Indian style cheese making or paneer



I took advantage of my stay in Jaipur, the pink city, which is well known for its precious stones, to meet small jewellery craftsmen, who live all over the city. But make no mistake, it is not jewellery that I am going to talk to you about today, but cheese!

Thus, as I was observing the meticulous work of a stonemason in a small workshop in the city, a strong smell of boiled milk suddenly came into the room and tickled my nostrils. I looked outside and saw, just a few meters away, huge metal cans filled with steaming milk. How could I not have seen this scene when I passed the porch of this inner courtyard! Curious, I tell the artisan jeweler to finish his work quietly and head towards these huge smoking pots. A dozen sweaty men are working around them. In a few seconds I understand that this is a paneer factory.

1000 litres of milk for 200 kilograms of cheese.

This Indian cheese, which I love, is made from buffalo or cow's milk and is used in the composition of many dishes (the best known being Palak Paneer, the spinach cheese!). It is one of the basic products of Indian cuisine and is an important source of protein for the mostly vegetarian population.

The subject, which I already imagine in black and white, immediately inspires me. These men, just as enthusiastic as I am for a photo shoot, immediately pose proudly in front of the camera. Like kids, they wait in turn, sometimes letting the milk go up and overflowing pots! I wait a few moments, until they relax a little on the camera, then I sneak into the middle of these cans and stoves that give off an unbearable heat, in addition to the 35 degrees ambient. Everyone is at his post! Once the milk has boiled, another person adds vinegar to make it curdle. A third person collects the curdled material in a cloth and presses it (large stones) to extract the whey. Once curdled, the cheese delivery man can start his tour of the town.

India, November 2013

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