Health Topical

Help - my paneer is too crumbly!

I've been trying to make paneer from whole goat milk (my partner can't have ox dairy) and it cakes up when made but falls apart when I try to use in recipes. I've tried longer cooking, less cooking, less acid, more acid, a whole bucketload of acid, lemon juice alone and with vinegar, pressure for an hour, heavy pressure all night etc etc... any ideas? One thing I notice, no matter what I do the curd is TINY. Nothing like cottage cheese. Any suggestions appreciated!

Please post both your recipe and procedure, please.
It sounds to me like you might be either rinsing the curd with cool/cold water or allowing it to cool too much before draining/pressing it. As the curd cools it loses it's bonding ability, so you want to rinse it as little as possible with hot water and then pour it straight into the cheesecloth and press with a heavy weight.
The second thing that might be occuring is that you aren't frying it/cooking it in some fashion before you add it to the final recipe. If you don't fry it/saute it it has a tendency to crumble.

Are you trying to make paneer or cottage cheese? Paneer is fine grained.

If it's paneer you're trying to make, I can give you some tips so it won't be too crumbly.


Scott: I think you may have nailed it. Here's the procedure I've been doing:
cook the milk (1 qt full fat pasteurized goat milk) until it starts to boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Then add lemon juice (2 lemons or more) until it curdles. The curd is so fine it's hard to tell. Then pour into a hops bag and run the bag under cool water so I don't burn myself squeezing out the whey. And then press under a crock filled with water. Also, I do saute it before using and it seems to help a little but is still quite crumbly.
As you suggest, I'll stop running it under water. I could try rigging it up to drain in a warm oven so it doesn't cool much before pressing.
Karen - no, not trying to make cottage cheese, but I didn't know what to expect so I thought it might come out like that. Of course all tips would be very welcome :)

I never rinse paneer. All you have to do is drain and cool it at room temperature. Press out as much water as you can. When it's completely cool, place it on the counter and smear off a lump of cheese about four inches away from the rest of the cheese, pressing it with the heel of your hand across the counter. Gather up the cheese and repeat until it becomes somewhat smooth and homogenous. When you're finished, form it into a thin brick and wrap it up in cheesecloth. Weight it down and refrigerate overnight.


Karen, paneer can have a couple of different meanings. The process you're describing (mashing with the palm of the hand) is for a loose creamy paneer that's usually used in desserts (like gulab jamon, rasgullas, etc.). The most common form of paneer is the sliced cubes traditionally found in dishes like saag paneer, matar paneer and the like. That's made by pressing the curd while it's still hot. Wyvrn's 'cottage cheese' sized-curd paneer, although not a size of curd I've familiar with, is definitely feasible. The secret, I think is to keep the curd hot. The hotter it is, the more easily it will bond with itself to form larger curds.
Wyvrn, I'd invest in some cheesecloth. I think it will make your life easier. Line a colander with cheesecloth and put it in the sink. Pour the curds into the cheesecloth, give it a quick spray with hot water, salt/mix it, gather up the edges, tie it/hang it. Are you dead set on cottage cheese size curds? Sauteed sliced paneer is superb and is the best insurance policy for it to not fall apart when used in recipes. For the 'cottage cheese' size curds, I'd say just hang it. For the sliced paneer, drain it, rinse it quickly, salt it, tie it and then immediately get the heavy weight on it and keep it on it for a few hours.
Btw, one thing I've learned from my Indian friends is to not get too tied into a quantity of precipitant (lemon juice, vinegar, citric acid, yogurt). Fresh milk is a lot harder to curdle than older milk and thus will need more precipitant. Juice a few lemons and then add then add them to the hot milk a little bit at a time, stirring between each addition. Once it curdles, drain it. The less acid you can use, the more tender the final curd will be. Same thing with heat, you don't want to simmer the curds at all after they've separated. Heat will give you a tough curd. Paneer, on paper, is one of the easiest recipes out there, but good, tender, melt in your mouth paneer takes some skill.
I always rinse my curds as I find if I don't rinse them, the cheese ends up with a slight lemony (or vinegary) taste to it.

Karen, paneer can have a couple of different meanings. Thanks for pointing that out Scott, but I do know the difference between paneer and chenna. :)
I'll bow out now rather than get contentious over cheese.

Karen, if there's one thing that I've learned discussing paneer with my Indian friends, is that there are about as many different ways of making it as there are Indian chefs/mothers. If your way works, please, be contentious :) I'd love to find a better way than the one I'm using.
Once your mashed paneer has been pressed/refrigerated, can it be sliced into cubes and then fried? Does it keep it's shape?

I finally got around to trying your suggestions. Not rinsing in cold water helped quite a bit. I think that might have been key. I also tried the technique Karen described and that seemed to smooth it out more as well. It had a much smoother less crumbly texture. I didn't fry it - ended up eating it right there.
I used a quart of whole goat's milk, a good shake of cumin and some salt - juice from one large lemon to curdle. I must say, the combination of the goats milk and cumin is just an amazing flavor. Most of the paneer recipes I've seen don't add any seasoning in the process.

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