Do you cook with ghee? If not, you’re missing out. Ghee is a kitchen staple for me, and I scramble to replenish my supply as soon as I run out. I use it regularly as one of my primary cooking fats, along with coconut oil and beef tallow. It’s tasty, has a high smoke point, and is good for you – think butter without the dairy. Luckily, it’s also very easy to make.
What Is Ghee?
Traditionally used in Indian cooking, ghee is basically butter minus the milk solids and moisture content. Removing these results in a cooking fat with a high smoke point that you can use for all sorts of applications in which butter would burn, like frying and grilling. The smoke point of butter can be as low as 250°F, whereas for ghee it’s approximately 485°F – which is even higher than coconut oil (350°F for extra virgin and 450°F for refined).
Also, the lack of milk proteins translates into a long shelf life of up to 6 months when refrigerated. Some people keep their ghee on the counter (for up to 2 months), but I prefer to play it safe by keeping it in the fridge. Even though it solidifies when cold, it’s easy enough to scoop out whatever you need.
And perhaps most importantly, removing the milk proteins eliminates the lactose and casein, making ghee ideal for those avoiding dairy, and thus paleo compliant!
Ghee Versus Clarified Butter
Although the terms ghee and clarified butter are often used interchangeably, there’s actually a difference between the two. Clarified butter is butter that’s been cooked to the point of removing the milk solids. But ghee is basically clarified butter that’s been cooked further, eliminating most of the water content as well. Doing so increases its shelf life, as well as its smoke point. Also, cooking the ghee longer causes the milk particles to become brown, which imparts a tasty, slightly nutty flavour.
How To Make Ghee
You can buy ghee – the best I’ve come across is 100% organic grass-fed ghee by Pure Indian Foods. But making your own ghee is easy and more cost effective – plus, you can use your favourite pastured butter. And that way, as long as you have some butter in the fridge/freezer, you’ll never be out of ghee.
I myself was a little apprehensive when making ghee the first couple of times. If you read various recipes, there’s no clear consensus on whether to skim off the foam, or how long the process should take. But ghee really is simple to make, as long as you understand the process. All you are doing is clarifying the butter, meaning you are removing all of the milk solids. And then you are further cooking the clarified butter to remove the moisture content. With that in mind, here are the instructions:
1) Decide how much ghee you would like to make: You’ll lose about 25% of the volume of butter that you use (1 pound of butter makes 1.5 cups of ghee). Preferably, use unsalted butter. But if you need to make ghee and all you have on hand is salted, that’s fine also – just remember to use less salt when seasoning whatever you cook with the ghee.
2) Melt the butter: Cut the butter into large cubes. Place the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, making sure you have some excess room for the foam that will rise to the top. Stir occasionally to make sure the butter doesn’t burn as it’s melting.
3) Bring the butter to a simmer: Once the butter has melted, turn the heat up to medium high. Once the butter is simmering, reduce the heat as low as possible while still maintaining a simmer. If the heat is too high and the butter is boiling, it is more likely to burn before it clarifies. If the heat is too low and the butter is not simmering enough, the process will take unnecessarily long. I was able to maintain a good simmer on my stovetop’s lowest setting.
4) Skim off the foam: The milk solids will rise to the top in a frothy foam. Gently skim off the foam with a tablespoon, removing the white foam but not the yellow butter. You don’t have to remove every last bit of foam, as you’ll be straining the ghee at the end. The purpose of removing this foam is towfold: 1) so that you can see the butter better to know what stage it’s at, and 2) so that you can tell if more new foam is being created. Both of these will help you judge if the ghee is done. I discard the foam and all the milk particles, but some people like to eat them (typically on non-paleo items like toast and pasta).
5) Continue skimming the foam: Do not stir the butter, as there are milk solids collecting at the bottom of the pan that you don’t want to disturb. The majority of the foam will be created at the very beginning. A second round of foam will follow. After that, the foam creation will slow down considerably.
6) Watch the butter: While it’s clarifying, you’ll see milk particles being brought to the surface via the simmering bubbles. It’ll be somewhat difficult to see the bottom of the pan (even more so if you’re using salted butter which foams more). As you near the end point, the butter and the bubbles will become increasingly clear, and you’ll be able to see the bottom easily.
7) From clarified butter to ghee: Once no more new foam is being created, the butter looks clear, and you can easily see the bottom of the pot, you are almost done. At this stage, you have a very well clarified butter. Now, allow the butter to simmer for a few minutes longer to cook out the moisture, and to allow the milk particles stuck to the bottom of the pot to turn a nice golden brown. Watch the butter carefully, as you want the color to remain golden, and not to burn and turn brown. The milk solids at the bottom shouldn’t become any darker than a light brown. At this point, remove the pot from the heat.
You may not need those extra few minutes at the end if the ghee is already golden and the milk particles are light brown as soon as it stops foaming. The length of time for the whole process depends on the quantity of butter being clarified. (The last time I made ghee, it took 40 minutes once the butter had melted, and that was for 2lbs of salted butter).
8) Strain the ghee into a clean glass jar: Use a fine mesh sieve, lined with a cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Do not close the jar until the ghee has cooled.
9) Storage: I recommend storing your ghee in the fridge (for up to 6 months). It can also be frozen for the same length of time.
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