29 July 2007

Exciting new skills!

Yesterday I successfully tried my hand a new skill. I made paneer, an Indian cheese that you often get in vegetarian Indian dishes over here. I'd never seen it in the UK, but I guess you get it there too. And it's easy! Takes an hour or two, but was surprisingly easy. You just boil 2 litres of milk, take it off the heat, add three or four tablespoons of lemon juice, leave it over a gentle heat whilst stirring for half a minute, til the curds crash out of solution then filter it through a coarse weave piece of cotton in a colinder. Once it's cooled down a bit, you squeeze as much of the water out as you can, then wrap it in the cotton, put it between two plates, and put a big saucepan of water on to press it. Leave it pressing for an hour, then unwrap and use it in your favourite curry instead of meat. Easy!

And since I've recently learned something of the chemistry of cheesemaking, I'll share the following interesting fact. Milk has all the proteins dissolved (well, suspended is more the word) in solution because it's at just the right pH to dissolve them. If you change the pH (eg by adding acidic lemon juice) they are protonated to insoluble forms and crash out as curds which you use to make the cheese. Sometimes it's surprising how long you can study a subject without knowing basic chemistry of real life stuff. Oh well. Hedumacation, eh?!

Well, off to read some exciting chemistry papers now. On nice inaccessible things like spirobisnaphthalene synthesis. Hope ya'll are well. By the way Little Miss Sunshine is a good movie.

Addendum: I must point out that most cheese is not made by changing pH, they add rennet which is a mixture of enzymes usually taken from calf stomachs (but also available from vegetarian approved sources) which cuts the main milk protein into two, an insoluble half (which forms the cheese) and a soluble half which is washed away.

1 comment:

E said...

Well, well, well... That is a piece of knowledge every French person should have! Merci beaucoup!