Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Ghee (Fragrant Clarified Butter)

Ghee is the invention of some clever ancient housewife who figured out a simple way to preserve butter. Ghee is simply the rendered milk fat minus the moisture or the milk solids; the added bonus is that ghee does not need any refrigeration. With its browned buttery and nutty flavor, ghee is wonderful to have on hand to add flavor to many dishes from steamed vegetables or toast to complex curries. Rasam, Sambar, Dal, etc. get an extra boost of flavor when the tadka/thalippu for them is made with ghee; and It is used in Middle Eastern and some African cuisines also.

Although one can buy ghee at the Indian markets, the flavor of homemade ghee is incomparable! It is deceptively simple to make; it doesn't require undue attention and I usually make it while preparing dinner or am otherwise busy in the kitchen. I like to make small fresh batches so generally use no more than one pound of butter at a time.


1 lb Unsalted Butter


Heat the butter in a 2 qt pan on low heat. I prefer low heat so that I don't have to watch it constantly. Just peek at it once in a while to make sure it is cooking slowly and not boiling over. Let the butter melt, simmer, and bubble. Just let it be. After about 10 minutes, tip the pan just a little to check the sediment on the bottom of the pan; when it starts getting pinkish, remove from heat. The ghee will continue to cook just a bit more before it starts cooling. Cool until lukewarm and strain through a fine strainer into a clean, dry glass jar. You will have about 12 ounces of ghee. When cool, the ghee will solidify somewhat. Cover and keep in a cool, dry place.

Caveat: always use a clean, dry spoon to remove what you need and keep the rest covered to prolong its life and keep it fresh.

We love the fresh flavor of new ghee on hot rice, Indian breads like chapatis or rotis, parathas, adais and dosa.

Don't throw away the sediments left in the pot and strainer. Amma used to mix it with hot rice with a little salt and pepper and divvy it among all of us children - mmm, what a yummy treat! It is also delicious mixed with rice and simple dal. I often make rasam, simple dal, or sambar etc in the ghee pot or heat up soup and mix in all/some of the sediments. Perhaps you might find your own special way to use it :).

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