Many cheese varieties are aged over a period of time to acquire an intense flavor and other properties.
They also lose some of their moisture content as they go through this process and become firmer in texture.
However, some varieties of cheese are not aged but consumed fresh.
These cheese varieties are known as fresh cheese, and they usually have a higher moisture content than cheese that is aged.
Ricotta and paneer are both fresh cheese varieties.
Ricotta is quite similar to paneer in appearance and can even be substituted for paneer in certain recipes. However, there are a few differences in how they are both made.
The main difference is that ricotta is an Italian cheese traditionally made from leftover whey while paneer is an Indian cheese made from buffalo or cow milk.
Also, for paneer, the milk is curdled using only food acids such as citric acid or vinegar.
In this post, we discuss both of these cheese varieties.
What is ricotta?
The word ricotta comes from the Italian word “recotta” which means recooked.
Ricotta is very much like cottage cheese, It is creamy white, soft, moist, smooth, and slightly sweet
Traditionally, ricotta is an Italian cheese that is made from leftover whey after the production of other varieties of cheese.
When cheese is made from milk, rennet or vinegar is used to separate the milk into whey and curds.
The solid curds are gathered and molded into cheese while the liquid whey is left behind.
However, after curdling, some proteins such as albumin and globulin are left inside the whey, and under the right conditions, these proteins could be used to produce cheese such as ricotta
Using heat and rennet, ricotta is produced from the leftover proteins in the whey after the curds have been gathered.
How ricotta is made
The proteins that remain in the whey after the curds for making other cheese are made to curd by acidification and heating,
Some amounts of whole or skim milk may be added to whey to allow for more curd formation.
Rennet, vinegar, or lemon juice are added to acidify the whey so that curds can form
The whey is also heated for curds to form.
After the curds form, a cheesecloth is used to sieve the curds from the whey.
Ricotta isn’t aged but used fresh, however, a variant of ricotta known as ricotta salata is produced by salting and aging ricotta.
Uses of ricotta
Ricotta is cheap and allows to make good use of the leftover whey.
Ricotta is used in pasta dishes and pizza.
It is also used in sauces and desserts such as cheesecake
Ricotta can be used as stuffing and also in sandwiches
What is paneer?
Paneer is an Indian fresh cheese that is similar to ricotta.
It is also easy to make and used in different Indian and middle eastern cuisine
Paneer is soft and crumbly. It is a non-melting cheese that holds its shape very well even when heated.
Paneer is traditionally made from buffalo milk which is a high fat milk, it could also be made from cow milk or a blend of both.
It is an acid set cheese, it uses citric acid or lemon juice to form curds and not rennet
How paneer is prepared
Paneer is made from either cow milk or buffalo milk
The milk is first heated, then curdling is done by adding lemon, lime juice, or vinegar to the hot milk.
Rennet is not used when making paneer. Rennet is a group of enzymes obtained from the stomach of ruminants like cows.
When the curds form, cheesecloth or muslin is used to strain the curds from the whey.
The soft curds are known as chhena. Moisture is allowed to drain from the curds in the cheesecloth to produce paneer.
Moisture could also be removed by pressing the curds in the cheesecloth until the paneer reaches the desired consistency
Paneer is often cut into cubes for use.
Uses of paneer
Paneer is used to make popular Indian dishes such as palak paneer which is made up of a thick spinach sauce and paneer.
It could also be used as a filling and for desserts
Fresh cheese is a cheese that has not been aged.
Ricotta and paneer are both fresh cheese that can be substituted for each other in certain recipes.
Ricotta uses heat and food acids or rennet to coagulate the proteins in leftover whey to form curds.
Paneer is made from cow milk or buffalo milk which is heated and made to form curds by using only food acids and not rennet.