afghan cheese

Afghan cheese

Kishmish panir is just panir (selfmade cheese) with raisin (kishmish). The Afghans use it with tea.


  • 1 gallon of milk
  • White vinegar
  • Cheesecloth
  • 1 box black seedless raisins


Step 1

In a large stockpot, add a small amount of water to barely cover the bottom of the pan. Add 1 gallon of regular whole fat milk to the pot and bring to a boil. Stirring helps the bottom not to burn and the milk to boil faster. Never leave unattended.

Step 2

As the milk begins to steam, take about 1/4 cup of white vinegar and put it next to the stove. When the milk starts to rise in the pan, add the vinegar in a circular pattern. Take the pan off of the heat. Take a slotted spoon and start helping the curds and whey separate (some people like to lightly salt the cheese, if you would like to, add two good pinches of salt at this point).

Step 3

After about 5 minutes you should have a good amount of separation. In the sink and over a colander, double fold a cheesecloth and press into the shape of the colander. Using thick, new kitchen gloves (the kind used for washing dishes), slowly pour the contents of the pot into the cheese cloth, when all of the curds are in the cheesecloth, gather the ends of the cheesecloth together and twist. The very hot whey will come out and shape the curds into a ball. Press to make it smooth and round. Twist and press two or three times only and the place the cheesecloth on a plate in the refrigerator.

Step 4

You do not want to twist too much or else the cheese will be crumbly. When the ball has cooled, take it out of the cheese cloth and wrap it in foil until you are ready to cut. Cut the cheese in slices down the ball so that you end up with thick slices, and then cut the slices into cubes. Fill half of the plate with cheese and place raisins on the other half of the plate and serve. The cheese can last 2-3 days, slightly longer if salt was added.

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Ever since leaving Afghanistan 34 years ago, I would think back to the summer days in Paghman where my family would go for Friday outings to escape the Kabul heat. Paghman is only a short drive from Kabul but has very mild weather. Wealthy Kabulis would spend their summer days in their lush villas, have picnics in their beautiful gardens and swim in the rivers of Paghman.

Our summer holidays were filled with great food but my favorite was the afternoon snack of fresh cheese with raisins (kishmish paneer). A local Kochi-nomad woman would deliver the fresh panare which would be wrapped in a cloth. It would be served on a platter with black raisins, nuts and fresh fruit. My mouth is watering just writing about it.

My family never found an equivalent to Afghan panare in American, so we created our own recipe. The cheese is very mild in flavor and has a chewy mozzarella like consistency. The key to bringing the flavors out is the raisins. They are heavenly together. You can also have it on a cracker with a dribble of cherry preserve or honey. Many Americans who have tasted it feel that it needs more salt but traditionally this cheese has unrecognizable amount of salt. You can adjust the recipe to your own taste.

I hope you love this as much as I do.

Fresh Afghan Cheese

Kimish Panare

1/2 gallon of one percent milk

1/2 gallon of buttermilk

1 1/2 tsp. of salt

Cheese cloth (Whole foods, Bed Bath & Beyond)

Round deep colander

This recipe can be doubled.

In a large heavy pan heat the milk on medium heat. While waiting, cut the cheese cloth to fit the colander and have some of it drape off the side of the colander. If the mesh on the cheese cloth is not very fine, lay 2-3 layers.

Just when the milk starts to boil (don’t burn the bottom) remove it from heat. Add the buttermilk and salt. Stir for 1 minute. Set the colander in the sink and slowly pour the contents of the pot into the colander. Make sure that the cheese cloth doesn’t slide off the sides of the colander. The milk will curdle and the liquid will drip out of the colander. Scrape the side of the cheese cloth to speed up the drainage of the liquid.

The contents will reduce slowly. Grab the side of the cheese cloth and tie with with a clip or a rubber band. Continue squeezing the cheese cloth until there is barely any water squeezing out but it should still feel moist otherwise the cheese will be too dry. By now the cheese should be the size of a large softball.

Put the cheese in the cheese cloth with a bowl lined with two layers of paper towel. Leave it in the fridge for 2-3 hours or until it is solid.

Take the cheese out of the cheese cloth, cut in 1/4 inch thick slice, serve with black raisins.

Mixtured poured into the cheese cloth in the collander

FRESH AFGHAN CHEESE – KIMISH PANARE Ever since leaving Afghanistan 34 years ago, I would think back to the summer days in Paghman where my family would go for Friday outings to escape the Kabul