Making Ghee

from Janice Welch

For those of you aware of casein-free diets, you are probably also quite familiar with ghee. Ghee is butter that has been clarified by heating the butter and separating the milk solids from the oil, hence removing the casein and lactose from the finished product. Ghee is wonderful for baking, frying and using to season vegetables. It is also wonderful because it contains fatty acids that are beneficial to the brain.

Okay, so what is the problem with ghee? Mainly, that if it’s good quality, it is very expensive (13 ounces of organic ghee is $9.99).

I tried many times to clarify butter (which is in fact a very simple procedure), but in my zealousness to obtain a casein-free product, I became obsessed with different ways of trying to remove everything I thought could be a milk solid, and the result was usually disaster.

My allies in the fight to cure my son Nathan (my sister and parents) always keep me well-informed on cooking tips that they catch off the Food Network. One such idea was about an easy way to clarify butter. Simply add water to the separated butter and chill. The oil and water theory kicks in and you’re left with a water layer between your solids and your oil. Another idea was to chill the whole thing after separating, pop it out, and scrape off the unwanted layers.

These are probably both adequate and easy ways to clarify butter if you are just using it for culinary purposes. But they are not satisfactory if you are a mother that is a little bit nutty when it comes to dietary infractions (here I am merely speaking of myself!).

With that being said, and with the amount of ghee that we use around my house, I set out to make the most straightforward and pure clarified butter I could. It turns out that the easiest way to do it is also the one most frequently listed under culinary techniques. I have just added an extra step to appease my ever-worrying mind.

Here’s how to do it:

Melt 3 to 4 sticks of organic or a hormone-free unsalted butter (Whole Foods 365 brands are the least expensive at $3.99 and $3.49 a pound respectively) on low heat in a small stainless steel pan. There will be a thick white layer of butterfat that appears on the top.

Skim the white parts off as it simmers on VERY LOW heat (too high a temperature will brown the milky solids, which may be okay for Indian cuisine, but it is not okay for putting on broccoli or making cookies!). The white parts may fall as they are disturbed by your skimming but as it settles, they will rise again and you can skim them off.

Once you have taken off all of the white foam, remove from the heat and let it sit for a few minutes.

Slowly pour off the clear yellow liquid into another small stainless steel pan, taking care not to mix up the milky solids that have settled on the bottom.

Pour off as much as you can without getting any of the milky solids, which are then discarded.

Here is the extra step. Once again over VERY LOW heat, warm up the pan with the clarified butter. If you have missed any of the white gunk on the top, you can easily take it off now. The butter should be clear and as it warms only clear small bubbles will appear on the surface. Remove from heat and let it cool a few minutes.

It is now time to pour it off again. If you have left any gunk at the bottom it will once again be evident as you pour it off.

Pour into a glass storage container. (I keep mine in the refrigerator, it may not be necessary but it makes me feel better)

A word of caution: I prepared the ghee using a gas range and was able to set the heat VERY LOW. I am not sure how low a heat setting can be achieved on an electric range. A heat diffuser ring from the cooking store might help with the heat.

Ghee will keep for quite a while, so don’t worry about making a large amount (three to four sticks) at a time. You can do less, but it gets a bit tricky when pouring it off.

The extra warming step may become totally unnecessary as you do it more times. Or it is already totally unnecessary if you are not worried about tiny amounts of casein.

So, two pounds of butter later, I am quite pleased with the result. So pleased that Nathan sat down to his nightly cauliflower topped with homemade ghee. He loved it.

Savings on a 13 oz. bottle of ghee: $6.50. Not having to run to the health food store for my ghee (I don’t have one very conveniently located): priceless!

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