Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ghee Making

As a person who rather enjoys good food and cooking, I've had a few worries about preparing food on the road - largely revolving around how to carry butter or cooking oil. Butters spoils too quickly unprotected from the head, vegetable oil is not economical to carry.

I had imagined shortening to be the best compromise, as it is relatively cheap, light, and travels well. Of course, it's also considered to be a pretty shoddy thing to be consuming on a daily basis. Fortunately, while reading about what a unpleasant substance shortening is, I came across a mention of ghee.

Melting butter for ghee

I'd heard of ghee before, and vaguely knew what it was. What I learned was that it, and it's close relative, clarified butter, do not require refrigeration, and in cool, stable conditions can last several months. I would therefore assume that under less ideal conditions, it would still last well past long enough to be eaten.

Spitting, hissing butter-froth.

Making good news better, ghee is simple to make. It requires nothing but unsalted butter, a steady heat source, a deep pot, and a filter of some sort. I made it over the stove today, but with careful observation it could be done over hot embers in a fire pit.

With the upper layer of froth skimmed off, the slightly browned milk solids and golden ghee are visible.

The solids are removed by use of a coffee filtered placed in a colander.

It remains to be seen if I hit the sweet spot between "too much water content" and "burned butter" correctly. I divided the final product into two jars - one to use, the other to set near my heater, which I will observe over the next few months. If it turns all fuzzy, I'll have to amend this entry, but I'm feeling rather optimistic that I got it right.

Ghee, freshly strained and still in liquid form.


Materials needed:
Unsalted butter(Organic if available), a deep pot, coffee filters or cheesecloth, and some means of securing it over the container for the finished ghee.
  • Make sure the pot, jar, and any utensils which will come into contact with the butter or finished ghee are completely dry.
  • Melt butter over low heat.
  • Once melted, the butter will begin to hiss, splutter, and form a thick white froth. Maintain the heat so that it simmers steadily. Keep the bubbles small.
  • Depending on the heat and thickness of the pot, the butter will continue to foam for 30 to 45 minutes. Small nuggets of milk solids will form at the bottom later, visible if the foam is pushed aside.
  • Watch and listen closely. The bubbling and foaming will lessen, the audible sizzling will become irregular, and the milk solids may turn golden brown. When any of these occur, remove from heat and cool for a few minutes. Between the solids and foam, the ghee should be clear golden.
  • Skim as much of the foam as possible off the top. Pour the remaining liquid through your filter. It may be necessary to replace the filter, or rewarm the ghee if it stops dripping, so don't wash your pot until completely finished.
Note: to make clarified butter, which retains a more buttery flavour but does not keep as long, you would have stopped simmering the butter at an earlier stage and left more water content.

Update: After weeks of being stored next to my heater, the clear glass jar of ghee shows no signs of spoiling. I'm therefore going to declare it "good enough", and use it to saute some taters.

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