Tuesday, January 15, 2008

How to make ghee

Ghee is butter with the milk solids and water removed. Pure dairy fat! Just heat butter gently, and the components will separate. Then strain. A more detailed explanation of method follows below.

Ghee has a higher smoke point than butter -- meaning you can cook and saute hotter in it without burning. It's stable at room temperature. You can keep it in a jar by the stove and scoop into it whenever you would customarily run to fridge for a pat of butter for the pan. No refrigeration necessary.

We use an old-fashioned "grease jar," which every self-respecting household use to keep handy for bacon drippings, before they learned how horrible and disgusting a practice that was. Now everyone knows you should throw away that natural nutrient and spend additional money to obtain the fabricated nutrient that the food industry kindly provides at a nominal cost to you. Thank goodness modern technology has devised methods of wrenching the nearly digestable oils from all kinds of items that humans never had the option to eat before. And that modern marketing has managed to convince people that good health is impossible without them! Gee, just think what the human race was missing all these millions of years.

But I digress. This post is about ghee, not gee! Much of traditional Indian cookery uses this. The flavor is similar to butter, but the profile is somewhat different because of the absence of milk solids. The "milky" flavors are gone. That, and a slightly grainy texture, makes it less suited than butter for buttering bread tableside.

In ghee, the nutty buttery qualities are closer to the fore. With a little extra cooking time, a pleasant toasty quality develops, also.


  • Butter

One pound is a good amount to work with. We use European butter with the super-high fat content. No matter what kind of butter you start out with, the fat is all that will be left when you're done. You might as well buy something that contains more of what you'll be keeping in the first place. That is, the regular butter has more of what you're getting rid of by making ghee. Whatever isn't fat is water and milk solids. If there's less of that in the butter you buy, it should take less time to boil it out, logically, and you'll wind up with more finished product.

Essentially, place the butter in a small, sturdy saucepan over the lowest heat, wait and strain

First the butter will melt. The milk solids will gradually rise to the top. No need to skim as you go. Some recipes instruct you to skim. This is more work, and wastes a lot of butter. It's just not necessary.

The water in the butter will begin to boil out. Water boils; oil/fat doesn't.

Eventually, all bubbling will cease. That means the water has left. There's a window of time between the moment the water is all gone, when the remaining ghee begins to toast pleasantly, and the moment when the ghee becomes brown and yucky and burnt. This all happens very quickly, because when the water is gone, the temperature is suddenly able to rise much higher That's because water only gets to boiling temperature. Then it evaporates and rises into the air (which is what "boiling" is). Oil can get hundreds of degrees hotter.

So, it's better to err on the early side, at least while you're still getting familiar with this process and product. Pour through a mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter or paper towel. Remember that at this stage it's super hot, much hotter than boiling water. Pour it into something that is heat resistant, like Pyrex or metal.

The dairy solids will stay behind in the strainer. Eat them warm. They are unspeakably delicious! Those who eat crackers or toast can spread them on that. Others can nibble them off a spoon.

Tasting the solids -- they'll look like soft, toasted breadcrumbs -- is instructive. It will show you, beyond what any words can convey, what the components of butter's flavor are. There's a fresh-milk flavor in them. It's a great demonstration of what does and doesn't taste like this or that.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for your clear instructions. I accidentally let mine get a bit brown when I followed another recipe. Now that you have explained the science I know what to watch for. -Jeff