Ghee is an integral part of Iyengar cooking and a must have in most Brahmin kitchens. In fact, a traditional meal when served, does not get a go ahead to be eaten until ghee is drizzled over.
Ghee has more of a sacred role in the Brahmin culture than that of a mere food flavor enhancer. It is an unsurpassed choice for lighting lamps used in worshiping and any food offering to God is always sprinkled with Ghee. It is even considered as a sattvic food to nourish the spiritual soul.
The best ghee it seems, is known to be made from a free-range grass-fed cow’s milk. I have had enough and more of my fair share of Ghee having grown up on a daily potion of it. Ghee that smells, tastes as well as is good for you is really hard to find in stores. So, I always swear by home-made Ghee, a purist’s dream come true.
Ghee is most often passed off as clarified butter. I do not want to get into an argument over it, instead, I will say this for sure. Ghee is far superior than butter in many aspects. Unlike butter, Ghee can be heated to higher temperatures without burning. Characterized by it’s clear golden-yellow color and a signature aroma, when used in cooking, it adds an unparalleled flavor and taste to whatever dish it is in. It has a wide range of uses in Indian cooking like sautéing, tempering, making sweets or quite simply drizzled over a wide variety of food Rice or Chapati, Naan or Roti and many more.
Ghee alongside butter has received a lot of bad press in the recent years because of it’s perceived saturated fat content. However, as per Ayurveda, Ghee is believed to have superior medicinal properties and is considered as brain food, a good information source is here.
Ghee making in itself is as much satisfying as eating it, especially when the mellow aroma of the simmering Ghee fills your kitchen. Once you start relishing your favorite dishes with Ghee, there’s no looking back. Mavilakku, Tasty Vegetable Pongal, Obbattu are a few of my recipes that have Ghee in them.
So, what say? Ready for Glee..err Ghee?
Things you’ll need:
I prefer Organic Butter as it is free of rBST and additives including natural flavors and with it is the closest we can get to make pure Ghee.
- 16 oz Unsalted Butter
- Thick bottom medium saucepan (I prefer stainless steel)
- Clean dry ladle
- Clean glass jar with airtight lid
- Tea strainer
How it’s done:
There are two ways to do this on the stove top:
As the butter boils and simmers, repeatedly skim the milk solids into a separate bowl until all the solids are ladled out. This way, the milk solids are not allowed to settle at the bottom and hence, there is no chance of milk solids burning.
Let the butter do all the work boiling and simmering; water evaporates out and eventually, the milk solids become heavier and sink to the bottom. Let cool, strain thereafter and store for later use.
I have made Ghee with both the methods. I chose to explain the latter, as we can get the same end result with much less work on our part. Who does not want a shortcut, right? Well, it sure needs you to keep a watch as most of the cues are visual. So, keep your eyes peeled and never leave sight of the boiling butter.
A little patience goes a long way in Ghee making. So hang on.
Unwrap and place the butter sticks in a clean thick bottom saucepan over medium heat. Do not let the saucepan heat up before placing the butter sticks, as the butter burns before melting and ruins the taste of the end product.
Let all of the butter melt in the pot. It is important to not cover the pot throughout the ghee making process as the water content in the butter needs to evaporate. At this point, the lighter mixture of milk solids combined water globules float to form an off white layer at the top.
Over medium heat, let the melted butter slowly come to a boil. Do not increase the flame/heat beyond medium at any point.
As the butter boils and water content evaporates, the soft milk solids start to dis-integrate.
As the milk solids separate out, more of the yellow fat portion is visible now.
Brace yourself, ‘cos the boiling butter can get violently noisy and the bubbles might even start bursting out a few times. There’s no need to fear though. Reduce the flame/heat a bit and here on, stir every now and then with a clean dry ladle to keep the solids from sticking to the bottom.
Soon, all the water has evaporated and big foamy bubbles start to form at the top.
Notice how the big foamy bubbles cover the entire top surface. Now is the time to reduce the flame/ heat further and let simmer.
From here onwards, changes are quick and fast, so stay right here. Notice how the big foamy bubbles give way to a large number of frothy little ones.
Reduce the flame further to the minimum possible setting. If your’s is an electrical stove like mine, switch off now. The top layer is frothy white and the milk solids have browned, shrunk and settled at the bottom of the pot by now.
Switch off the stove (gas stove). The thick bottom of the saucepan retains enough heat for the cooking to continue through the last couple of stages before Ghee is ready.
Clear golden-yellow liquid with a little bit of foam floating around is a tell-tale sign that we are almost there. It is near sunset yellow in the picture because of the brown solids at the bottom. Be very careful to not burn the solids sticking to the bottom. Burnt solids totally ruin the aroma of Ghee and render it distasteful while all the patience shown so far will go down the dumps.
Keep aside and allow to cool. Do not cover the pot until cooled completely. When cooled, strain into a clean dry glass jar and cover with an airtight lid. Ghee turns rancid when exposed to oxygen in the air.
Ghee can be stored on the kitchen counter at room temperature, it should not be refrigerated. When ladling out, make sure that the spoon is not wet, as moisture is detrimental to the Ghee.
Though a liquid when made, Ghee settles to a more natural semi-solid state.
Here are a few home remedial uses for Ghee:
- A few drops of Ghee trickled down the nostrils is believed to heal nose bleeds
- A drop of Ghee is excellent to alleviate chapped lips
- 1/2 a tsp of sugar rolled into a ball with a few drops of Ghee is believed to soothe a sore throat.
- A tsp of Ghee, a tsp of sugar, pinch of turmeric and a pinch of ground black pepper blended into hot milk is believed to bring relief to dry cough
- Make use of the left-over Ghee in the pot, before putting it away for wash. A few ideas but not limited to, include rinsing the pot with hot Rasam or scooping a ladle of rice into the pot and swishing it all around to coat all the ghee.
- A betel leaf dropped into the Ghee at the end imparts a refreshing flavor to the Ghee. This was done in my granddad’s place in earlier days.