This blog is written by my friend who likes to be called The Watchful Mongoose.
We've all been there. We've poured milk into our time-worn cup, picked it up, then looked closer. To see little islands of white: the break-up of milk solids and whey. It's the fate that awaits all worthwhile milk, but not a sad fate at all.
True, most folks know better than to risk getting too inventive with soured milk. They chuck it away, and rightly so. That's because regular pasteurized, chemically-treated milk, has a high chance of being spoiled at this stage. In fact, it's the absence of live bacteria in pasteurized milk that seals its fate, but that's for another post. So how did our grandparents get away with making all kinds of edibles from milk at every stage of its life and afterlife? The answer? Raw milk.
Generations back, well before the days of Operation Flood, our ancestors got their milk from their own cows or those of others. No pasteurization, no homogenization, and certainly no added chemicals to increase shelf-life. On the one hand, this meant the milk had to be consumed fresh and within a few hours. Remember, there was no modern refrigeration either.
On the other hand, when milk did curdle, it was perfectly usable. That's because raw milk holds on to living bacteria that help our guts. The good bacteria break down lactose rather than the protein. We know that pasteurization impacts such bacteria, as well as enzymes and nutrients in the milk. Of course to make the sour milk a tad tastier required a little extra effort. Our industrious ancestors duly undertook the necessary work. We can't turn back the clock to those simpler times, but recipes have ensured that time-honored foods live on to this day. With a few tweaks, we can try them out with whatever milk we've got in our fridge. Just make sure it isn’t sour.
Paneer for all
Paneer is likely India’s only indigenous cheese. This acid-coagulated wonder is made in countless Indian homes. From nothing more than milk and some acid.
If you’ve set out to make paneer, fetch a fresh batch of milk.
- Bring milk to a boil, while stirring.
- Squeeze in some lemon and stir again until it curdles and the solids separate. Take it off the heat.
- Strain through a cloth, rinse, add some salt, strain again.
- Keep the cloth-bound solid under a heavyweight for at least half an hour.
- When the time’s up, unpack the brick of paneer. Dice it before serving unless your guest is a giant.
The process of acid precipitation and straining concentrates nutrients and increases shelf life. As the USFDA graphic indicates, cheese outguns milk in levels of Vitamin E, Vitamin A, Zinc, and Calcium.
Simple yet outgoing
Paneer can tango with many ingredients. Some people use it as a meat substitute. But it stands on its own merits. It syncs with spinach in palak paneer and lends body to the indulgent shahi paneer. It gives barbecued meats a run for fun in the form of tandoori paneer tikka. My personal favorite is the mash-up with fresh peas in mattar paneer. Paneer salad sandwiches prove they are a hit in Continental formats as well.
The next time your heart’s set on paneer, try your hand at making it. But also consider using raw milk in all its glory. A-Grade, non-pasteurised, non-homogenised, hormone and preservative-free. Delivered in sterilized glass bottles, and milked from content cows reared on farms outside the national capital. Order Farmery’s raw milk and taste the difference.
As De Niro would say, "The talent is in the choice."