According to the government’s Waste Scheme Wrap, “more than half a million tons of dairy products are wasted each year, with most of it thrown away in our homes.” And, while the pandemic has increased food industry waste — especially milk, which has a remarkably short shelf life — it’s not all bad news: Wrap says self-reported household food waste dropped substantially over the first closing and is still 22%. lower than in 2019.
If it has excess milk, it freezes well, although if it’s high in fat, it may split, so it’s best used for cooking after thawing. Another way to preserve a large amount of fresh milk is to turn it into cheese. Paneer is particularly easy to make, because it just involves the simple addition of lemon juice. It’s best made with whole milk and ideally raw, or at least rough, although any kind will really work. Add it to curries, stir it into salads, or dice and fry it to serve alongside a meal.
Making your own cheese can be a simple way to save excess milk and add weeks to its shelf life. Paneer is a good alternative to other cheeses like halloumi and ricotta, especially when mixed into salads, or fried and used in curries like palak paneer. Leftover whey from the cheese-making process can be turned into a sweet umami dressing by adding a bit of honey or sugar and reducing it to a thick syrup. Use it to finish salads or to glaze vegetables for grilling.
Whole milkpreferably raw or unhomogenized
1–2 tablespoons lemon juice per 500ml of milk
Measure your milk in milliliters, then pour into a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring regularly.
Turn off the heat, wait a few minutes, and then add about a tablespoon of lemon juice for every 500 ml of milk. Stir gently until the milk begins to curdle, adding more lemon juice, if necessary.
Let sit for about three minutes, then pour through a clean muslin or dish towel into a strainer set over a bowl to catch the whey. Using the cloth, squeeze out any remaining whey from the milk solids and allow to drain for approximately half an hour.
Transfer the wrapped cheese to a shallow bowl or plate, place a heavy weight on top, and leave for about two hours.
Unwrap the cheese, transfer to a heatproof bowl, then pour boiling water over the top, to cover. Let cool, then store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.