Going Ga Ga For Ghee

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on April 28, 2010

I am always looking for ways to make food taste better with little or no effort. One culture that really knows how to flavor food beautifully is India…Living in Australia for many years, my mother had several friends with whom she worked who were from Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Apart from being absolutely lovely people, people from India are raised to cook aromatic foods that are absolutely intoxicating, with such spices as turmeric, coriander, cardamom, cumin, fennel, curry powders, garam masala, peppercorns (red, green & black), mustard seeds, just to name a few. So, when I was recently doing some research on different  flavor profiles that could easily be translated to some American dishes, I remembered a product that is widely used in Indian food that I never considered…Ghee.

Ghee (clarified butter) is made by slowly melting unsalted butter in a pot until the fat separates from the milk solids. In a process that could take up to half an hour in total, the final result is a product that can be stored in an airtight container for extended periods of time without refrigeration. You can achieve this because you essentially boil all of the water out of the butter…it is the water and the milk solids in the butter that makes it perishable, and once they are removed, you can use it just like you would use an oil product in frying…but with more flavor. Ghee is an ideal fat for deep frying, because it has a higher smoking point (485°F) than most cooking oils. A good quality ghee adds a wonderful aroma, flavor and taste to anything that you are cooking. You also need to use much less ghee than you would a flavorless oil, because it has such a delicious taste. It is most often made from cow’s milk, however some cultures make it from buffalo and sheep’s milk.

You can purchase ghee in a jar at the grocery store, but why would you since it is so easy to make? If you do choose to purchase it, be careful of the cheaper products that use hydrogenated vegetable oil instead of butter…this is sometimes called vegetable ghee. These are less healthy for you because they are considered trans fats once hydrogenated, although it may lead you to believe that they are better for you because they are derived from a vegetable.

Ghee is also used in the cuisines of other cultures such as Egypt, Ethiopia,  Morocco, Brazil, Germany and Austria. I hope that you have an opportunity to make it and try it in some of your recipes where you would otherwise use oil.

How to make Ghee
1# unsalted butter
2- 1 quart pots
1 large tablespoon
1 small bowl
1 wooden spoon
lidded storage container

Take a 1 quart stock pot and melt 1 pound of butter very slowly…put it on the slightest heat until it melts completely.

Once the butter is completely melted, turn up the heat to a moderate/high level until you get a slow boil and the milk solids start to come to the surface. It should look like this…

When you have a small roling boil, make sure to stir with a wooden spoon, because you are trying to get up as many of the solids as you can from the bottom of the pot. Doing this will help to prevent them from burning. If you have an electric flat top, you have to be extra careful not to burn the milk solids.

As the milk solids start to rise to the surface, scoop them out with your tablespoon and put them into the small bowl you have set aside. Some people save these and eat them on toast, (they are actually not bad!) but most just throw them away…

Continue to boil this for about 10 minutes, and as the milk solids rise to the top, scoop them off. The longer it boils, the clearer the butter will become…

After you have scooped off as much of the solids as you can, and the liquid has gotten somewhat clear, take it off the heat and let it cool slightly, then pour  this into your second pot, being careful not to take any of the sediment with you from the bottom of the pot. Make sure the second pot is dry inside and you should heat it up slightly to make sure there is no moisture in there before you pour in the butter. This is your first pour…

Turn the heat up again to the same moderate/high level, and bring the butter to a slight boil again. You will see more milk solids come out of the butter as you continue to stir with the wooden spoon. You will also see little bubbles of water coming up to the surface and evaporating out of the butter. You want to get all of this water out of the butter so that it will store well and not go rancid.

Continue to stir with a wooden spoon and remove the milk solids with your large tablespoon. The butter, now ghee, will begin to look completely clear with just a litle sediment at the bottom, like this…

At this point, you are ready for your second pour. Pour the liquid back into the first pot that you have washed and dried, and put the ghee to heat again on a moderate/high heat. You should have very little sediment at this point, and no more milk solids separating out of it. Stay with me, you are almost there!

Heat the butter through one last time on moderate/high heat until no more bubbles come up from the bottom of the pot. Have another metal container ready where you can pour in the finished product to cool completely (uncovered) before you put it into the storage container that will be its permanent home.

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