Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

This is a cross-post from my blog, Together In Food; to read a slightly different version of this post, please go to my blog here.

I love cheese, and I have this (perhaps slightly crazy) dream of producing 80% of the food we eat at home myself, from scratch (growing, raising and processing it). So, I wanted to be able to make cheese myself. I'd read multiple recipes and articles about home cheese-making, but I learn best by seeing and doing. So, I signed up for a cheese-making class led by Sheana Davis, a chef, cheese maker, caterer and culinary educator based in Sonoma. To learn more about Sheana's catering, cheese making and culinary classes, click here.

Learning cheese-making with friends

My friends, Katie and Meredith, were just as enthused about the cheese-making class as I was, so the three of us did it together. In fact, one of Meredith's dreams is to run her own cheese shop, so this was a perfect group adventure.

Sheana was a great teacher, demonstrating each step in making paneer, an easy cheese that is a great introduction to home cheese-making...

Scooping out paneer curds

...creamy, slightly tangy goat's milk chevre, lovely spread on baguette toasts with a bit of Meyer lemon jam...

Draining chevre through butter muslin

...creme fraiche, wonderful eaten out of a little bowl with a spoon or used in a variety of recipes...

A jar of creamy goodness, a.k.a. creme fraiche

...and patiently answering numerous questions from the participants in the sold-out class.

Sheana, our teacher extraordinaire

Because I made taco night from scratch for 12 of my husband's work colleagues (five pounds of carne asada, four pounds of shredded chicken and a homemade tres leches cake) and we're leaving for Australia and New Zealand in two days, I haven't made my own cheese yet. But I can't wait to do it when we return.

And in the meantime, I have Meredith as inspiration. When we left the class, she said, "I thought this would be entertaining but that I'd never actually make my own cheese. But I'm so doing it!" She went home from the class armed with her own cheesecloth, and on Saturday, I saw this e-mail in my inbox*:

*See more of Meredith's cheese in the recipe below


For those of you who share my home cheese-making dream, here's a super simple recipe to get you started.

PANEER (also spelled panir)

From Sheana Davis. To learn more about Sheana's catering, cheese making and culinary classes, click here

Total Time: 30 minutes active plus up to 12 hours to let the cheese drain

Planning Notes: As Sheana shared, home cheese-making is 90% sanitation. You want to sanitize all of your utensils thoroughly so you're not introducing unwanted bacteria into your cheese. See instruction #1 below.


14 cups whole milk (or, 1 gallon minus 2 cups); you can also use goat's milk, but don't use less than whole milk or it won't work

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons white vinegar (you can try lemon juice, but since the acidity of lemons varies, curds may or may not set properly; I'd try bottled lemon juice, which has more consistent acidity over freshly-squeezed)

1 tablespoon kosher salt

Cooking Instructions

1 -- Thoroughly clean all of your utensils (pot, whisk, spoon, cheesecloth, colander). Wash in warm, soapy water. Then wash with a diluted bleach solution (1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water). Dry with clean towels.

2 -- Heat milk and cream over medium heat in a large pot to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (use a candy or oil thermometer to monitor temperature). Whisk often to prevent scorching.

3 -- Turn heat to low. Add vinegar and salt. Give the mix one gentle, clockwise turn, just to combine the ingredients. If you stir too vigorously, curds may not set.

4 -- Cover the pot. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Curds will begin to form.

5 -- Line a colander with cheesecloth. Pour contents of the pot into your contraption to drain the curd.

Meredith's paneer draining

6 -- You can eat it at this point; it'll be the consistency of slightly firm ricotta. It's divine warm (having sampled it during the class). Or, you can tie cheesecloth around the cheese in a bundle and let it drain until it's the consistency you desire. This is the same cheese used in Indian cooking, so if you want it that firm, let it drain a while. You can leave it on your counter or kitchen table or stick it in your pantry -- wherever you can leave it undisturbed and at about room temp.

Meredith's final product!

Serving Notes

  • Eat warm scooped into small bowls as an appetizer or dessert, topped or mixed with savory or sweet delights: As an appetizer -- good olive oil, sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper; sun-dried tomatoes; peppers; herbs. As dessert -- dried fruit; jam; currants and lemon zest
  • Dollop into soup, as Meredith did
  • Use in home-made ravioli or other pasta
  • Add it to a frittata (see my chard frittata recipe here) or a home-made pizza
  • Add it to Indian dishes

Views: 117

Comment by Christine on November 9, 2010 at 11:26am
Homemade paneer? Swoon!
Comment by Stephanie M, Together In Food on November 9, 2010 at 3:12pm
Christine, Thanks for stopping by! I haven't made the paneer myself yet but sampling the freshly-made, warm cheese in the class made me eager to try it soon.
Comment by Kali on November 11, 2010 at 9:17pm
A huge THANK YOU from me! Cheese making has always interested me, but it seems every description starts with CULTURES and I just haven't had the time to incorporate those into my homegrown life yet. Maybe one of these days. In the meantime, I couldn't be more thrilled to see a simple cheese recipe from basic home ingredients.
On a side note.. any chance you could pass along the recipe for Tres Leches? I fell in love with the cake in Honduras but never did look into how to make one.
Comment by Stephanie M, Together In Food on November 19, 2010 at 11:19pm
Hi Kali, Thanks for your comment! I'm so glad that the simple paneer recipe may inspire you to make cheese.

For the tres leches cake, I use the recipe from the Tartine bakery cookbook (Tartine is an incredible bakery here in SF--great savory and sweet pastries and amazing bread). It's a bit long to re-type here, hence me referring you to the cookbook (plus Tartine is owed full credit for it!). The cookbook is definitely worthwhile, though; I love the tres leches cake, the gougeres and the pie/tart crust recipes in particular, and the book teaches you about why different ingredients yield different types of cakes.


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