of which do not last long in my house.
Which brings me to the point of this post… CHEESE!! Since we love cheese so much around here, and since NFC’s milk is the best around, I decided to have a go at making some simple Paneer cheese with it. Turns out, it’s super easy!
-half a gallon of milk (whole milk works best – it’s richer in taste and nutrients)
-3 to 4 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar and it gave the cheese a wonderful sweet, sharp flavor)
-cheesecloth, large pot, stirring spoon, colander
-To prep, line a colander with cheesecloth. You may need 2 pieces to make sure the entire surface is covered. If you plan to preserve your whey (which you should, and I’ll tell you why later), place the colander in a dish deep enough to hold about 1/4 a gallon of milk.
-In a large pot, preferably a heavy-bottomed pot like a stock pot to ensure even heat distribution, bring the milk to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent burning at the bottom and to reduce foam on top.
-Once the milk is boiling, turn off heat. Add the lemon juice or vinegar in one tablespoon at a time and stir in well. (I only used 3 tablespoons, but depending on the acidity of your product choice, you may need more.) After about a minute of stirring, the milk should begin to separate into whey, a yellowish cloudy liquid, and milk curds. Continue stirring for 2 to 3 minutes until milk is totally separated.
-Pour the contents of the pot into the colander. The curds will remain in the cheesecloth while the whey will strain through into the dish. Set the whey aside to cool. Rinse the curds with cold water for about a minute to make sure all whey has been rinsed off. Gather the ends of the cheesecloth together to make a ball, tie it off, and place it back in the colander. Place a flat surface such as a plate or flat-bottomed bowl on top of it and place weights on top of it to press out all the moisture. Leave the cheese like this for about an hour. When you unwrap it, you can shape it into whatever shape you like using a small container. Refrigerate, and enjoy!
Now, about that whey… Little Miss Muffet enjoyed it, so why shouldn’t you? It’s full of proteins, nutrients, and raw enzymes, so don’t waste it! You can save it to use in place of vinegar in your next batch of cheese, add it to protein shakes, cook with it, or give it to your animals for a healthy snack. Check out Prairie Homestead’s 16 Ways to Use Your Whey for more ideas.