Ghee is the traditional cooking fat used by people from India. It’s the most delicious, as well as healthy, fat that is used as medicine in Ayurveda to cure many ailments. Ghee has recently been popularized all over the world and is available in every ethnic grocery store, but many people make it at home. That sounds like too much work, you say? The task of ghee-making is not as difficult as you may think, however.
If you are making ghee from grass-fed cow milk, then the ghee will be rich in vitamin A, D, E, and K as well as the beneficial fatty acid conjugated linoleic acid.
Apart from this nutritional value, those who cannot digest lactose and casein (the milk protein) can also use ghee because these compounds are removed from milk while you make ghee.
Moreover, the high smoking point of ghee makes it a stable cooking medium and you can use it to stir fry, sauté, or deep fry your foods.
People usually look at me strangely when I tell them that I make ghee at home. They probably think I am either from a different planet or from a different time period. Because who in their right mind would even imagine of spending time in the kitchen to make ghee, when you can just buy every single thing in the supermarket?
I actually have lots of childhood memories of my Mom standing at our stove making homemade ghee with me staring at her every move. She started the process directly from the raw milk that was delivered to our door every morning by the milkman. Upon receipt, the milk was boiled at medium heat and then let cool. My favorite part was the thick, creamy layer of skin that formed on the cooling surface of the milk but, instead of giving me a taste, my mom would store it in a separate covered bowl.
Once the bowl was all filled up or when she planned to make some poori she would pour all the saved cream from the bowl into a wide mouthed glass bottle along with some filtered water.
I fondly remember the fun part of making ghee was watching her vigorously shake the closed bottle. After some time, the butter separated from the liquid part and floated to the top. It all seemed magical at that time.
She then heated the fresh yellow butter until all the solids melted and produced the golden ghee – the fruit of our shared effort of making it. Of course my part of the effort was just looking over her shoulder. I always appreciated my Mom’s lovely creation, but what excited me more was the thought of that night’s dinner with large, puffy, deep-fried bread – a family favorite.
I still enjoy making ghee myself and remember all those happy times I spent with my Mom working in the kitchen. I agree that it’s a little more work than necessary but I can tell you that it’s totally worth it.
Now it’s your turn!
If you want to start the process from scratch, you’ll have to collect the cream from the milk. This is not quite possible since supermarket milk is pasteurized and homogenized so that the large fat globules of milk are broken into very tiny molecules that hardly float to the top of the heated milk. To really get some good cream, you will want to find a source of raw milk from local farms. Because the majority of us do not have this privilege, grass-fed cream or butter will also work.
The two stages from where you can start making ghee are:
1. From Cream: Agitate the cream vigorously to separate the fat from the remaining liquid part, known as buttermilk.
2. From Butter: Simply heat the butter until the point when the milk solids separate to yield a clear, gold-colored product called ghee.
First we'll talk about stage 1 - from cream. To agitate the cream, you can use a simple glass bottle with a tight fitting lid, as my Mom was using, or you can also use a blender or mixer, for convenience.
I always use the glass bottle method since I usually do not make ghee from a very large amount of either cream or butter and therefore the glass bottle is sufficient to separate the butter. If you want to use a mixer, then you’ll have to experiment to find the best way for making butter from the cream.
• Put a pint of heavy whipping cream into the device you would like to use and start shaking it vigorously. At first, the cream will form peaks - from soft peaks to stiff peaks - after which it will break and the fat will separate from the liquid part.
• Continue agitating the contents for some more time in order to pull all the butter globules to collect as a single blob.
Do not discard the liquid part - this is buttermilk, which you can save to use in your favorite recipes. Strain the buttermilk into a clean glass bottle.
• Collect the butter in a small bowl and wash it under tap water couple of times until clear water comes out. It is important to remove any buttermilk that may remain in the butter.
Now you have old-fashioned butter! You can stop here if you want to make only homemade butter. At this stage, you can add salt and herbs to flavor it.
But if you want ghee then proceed to the following step.
This is where stage 2 starts – If you have store-bought butter, start here!
• Place the butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring it to a boil (this will take about 2-3 minutes). Once the butter starts to boil and sputter, lower the heat to medium and let the butter simmer. You will see white foam forming on the surface of the liquid butter. Do not try to remove the foam. You will see the foam slowly start to disappear after a while and the butter underneath should be bubbling.
• Continue simmering the butter. You will start getting a pleasant, mild, roast aroma and you will see the foam reappearing on the surface. This means that your ghee is just about ready.
• At this time, if you try to push the foam to the side with a metal spoon you will see the liquid butter has changed its color to a light golden brown and the milk solids are brown and settling at the bottom of the saucepan.
Turn off the heat and remove the saucepan from the stove and let it cool.
• After a few minutes, gently pour the ghee through a fine muslin cloth to trap all of the brown milk solids.
You can also use a fine mesh strainer but some brown bits of milk solids might escape through the mesh and settle at the bottom of the glass bottle where you will store the ghee. This won’t really affect the taste of the ghee. Discard the brown milk solids in the muslin/strainer.
• Let the ghee cool at room temperature until it is solid and slightly deep gold in color. Ghee can be stored at room temperature for a couple of months.
How To Use Ghee
If you are thinking that ghee can only be used to make Indian food, you are missing out! Ghee is a versatile fat and it’s flavorful, but less than coconut oil or other animal fats like duck fat or tallow. The following is a list of many ways you can incorporate this healthy and delicious fat into your daily diet:
· Spread on toast as an alternative to butter
· Melt it and pour over grilled fish or scallops, or use it as a dip for lobster or crab legs
· Use it to stir-fry your favorite foods
· Use it to replace oil while making homemade mayonnaise
· Use it to cook your morning eggs and sausage
· Spread it on warm tortilla to make tacos or burritos
· Pour melted ghee on bean soup
· Use it to make fried rice or rice pilaf
Dr. Gayatri Borthakur, a nutritionist turned entrepreneur, has a PhD in nutrition and a passion for delicious but healthy foods.