Friday, June 16, 2023

The history and origin of paneer

Paneer represents one of the soft varieties of cheese family and is used in culinary dishes/snacks. About 5% of milk produced in India is converted into paneer.

The word paneer comes from the Persian, Armenian and Azerbaijani word panirpeynir' -- both of which refer to various preserved cheeses. Paneer means the product obtained from cow or buffalo milk or a combination thereof by precipitation with sour milk, lactic acid or citric acid.

The earliest evidence of the word's usage can be found among the Bakhtiari, a nomadic Iranian tribe from the Isfahan region, who developed a cheese called paneer-khiki, which literally translates to 'container and skin'.

People during the Kusana and Saka Satavahana periods (AD 75–300) used to consume a solid mass, whose description seems to the earliest reference to the present-day paneer. The solid mass was obtained from an admixture of heated milk and curd.

It is believed that the nomads of south west Asia were the first to develop several distinctive heat and acid coagulated varieties of cheese. According to a theory, the Mongols were out on a long trip, riding horses that were carrying milk in Mushkis (bags made of raw hide). However, the heat of deserts and the rennet in the leather turned the milk into paneer. They tasted the resultant product and found it to be rather delicious.

It was brought to India, primarily in North India, in the 16th century by the Persian and Mughals where it was made with either goat or sheep rennet and mixed with various Indian spices and vegetables.

The process of modern paneer making is derived from the Portuguese method of ‘breaking’ milk using an acid like lemon juice. Earlier milk was coagulated using heat and sour milk or by proteolytic enzymes from creeper like Putika or bark of Palasa.
The history and origin of paneer