Bring the 8 cups of milk (whole or low fat, skim doesn't work)
to a boil in a deep heavy-bottomed 3-4 quart saucepan or casserole,
stirring often to prevent sticking.
Reduce heat and add one
of the above-listed starters
I tend to use lemon juice more often than the other starters
because I have found the curd produced is much softer and delicate.
Stir gently until white curds form and separate from the greenish-yellow whey
(about 10 seconds if using lemon juice or 30 seconds if using alternatives).
Once the curds begin to form, the contents of the pan should be stirred very slowly and gently,
as though stroking it, so that the freshly formed fragile curds do not disintegrate into small pieces.
The curds should be in lumps.
Immediately turn off the heat.
Pour the cheese and whey through a colander or large sieve,
lined with a thin fabric or 4 layers of cheesecloth and placed in the kitchen sink.
Save the whey if desired to use within 24 hours for starting the next batch of cheese
(cheese made with whey has a softer curd and a more authentically Indian aroma.
This is what the pastry shops in India use as a starter, day after day.)
or making rice (subbing for plain water) or soup...
Hold the colander or sieve under the tap and let cold water run,
at medium flow, through the curds in the cheesecloth for 10 seconds
- to wash away whatever remains of the smell of lemon juice, vinegar, or yogurt.
Bring up the 4 corners of the cheesecloth and tie them together.
Gently twist to extract as much water as possible.
Hang the cheesecloth to drain for 1½ hours.
E.g a kitchen cabinet door handle or faucet directly over the sink.
At this point the drained, crumbly cheese is called chenna.
You can stop here and flavour the chenna to taste and use as a spread, dip, whatever you like.
To make the cheese into cakes (paneer),
set the cheese - still in the cheesecloth - on a clean flat surface and place a weight
(such as a large pot filled with water, or a big plate covered with heavy cans)
on it for ½ an hour.
Remove the weight, take the compressed chesse out of the cheesecloth,
and place it back on the flat surface.
With a sharp knife cut the cheese into neat rectangles.
Paneer keeps well in the refrigerator for 4 days.
Note: Even though exact amounts of starter are called for,
sometimes the curd forms before all the starter has ben incorporated.
If that happens, do NOT incorporate the full amount of starter, as that only hardens the curd.
Alternatively, if you use the full amount and curds dont form,
just keep adding a little more until the curds do form.