A whiiiiiiiile back I did a post bout freezer lasagna. Mmmmm, lasagna! Anyway, I told you that I had made my own ricotta cheese to use in the lasagna. Well, I really make Paneer cheese, which is a cheese curdled with acid rather than with culture, like ricotta cheese is. I can’t tell the difference between the two when I’m putting it in lasagna. Don’t get me wrong, a wonderful creamy ricotta cheese has an absolutely delicious flavor that is very different than paneer. But for the purposes of lasagna (and a bunch of other baking and savory uses) I like paneer cheese just fine!
So anyway, I thought I’d show you how I make it, even though there are a plethora of tutorials online. Gotta give the people choices!
A gallon of whole milk will yield you about 10 ounces of the stuff, just enough for a big pan of lasagna!
1 gallon whole milk (you can use other milk, but there’s really no point….the more fat, the more cheese. Skim milk will yield about 2 tablespoons of cheese, so please, stick with whole!)
1/2 cup bottled lemon juice (you can use fresh lemons but the acidity of bottled lemon juice is more controlled than fresh juice….stick with bottled)
That’s it! Now, heat your milk up in a big non-reactive pot (like ceramic coated cast iron or stainless steel, NO aluminum) over medium heat until just before boiling, about 200 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you don’t have a thermometer (WHAT?!? Why don’t you have a thermometer?) just wait until it’s all foamy and steaming like crazy. I’ve make cheese with milk that was boiling all over the place (…oops), and I’ve used milk that was 190 degrees, it’s okay it the temp is a bit off. You’re supposed to stir it the whole time so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan, but I’ll be the first to admit that I usually just let it go and DON’T scrape the bottom to leave the stuck on stuff for later (like…..when I do the dishes) Really, either way, unless you actually burn the milk, you can do whatever you want. If stirring for 20 minutes makes you feel more productive, go for it!!! TIP: Leave your milk out on the counter for a couple of hours (GASP!) before making the cheese to allow it to come to room temp, it don’t take as long for the milk to heat up!
When the milk is all toasty warm, dump in the lemon juice and stir briefly to incorporate.
after lemon juice is added
Let it sit for 10 minutes. Strain into a cheesecloth lined colander (one or 2 layers will work) or a fine mesh strainer over a big bowl (if you want to save the whey -it’s the liquid left over- and it’s great to use in baked goods!) or the sink. I usually pour a bit, stir to release the whey, pour some more, stir, and repeat until all of the cheese is in the strainer. Allow to sit for about another 10 minutes. Dump the whole mess (it’s messy) into a bowl and you’re ready to go! Oh, and one more tip here: wash your cheesecloth in COLD water in the sink (NOT with other clothes or towels). Trust me.
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