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According to On Food and Cooking by Harold McGee (2004), Ghee was developed in India as a clarified oil from cultured buffalo milk. The unpasteurized milk was allowed to sour into yogurt and was churned into cultured butter, from which the Ghee was made. This Ghee would keep for 6 to 8 months! Unfortunately, most of us do not have access to raw milk and cultured butter, which improves the shelf life and flavor of Ghee. But we can make a healthy equivalent using regular store-bought butter (FYI: if you want to make your own cultured butter from a pasteurized product, you have to start with pure cream that has been cultured using lacto-bacteria: yogurt made from whole milk will only yield 1 or 2 TBSP of butter per cup)
Butter is heated in a pan to a gentle simmer to change its chemical composition; whey separates from the milk fat and forms frothy foam on the surface, water evaporates out of the melted butter, and the milk solids (casein) caramelize on the bottom of the pan. The whey froth is removed and can be reused as a spread; the milk solids are filtered out of the clarified butter-oil, the Ghee, using a coffee filter and can be reused to make Indian sweets. The method below makes approximately 6oz. of Ghee; you can easily increase the butter and salt to make as much as you need. A whole pound of butter (4 “sticks” of conventional store-bought butters) will make 12 oz. of Ghee. Ghee from pasteurized butter should last a few weeks on the counter at room temperature IF it is free of contaminants. To be on the safe side, store in the ‘fridge and let it soften on the counter prior to cooking.
- Metal spoon
- Small glass container (e.g. washed & dried yeast jar) or saucer
- Small cup
- Metal-mesh colander or sieve
- Unbleached basket Coffee filter
- Deep glass bowl or measuring jug
- Small glass jar (1 cup)
- 1/2 cup Unsalted butter (organic is better, raw/cultured from spring milk is best)
- 1/8 tsp Real Salt
- In a clean saucepan, gently simmer butter at a medium-low to medium heat; enough to make it bubble, but not to brown.
- As the white whey-froth foams to the surface, carefully skim it off using a metal spoon. Be careful not to scoop up the melted butter oil (milk fat). All the foam should rise to the surface within a few minutes; skim as much as you can until the surface of the milk fat is clean. Put the whey foam in a small glass jar or saucer and store in the ‘fridge to use as spread.
- Once the surface of the milk fat is clear, add the salt. Watch the water bubble up to the surface and with it, extra foam. Skim this foam into a small cup and discard. I’m not sure what it is, but it has a different consistency than the whey-foam and only comes up after the salt is added; I’m guessing it is a by-product of salting and may not be useful for anything. In general, foams like this should be removed from stocks and other boiled dishes (they are little bits of things we can’t digest: impurities, if you will) so I think it wise to follow the same skim-and-dump principle here.
- The milk fat should be getting clearer and clearer as the casein settles out; there should be little caramel-brown granules on the bottom of the pan. This is going to be harder to see in a pan with a black, non-stick coating (stainless without a non-stick coating is best). When the liquid stops giving off tiny water bubbles and is relatively still (don’t let the casein turn dark brown or black), remove the pan from the heat.
- Place the unbleached coffee filter in the metal-mesh sieve over the tall glass bowl or measuring cup. Gently pour the contents of the pan into the coffee filter, being careful not to splash or burn yourself. If you are making a large batch, you may need to filter in two batches using the same equipment but with a new unbleached coffee filter.
- Slowly empty the contents of the bowl or jug into a small glass jar. You should have a clear, amber liquid without little bits in that will turn opaque as it cools. Use for sauteing and other MEDIUM-HIGH HEAT applications. I used mine for some popcorn, but I could tell it had gone past its smoke point (there’s a mild, almost undetectable acrid smell in the background if you are as sensitive to smells as I am). Popcorn cooks at 450F, so you can try some of the Spectrum oils recommended here. Ghee is good UP TO 400F.