Paneer or Indian cheese is nothing but curd cheese which is a resultant of curdling milk with vinegar, lime juice or any other types of food acids. For hundreds of years man is being using milk and other types of milk products as a part of his meal as well as drinks. Used by our forefathers, these dishes have travelled through time only to have been used in newer and better ways which are beneficial for us. Cheese is something which is known all around the world and over the years has evolved into so many forms that today when we say cheese we need to specify which type of cheese. Some of the famous types are mozzarella, stilton, Gouda and ricotta and the types go on. We also have a form named cottage cheese which is a famous form found is South Asian dishes. Cottage cheese is known to be a rich source of calcium and protein and so mostly finds its place in the menu of every royal household and a health conscious person because of its nutritional benefits.
The history of cheese consumption goes back to more the thousands of years where many believed that the discovery of cheese was by accident. It was during a journey in which an Arabian traveler placed milk in a container made from sheep’s stomach. After some time when he saw the container, he was surprised to see that the milk had converted into cheese. In those ages, people thought of it as magic or a miracle of nature however science says that it was probably the result of the combination of the heat generated by the sun and rennin which is an enzyme found in the body of the animal. Since then there was no looking back as cheese found its popularity in many cultures and cuisines around the world. It was believed that the Romans had separate rooms for the preparation of cheese and was used only in special occasions like marriages and other political meetings. Around the middle ages many centers opened up wherein the skill of cheese making had reached its threshold like Limburger, which is famous and producing best quality cheese till date. In the 19th century various technological advancements were introduced which allowed for large scale production of cheese.
The preparation of cheese is quiet simple. You just need:-
Milk – 8 cups
Lime juice – ¼ cup
The method of preparation is as follows…
- Bring the milk to a boil in a container
- While stirring the milk slowly add the lime juice and continue stirring
- After a period of 10 to 15 seconds the milk will start to separate from the whey
- This process of separation when the whey turns to a light greenish colour
- As soon as this happens off the gas and keep the container to cool
- Line a colander with thin cotton cheese and place it over a bowl
- Pour the contents in the container into the colander
- Then take the two ends of the cloth and tie them together lifting the cloth out of colander
- Use a large spoon, across the top of the bowl and hang the cloth with the cheese from the spoon handle in such a way that the paneer bundle should be hanging inside the bowl. Salt can be added during this process to the paneer.
- Remove the bundle from the bowl after almost 30 minutes and then open it by opening the knot and then fold the cloth across the paneer
- Place a heavy weight on top of the paneer and then Open the cloth after 30 mins and there you have the final product fresh and ready to be used.
In many cases instead of the lime juice, vinegar is used to separate the milk and the whey. The whey can be used for other purposes as well such as stock for curries and soups.
Consumption of cottage cheese has a lot of benefits among which are many health benefits as well. Cottage cheese is believed to be helpful in maintaining a good dental health as it is a rich source of calcium and vitamin D which help in making the teeth strong and also helps in prevention of cavities and breaking down of tooth enamel. Since the lactose content is also low, it also prevents against harmful sugars. The calcium available in cheese is also help in growth and development of bones. Osteoporosis is a disease which is related to a fall is bone mass or density which makes a person prone to bone breakage and fracture. Consumption of paneer can help in reduction of this disease because of the huge protein, calcium and vitamins content in the product. Vitamin B helps in strengthening of cartilage and is mainly prescribed for growing children and pregnant women. We mostly talk about obesity and find fat people who wish to be thin and slim, however there are people who are so weak and slim and wish to gain weight and how much ever they try, they don’t see that extra kilo adding up. For such people consumption of this dairy product is recommended. Cottage cheese or paneer is also known to improve blood formation and makes the liver strong and is a effective instrument in curing cancer to some extent.
Some of the famous food items related to paneer can be shahi paneer, palak paneer and khoya paneer and surprisingly it is also used in making sweets such as rasgulla. So give it a try if you have not before and I’m sure you’ll enjoy every bit of it.