This is jar of freshly stained homemade ghee – pronounced GEE. It’s clarified butter pushed to the edge. Done right, it will reward you with golden brown, nutty goodness. Done wrong? Both you and the butter will end up weeping into the compostable waste bin. But don’t be intimidated. Homemade ghee just requires a keen eye and a firm hand.
Ease into things by melting unsalted butter slowly on the stove until it reaches the familiar, sunny, clarified butter stage. You should be thinking of lobster tails and lemon edges. But hold fast. Now the real work begins. Don’t pull the pan from the heat. Leave it there and make it work. It will splutter and get all emo, but it’s just playing you. It can take more. Really.
The milk solids will sink to the bottom and the water content will evaporate into the air around you. Hang tough. It’s just seeing what you’re made of. Pusher a bit more. Until the water’s all gone, the bottom of the pan is flecked with brown bits and the ghee smells irresistibly nutty. Then strain it and give it an Atta Boy.
Call it Boot Camp for Butter, but the extra time in the pan toughens the dairy up. Takes it to a new level. Having survived this rigorous workout, the former butter has earned the right to be called “ghee.” And you will be rewarded for your fair but firm enforcement. Ghee lasts longer than wimpy old regular butter, has a higher smoke point than its clarified counterpart and adds more flavour to anything you fry in it or pour it over. Although the treatment might seem harsh, when it comes to ghee, the end justifies the means.
Once the ghee has been strained and cooled, it turns solid but with a softer texture than butter that gives way to a knife or spoon with ease.
Why Homemade Ghee?
You can pay a lot of money for ghee from the specialty shop. But homemade ghee is easy to make and costs nothing but the price of unsalted butter and a half hour of your time — time you’re likely spending in the kitchen anyway. I make ghee while chicken stock simmers, rice cooks or sweet potatoes take their sweet time to roast. It needs your undivided attention only in the last few minutes, and even then it gives you warning. It’ll fall silent for the first time since boiled. When it stops complaining, you know it means business.
Since the whey has been strained out, ghee is a delicious alternative for some people with diary issues. It’s high smoke point means you can actually fry with it, making it a flavourful alternative to tasteless oils. And for those concerned about saturated fat, it’s highly flavorful so you don’t need a lot of it to make a difference to a dish. Fry with it, pour it over vegetables or just inhale the aroma.
Got some unsalted butter and a firm attitude? If so, do you have what it takes to make ghee? For those of you who make/use ghee, what do you use it for?
- 1lb unsalted butter (you can use any amount but less than 1 cup is a waste of time and effort)
- Melt the butter in a medium sized sauce pan with a heavy bottom. I like to use stainless steel so I can keep an eye on the colour. Over a medium heat, bring the butter to a gentle boil. Do not stir the butter throughout this process.
- The butter will foam up and sizzle. When this happens, turn the heat down but maintain a gentle sizzle. Continue to cook without stirring. It will be tempting to remove the foam, (see notes on clarified butter below) but let it fuss. Just allow the milk solids to float to the top and then sink.
- Continue cooking until the butter stops sizzling. This can take from 20 minutes to half an hour. When the sizzling stops this means all the water has cooked off. At this point, carefully watch the pot. The butter will now rapidly brown and — if you’re not careful — burn. The butter is ready to strain when it smells nutty, is very clear and turned a lovely amber. The pan should be lined with dark brown –not scorched — milk solids.
- Pour the ghee through a fine mesh sieve into a clean, dry, heatproof container. You can stain it through several layers of dampened cheesecloth, but that is extra work and I don’t find it makes that much difference in the end. If you use cheesecloth, be sure to dampened it so the ghee slides through.
- Ghee originated in India as a means of extending the shelf life of diary under hot conditions. Once cooled, ghee can be kept on the counter for up to 2 months. I have cats that won’t let a lid stand between it and butter anything, so I refrigerate mine. Refrigerated ghee should keep up to 6 months. Frozen ghee can keep for a year.
To make clarified butter, follow the same method except remove the milk solids that float to the top as you are cooking the butter. Strain as soon as the water is cooked off. You want the butter to be a bright, pure yellow, not browned.