Sunday, November 13, 2022

Origin and history of paneer

A soft, mild yet unsalted cheese variant, Paneer is a much-loved delicacy traditionally churned from buffalo’s milk. It is a non-fermentative, non-renneted, non-melting and unripened type of cheese. Paneer is a refined product that was developed in Punjab through knowledge from nomadic pastoralists. In Punjab, paneer is made by splitting hot milk with yogurt or buttermilk

Paneer can be consumed as a breakfast, snack or main course. It is consumed widely in North India along with other parts of the subcontinent like Afghanistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

The word ‘paneer’ itself has many origins. The Persian word ‘panir’, the Turkish word ‘peynir’, the Armenian word ‘panir’, the Azerbaijani word ‘panir’ refers to various types of preserved cheeses.

The earliest evidence of the word's usage can be found among the Bakhtiari tribe, a nomadic Iranian tribe that resided in Isfahan in summer and Shraz in winter. The literal meaning of ‘paneer’ is container and ‘khiki’ is skin. The salted version of ‘Paneer-khiki’ was known as ‘Paneer-e-shour’.

The contemporary version of cheese-making process finds its origin from the Indus Valley Civilization (3300 – c. 1300 BC). It is known that people of Indus Valley civilization made cheese by adding sour green leaves, yoghurt and berries. The ancient Vedas refer to two types of cheese–Cheese with pores and cheese without pores.

The Aryan invasion (between roughly 2000 BC and 1500 BC) put a stop to this practice as they believed cows to be sacred, and ‘curdling’ its milk, which was revered food ingredient in Ayurveda, was seen as a taboo.

The people of Kusana and Saka Satavahana periods (AD 75-300) used to consume the solid mass prepared from mixture of warm milk and curd, which resembles paneer. Literature from the Kushan dynasty (AD 30 to circa 375) period speaks of warriors consuming a solid mass of dairy made of a mixture of warm milk and curd, while the whey would be distributed among the poor.

Modern Paneer is usually traced back to the Persian and Afghan rulers who introduced it in the 16th century, primarily in North India, where it was made with either goat or sheep rennet Back at that period, cheeses were made from goat and sheep rennet which were the harbingers of modern-day cheese.

One theory says that the Portuguese taught the Bengalis (when they had outposts in Bengal) how to curdle milk and turn it into chenna or cheese, which forms the base of a majority of their famous sweets even today, including the rasgulla.
Origin and history of paneer