Make wild ramp paneer cheese and enjoy the taste of your prized foraged edible all year. The foraging season for wild ramps is fleeting, lasting only a few weeks in early spring. Paneer is easy to make and unlike most other cheeses, it can be frozen without compromising quality or taste.
Paneer Cheese Is Simple & Easy
Because paneer requires no rennet, just a simple acid like vinegar, lemon juice, or yogurt, and it requires no special equipment or ageing — paneer is a cheese anyone can make.
As it freezes well without compromising quality, making a paneer cheese and flavouring it with your wild ramps lets you preserve their flavour.
Watch The Recipe Video
Paneer is very mild in taste. It is a great cheese to use when you want something to take on the flavours of spices, sauces, or herbs. The onion-garlic taste of ramps will make for a very flavourful paneer cheese and frying the pressed curds in butter afterwards is just divine.
The season for wild ramps lasts a mere few weeks in the spring and then they're gone. Ramps are one of the first of the spring edibles to pop up, making them true harbingers of spring.
The photo above demonstrates what a ramp looks like, but remember to harvest these wild edibles responsibly.
Do not dig up the entire ramp and take the bulb. Ramps take many long years to establish themselves and you can easily decimate entire populations. Instead, take only one or two leaves per plant — the leaves are the tastiest part of the plant anyways.
I have an article which covers wild ramp foraging and sustainable harvesting (along with a ramp pesto recipe) here:
Wild Ramp Paneer Cheese
For more in-depth information on the why's of paneer cheese, read my article:
It's not necessary but it covers some of the reasons behind certain steps. Otherwise, the recipes are identical with the exception of adding your chopped ramps into the curd before pressing.
You don't need raw milk to make a good paneer cheese. I use it anyways. The taste is richer, the leftover whey is a rich source of probiotics that can be used in other applications (and further cheesemaking).
You can use any kind of milk you have access too with the exception of UHT-pasteurized milk.
If you don't have access to raw, I still recommend sourcing at least unhomogenized whole fat milk.
Because paneer is so forgiving, much of the store-bought stuff will be made with low-quality milk. By making your own, you have more control over the quality and source of your ingredients.
A Simple Cheese Press
Paneer is pressed after the hot curd is separated from the whey. Once pressed, it can be fried, grilled, or smoked while retaining its shape and not melting.
An unpressed curd is queso fresco and is equally delicious.
To press paneer without special equipment, all you need is a flat-bottomed colander and something heavy to put on top. Line the colander with a clean piece of cloth such as muslin or cotton — a clean tea towel will do, although I recommend soaking it in a mixture of boiling water and baking soda to remove any potential lingering odours first.
Weigh it down from the top with something evenly heavy, whatever you have on hand.
How heavy? It doesn't have to be that precise for fantastic results, just experiment with what you have.
If you don't have a flat-bottomed colander, place some parchment paper on a cutting board and spread the warm curds evenly onto it before covering with another piece of parchment paper and then weighing that down with something suitably heavy like another cutting board or even some books on top.
Slightly elevate one side of the board and then rotate it every 30 minutes so that the whey properly drains from all parts of the curd.
When the paneer reaches room temperature, it is ready to eat or store.
Storing Your Paneer
Because a paneer cheese is one of the few that can be frozen without compromising the quality of texture or taste, you can easily freeze your ramp paneer and enjoy the unique taste of wild ramps long after they're gone from the forest floor.
Just tightly wrap your pressed curds and store in the freezer until you're ready to eat.
Beyond The Basics
Ready to take your cheesemaking to the next level? Here are the books I recommend:
- 4 litres of milk I use raw whole milk, but any milk will do except for UHT-pasteurized
- ½ cup of any vinegar or 1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice no pulp or 1 pint of yogurt or kefir
- 1 tablespoon of fine sea salt make sure it's not iodized
- A bunch of wild ramps finely chopped. I use about 4 cups worth but this is not an exact measurement. Go by the look and feel and taste.
- Butter for frying (Optional but highly recommended)
- A heavy-bottomed pot that can hold the amount of milk
- A wooden spoon or silicone spatula
- Slotted spoon for straining the curd
- Something to use as a make-shift cheese press see recipe notes for ideas
- Pour your milk into the large pot and set it on the stovetop over medium-high heat.
- Stir it constantly as it slowly comes to a boil, then remove it from the heat immediately.
- Add your acid to the pot and slowly and carefully stir it once or twice, no more.
- Allow the pot to rest for 5-10 minutes. The curds will separate from the liquid whey.
- Carefully spoon out the curds with a slotted spoon/skimmer or small mesh colander into a larger colander suspended over a bowl. Take your time so that they do not break apart into smaller pieces.
- Add your salt and finely chopped ramps into the strained curd, and stir well to combine with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula — or your clean hands.
- Press the curd into fresh paneer as per the recipe notes, or skip the pressing and enjoy as-is.
- If you are pressing, the paneer is finished and ready to be stored once it has come to room temperature.
- Store in the fridge up to a week, or wrap tightly to freeze, and enjoy the taste of ramps all year round, long after they've left the forests.
- The best way to enjoy your paneer (in my opinion) is fried in butter (or ghee) until golden brown and crispy. Heat up 1-2 tablespoons of butter and add your paneer once the butter is sizzling. It only takes a couple of minutes per side to achieve the colour in my photo.
- Enjoy with or without bread.