Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Real Food VIII: Ghee

All this talk about butter is making me hungry. Richard mentioned in the comments that he bought some ghee recently and has been enjoying it, so I thought I'd post a recipe. Ghee is the Hindi word for clarified butter. It's butter that has had everything removed but the fat. Rich in fat-soluble vitamins and lacking the sometimes problematic lactose and casein, ghee has rightfully been considered a health food in India since ancient times.

Another advantage of ghee is its high smoke point, which is higher than butter because it doesn't contain any protein or sugars. Consequently, food sauteed in ghee has a clean, rich taste.

The recipe is simple but touchy. I recommend using the best butter you can get your hands on. 100% grass-fed, unsalted cultured butter is the best.

Ingredient and materials
  • Butter (1 lb minimum)
  • Wide-mouth glass jars
  • Cheesecloth
  • Rubber bands
Recipe
  1. Place the butter in a saucepan and turn the heat to medium until it's melted.
  2. Once it begins to boil, turn the heat down to low. It's very important to calibrate the heat correctly. Typically, you will want the burner on its lowest setting. The idea is to evaporate the water without burning the oil. It should boil, but slowly.
  3. The melted butter starts out cloudy but gradually clears up as the water evaporates. At the same time, a crust will form on the surface of the ghee and the bottom of the pan. Keep the heat very low.
  4. Push a portion of the top crust to the side with a spoon to see inside of the saucepan. When the butter looks clear and bubbles only rise from the bottom every few seconds, it's done. You have to be very careful because once the water has evaporated, the fat heats up quickly and burns the crust. This gives the ghee an acrid flavor and color. Make sure to handle the pot cautiously, because hot oil can give severe burns.
  5. Allow the ghee to cool until it's warm but not hot. Place a piece of cheesecloth over the lid of your jar. Secure it with a rubber band. Pour the ghee through the cheesecloth, into the jar.
  6. Store ghee in the refrigerator or at room temperature. It keeps much longer than butter.
The picture above is of my last batch of ghee.

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