Pronounced with a hard “g” and a long “e”, ghee is a type of butter that is used in traditional Indian cooking. The butter is clarified, meaning the water and milk solids have been boiled off.
Ghee has a strong, almost nutty, taste that is definitely similar to that of typical butter, but with more of a rich taste and less of a creamy consistency.
I first heard of ghee when Lilavati recommended that I start using it in my cooking. Being the spiritual, ayurvedic goddess of a woman she is, I was immediately interested. And when healthnut/cooking guru FP Naomi told me she cooks with it as well, I was in.
You can use ghee the same way you’d use regular butter: in your cooking, on your morning toast… just remember that it isn’t any lower in fat, so be sure to use sparingly. :)
But why choose ghee over regular butter, you ask? Well…
1. Since it’s clarified, ghee is free of casein and other milk solids, making it a great choice to those who may be otherwise intolerant to butter.
2. In Ayurveda, ghee is considered the best form of oil. It’s thought to be beneficial to the entire body — it lubricates the connective tissues and promotes flexibility (great for yoga), treats different problems that stem from the Pitta dosha (like inflammation), strengthens the immune system, and helps increase memory and intelligence overall.
3. Ghee is an especially excellent option for those suffering from digestive issues such as ulcers or acid reflux. It helps increase the production of acid in the stomach, while also aiding in the absorption of nutrients.
4. When used for cooking, ghee offers up an incredible amount of flavor. It also has a higher smoke point than butter, so you can feel comfortable using it to cook at higher temperatures.
5. As long as it steers clear of water, ghee does not need to be refrigerated. You can store it in a covered glass container (like a mason jar), unrefrigerated, for up to 6 months — although if you put it in the refrigerator, it’ll stay fresh for twice as long! :)
How to make ghee:
In making your own ghee, the most important thing is to use the highest quality butter you can find. Make sure it’s organic — and unsalted is best.
Melt a pound* of butter in a deep stainless steel pan on very low heat. High heat will burn the butter, and you don’t want that! You can use a double broiler, as well.
After the butter melts, continue to let it heat on low. Allow it to come to a rolling boil, and let it remain that way for about 30 minutes (making sure it does not begin to burn).
You will see the butter separate into 3 layers:
1. Foam (top)
2. Liquid (middle)
3. Milk solids (bottom)
Keep a close watch as the butter continues to boil. When the milk solids turn light brown, and the liquid becomes golden and translucent, your ghee is ready. You will also notice a rich, popcorn-like aroma in the air. Quickly remove from heat. Pour the liquid over a fine mesh strainer into a glass container. Discard what is caught in the strainer.
Allow this to sit out for a few hours until it becomes solid. Then cover and store.
*1 pound of butter will yield about 1 1/2 cups of ghee.
Have you ever tried ghee? What do you think of it?
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