Let me introduce you to one of the most appreciated teams in the cheese plant. The tall one is Gerrit. The little one is Maria. Gerrit is John (the cheese maker) and Ruth’s (the Cheese Shop lady) son, and has worked on and off for either the farm or in the cheese room for over 10 years. Maria has been with us for about 4 years, and is a wife and a mom to 2 beautiful daughters.
This unlikely duo make up the “Paneer Super Team” of our little cheese room. Paneer is an Indian style cheese often used as a meat substitute. People compare it to tofu, but it’s honestly SO much better! When we were younger we used to sneak the odds and ends from the cheese room and climb up into the haymow to nibble on our prizes. To this day, paneer isn’t quite as good unless it’s fresh from the vat!
Making paneer was never a coveted job in the plant. It’s hot, steamy, and takes up most of the morning because the milk can only come gushing through the pipes so fast. Then because of the intense heat of the milk, everything gets very cooked on making clean up rather difficult. Before we had a designated “Paneer Team” I remember people trying to avoid the task and jokingly bribing others to do it.
Paneer is created by heating milk to 175 degrees, and stirring vinegar into the milk to create a frothy white curd. It is then transferred to large stainless steel baskets where heavy plates are placed on top to squeeze all the whey out. After it has cooled it can then be cut and packaged into various sizes and shipped out! It’s the simplest cheese we make here at Appel Farms, but also one of the more physical.
We are very thankful for Gerrit and Maria because they come in regularly to complete almost every aspect of this particular cheese. One thing I have learned about cheese production (this is especially true with Paneer), is you spend more time cleaning than actually making cheese. This team ends up spending much of their time scrubbing the ultra-cooked paneer curd off the pasteurizer walls, plates, pipes, paddles… everything! Cheese can be messy, but EVERYTHING must be spotless before moving on to the next task.