Ghee is one of those fats I had never heard of a year ago. Would you know ghee if you bumped into some on the street?
Ghee, pronounced with a hard “g” like “go” and a long “e” like “see”, is also called clarified butter, and it’s pure butterfat with the milk solids, impurities and any water removed. It has a couple advantages over using butter:
- Very high smoke point (400 degrees), so stable for high heat sautéing
- More easily digested for people with milk sensitivities, since the milk proteins are all removed
- Shelf stable and easy to use
What is Ghee?
Ghee is a traditional fat, also called “clarified butter”. It is the fat left in butter after the water and milk solids have been removed. It has a much higher smoke point (485 degrees) than butter and thus can be used for high-temp sauteeing and even deep drying. (If you’ve cooked butter too hot, you’ll see little spots of brown in it. Don’t ask me how I know that, I just do. 😉 That is the milk solids getting burnt. You can avoid that with ghee.) Since it is pure fat (and you thought butter already was, didn’t you?), ghee doesn’t spoil easily and its shelf life is about a year.
Jenny at The Nourished Kitchen has a great rundown at Ghee: A Wholesome Fat if you’re interested in more information.
I made ghee for the first time this week. You can buy it, but it’s considerably more expensive than butter. The process is fairly easy, although I made sure to complicate matters!
Most sources say to clarify at least a pound of butter at a time; I chose to use only two sticks in case I totally messed it up) and wasted the butter. This is why I advocate a baby steps approach, my friends!
Ultimately, I was successful in my little experiment and will work on using ghee over the coming week or two. If you’d like to try home-clarification of your butter, read on…
How to Make Ghee
Ghee is made by simply melting a bunch of butter, allowing it to boil (very gently) for a while to cook off the water and separate the milk solids and impurities. At the end of the cooking time, you’ll have three layers of “stuff” in your pan: milk solids at the bottom, impurities/foam at the top, and beautiful yellow ghee in the middle.
- Put your butter in the pan (Next time I will certainly clarify at least a pound of butter at a time. As long as you’re dirtying dishes, you might as well get a big result.)
- Melt over medium or so heat until liquid; continue to cook around medium-low. You need high enough heat to keep a little bubble action going, but not so high that you burn your milk solids straightaway.
- Cook for a spell, somewhere between 8 and 30 minutes, depending on your source.
- You know the ghee is done when three things happen: (1) the foaming decreases, (2) the milk solids at the bottom begin to turn brown (note: begin is the key word there) and (3) if you blow gently or push aside the foamy part, the middle layer is clear enough for you to see the bottom of the pan easily.
- This site told me to add 1/8 tsp of salt to help the solids move to the bottom better, but I forgot!
- Remove from heat and allow the finished ghee to cool slightly. Then you must begin the task of separating the three layers.
- I chose to skim off the top layer most of the way with a spoon. It seemed the option with the least margin for error in my book! I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that I can eat this part on toast, but I’m not certain so it’s sitting on a plate waiting for me to figure that out! (Then again, if this is the impurities, maybe I don’t want to be eating it. Hoping someone can help me update this section…)
- You can just pour the ghee off and avoid the milk solids at the bottom, but I figured I wouldn’t be able to get that part right, so I chose to filter the finished ghee through a coffee filter in a colander. Make sure you choose a big enough bowl to catch anything coming through the colander (see below for sad details).
- The brown stuff stays in the filter, and below you have gorgeous, golden ghee – see?
- Store your ghee in something you can leave on your counter (covered) for easy access while you cook. I chose a wide dish easy to scoop from so I don’t waste any ghee at the bottom.
How Much Ghee Comes from a Half-Pound of Butter?
I can’t tell you exactly how much ghee comes from two sticks of butter. I’m an impatient person. Waiting for the ghee to drain through the coffee filter was too much for me. I didn’t think it would happen, so I started trying to hurry along the process, and in so doing I spilled a bunch of my ghee on the counter. Sheesh.
Did I scoop it up with a spoon and put it back in my ghee-bowl? Uh, yeah. I’m too frugal to waste and too proud to lose out on the work I did. And crazy. Have I mentioned I’m slightly crazy? I read somewhere that you lose about 25% of the butter in the ghee-ing process, so that would leave ¾ cup of ghee from a cup of butter. That looks about right with what I have left!
I was telling my husband that my afternoon had been rocky because I lost some of my ghee. He looked at me funny and quipped, “Are you okay?” He’s never heard of ghee before!
How to Use Ghee
Basically, you can use ghee just like butter, but with less fear of smoking out in your pan and a richer flavor. Mainly for sautéing, you can also put it on your toast or add it to cooked dishes for flavor and mouthfeel.
Who’s trying ghee next week? (Just don’t lose yours.)
The very week after I made ghee I opened it up and noticed some fuzz growing right where I had scooped some out. 🙁 I am my father’s daughter – he eats green baloney and just trims off the green – so I threw the fuzz away and used it to saute.
But this is really too much to scrape off.
I’m devastated! One of the selling points of ghee is its shelf life. Something has gone wrong.
I posed the question during a #realfood Twitter chat and got some good advice and sympathy.
Some ghee troubleshooting:
- ALL the moisture needs to be boiled off. Maybe I didn’t boil it long enough?
- Separate the layers well: @lactoferment told me “nothing left on top, nothing on the bottom.” I’m guessing I wasn’t very careful about getting every last bit of “top” and “bottom” out.
- Storage should be in a not-so-humid area. (Mine was stored near the stove…?)
- Annnnnnnnd….it finally hit me that perhaps this caused some impurities to be introduced into my ghee:
Duh. What kind of a fool scrapes something off her possibly-not perfectly-clean counter to store at room temperature? *blush* I’ll definitely be trying ghee again sometime soon and making it work!
It’s humbling to be in a state of constant learning. Some days I just have to serve spaghetti so I can do something simple and be sure to get it “right”. 🙂
By the way, I used these sites to help me figure out the system:
- The Nourishing Gourmet’s Making Ghee
- Aayi’s Recipes How to Make Ghee
- A Life(Time) of Cooking Ghee Whiz! How to Make Ghee
Lots more on fascinating (and fear-inducing) fats at the Fat Full Fall!
I’m linked into: