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Posts Tagged ‘milk’

Panir in the spring

My first taste of Panir was prompted by a co-worker.  Stunned that I’d never tasted, or even heard of the cheese, she told me that I must go pick some up.  I confess that the only one I’ve ever tasted is the one that Cowgirl Creamery makes and they call it “Niloufer’s Panir”.  That is, Niloufer Ichaporia King, the author of My Bombay Kitchen.

Cowgirl Creamery is a cheese shop located in Point Reyes Station, but they have an outpost in the Ferry Plaza Building in San Francisco, which is virtually exploding with really great cheese, and customers who want it.  The cheeses they make find their way onto restaurant menus across the bay area, and they also distribute artisan-made cheeses from small-time producers in America and Europe alike.

If you happen to live close enough to either of their locations to pick up some of their panir, do it!  But I’ll warn you of two things.  First, they don’t make it year-round, so you may want to call first.  (Though I’m sure you’ll be able to find something else you love while you’re there).  Second, a little, tiny container costs something upwards of $6.00!  But it’s well worth it, and as you’ll see if you make this recipe, cheese making can be costly.  Especially if you’re using organic milk.  A whole lotta milk gives you a little cheese and a lotta whey! (But if you’re creative, you can use that delicious whey instead of pouring it down the drain.)

My understanding is that there are two types of panir. There is a firm version that can actually be cooked with, and there is a soft version that’s more along the lines of cream cheese.  This second version is what Cowgirl Creamery makes and it is also the type that this recipe makes.

I have no idea what Cowgirl Creamery’s recipe is, but I was thrilled to open up our restaurant copy of My Bombay Kitchen and find Niloufer’s recipe there.  I made it right away and really like it.

And as for “panir in the spring”, I think it is the best season for pairing it with fruits and vegetables.  Usually I eat it on crackers, but thin slabs of toasted bread is great too.  You could top it with raw, tender peas, and a little black pepper.  Or how about thin-sliced raw asparagus?  Or even raw, young fava beans.  Plain ol’ extra-virgin olive oil is great too. But I also love to eat it with strawberries.  And as soon as the rest of the summer berries come in to season, you’ll just be in heaven!

Seriously, how can you resist these with a spoonful of Panir?

Seriously, how can you resist these with a spoonful of Panir?

It goes without saying that you should use the best quality milk, cream and yogurt you can get your hands on.  A cheese like this sings of the flavor of the dairy itself.  (Happy cows make happy cheese, right!?)

Panir from My Bombay Kitchen by Niloufer Ichaporia King
yields 1-1/2 cups cheese

Note that a good, tart yogurt works best in this recipe.  If your yogurt is fairly mild, you may need to add up to a 1/2 lemons’s worth of juice to help it curdle.  Stir it in over moderate heat.

  • 1 cup cow or goat’s milk yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons  sea salt
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 4 cups whole milk

Stir together the yogurt, salt and cream. Set aside. Put the milk in a pan roomy enough to allow it to climb up as it boils without overflowing. Set the saucepan over moderately high heat. When the milk comes to a boil, let it come all the way up to the top of the pan.

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Lift the pan off the burner while the milk subsides.  Do this four more times. After the fifth boil subsides, add the reserved yogurt-cream mixture and quickly whisk it into the milk until it just begins to separate. It should look like a cloudy sky breaking up, not a solid overcast.  (Those are her words exactly, and I just love them!)

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Pour into a non-reactive mesh strainer lined with muslin or a thin kitchen towel, placed over a large bowl.

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After most of the whey has dripped through into the bowl, about 15-30 minutes, fold the cloth over the curds, and place a 1-pound weight on top. Save the whey for ricotta, making dal, or for cooking beans or lentils.

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I buy my yogurt culture from the Dairy Connection. It comes freeze-dried and must be stored in the freezer to remain fresh.  I usually only make a quart at a time. They have a couple different strains and I’ve only used the one that produces thicker, milder yogurt.  Next time, perhaps I’ll try the one that produces thinner, more tart yogurt to see how I like it.  I’ve always used Strauss milk, and believe it or not, I prefer using low-fat milk because Strauss’  whole milk just produces a yogurt that is too rich.  However, I usually do use the whole milk since that’s what I keep on hand. Using a candy thermometer- the kind that clips-on to the side of the pot- is the easiest way to do it. By the way, I’ve found Harold McGee’s (On Food and Cooking) insights on yogurt making very helpful…

As for eating it….even SCOTT likes this yogurt, and he’s been a hard-core yogurt hater his whole life.  Most often, I stir in home-made jam to flavor it, but in the spring and summer, I stir in fresh fruit and some honey for sweetness.  I also love to use it to make creamy salad dressings, mixed with good extra-virgin olive oil and a little vinegar, black pepper and salt (try adding some herbs too)

Homemade Yogurt

In a small sauce pot, gently heat 1 qt milk to 180 F, stirring frequently.

Hold at 180 for a 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently…I find that they best way to do this is to turn the heat to the lowest possible setting, and put a lid on it.  If your stove setting won’t go low-enough, you may need to play the “on-off” game.

Remove the pan from the heat, place on a rack, and cool to 115 degrees.

Stir 1/8 tsp culture into a small amount of the cooled milk to make sure that it gets distributed evenly. Then stir it all into the milk.

Hold temperature at ~ 105 F for 6-ish hours…to do this, I wrap it- baby bunting style- in a dish towel and set it on my stove near a pilot light.  It never stays at 105 for the whole time, but after about 6 hours it’s always thick enough.
Transfer into the container of your choice, and refrigerate.

Supposedly, you can add ½ cup non-fat powdered milk before heating for extra body, but I’ve never done this.

For enhanced flavor, add a few drops of vanilla when adding the culture….lemon zest might work nicely too, though I’ve never experimented with it.

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