Sunday, May 30, 2010

DIY interlude: ghee

Two years ago I was turned on to the excellent cooking properties of ghee, sometimes called clarified butter (though there is an argument that they are different which we'll leave aside for now). Suffice to say, it's excellent for frying eggs, it's an essential ingredient in Indian pastry, and it can pretty much be used anywhere vegetable oil is called for. It's a natural product (made from cow's milk), unlike vegetable oil which is made from the laborious chemical extraction of the inedible parts of corn and soy, and it tolerates high heat very well without smoking.

However, it's not that cheap to purchase. Here's a table of various outlets and their prices.
Organic ghee at King Arthur Flour $14.95/13oz
Organic ghee at Country Sun Palo Alto $22.99/16oz
Non-organic ghee at Vic's Berkeley $5.99/14oz

I can buy organic unsalted butter at Trader Joes for $4.79/16oz. In one hour and fifteen minutes, I can convert that to 13oz of ghee using the instructions at this YouTube video by David Bruce Hughes.

Since one hour and fifteen minutes fits just inside Viola's afternoon nap schedule, I made ghee the other day from 48oz of butter. It resulted it 40oz of ghee, and the leftover 8oz of milk solids are great additions to any soup where fat is called for (pork fat, duck fat, baby fat, no j/k on the last one, I hope). Freeze the milk solids, don't refrigerate. Learned that one by experience. Ghee can be refrigerated indefinitely.

And it's easy! If you don't have time to watch the video (it's a funny video, a topless white fat man with vedic bling making ghee in Santiago, Chile. He's great!), here's the run down:

Need:
16-N oz. of organic unsalted butter
Two pots, each large enough to hold your butter
laddle
wooden spoon with a flat edge
sieve
enough mason jars to hold your ghee and solids

Do:
1) Put your unsalted organic butter in a pot and slowly melt it over low/medium heat, stirring occasionally.
2) Once it's melted, turn the heat up to medium so that butter simmers (don't let it rapid boil! Slow boil OK). White bits will start coming out of solution and float to the top. When enough collect, skim them with a laddle and put them in their own jar. These are the solids.
3) Eventually, very few solids will come out of solution, and the butter will start to clear up (it happens quite quickly, but if the heat is low enough, you won't burn the butter if you miss it). Lower the heat and transfer the butter through the sieve into the second pot. The sieve will collect a few of the larger solids.
4) Put the the second pot on medium heat. While it comes up to temperature, quickly clean the first pot and the sieve. Dry them well, and keep them at the ready.
5) The butter will start to "boil". That is, the water in the butter evaporates off. You want to get all the water out. You'll know when the water is all gone when a) the butter starts to smell like burnt nuts, and b) when you dip your wooden spoon in, it boils and the butter does not.
6) Before you burn the butter, quickly pour it back through the sieve into the first pot. Wash and dry the sieve one more time, then pour the ghee through the sieve into the clean jars.
7) Do not refrigerate until the ghee solidifies. It will be liquid on your counter for some time, even when it feels cool to the touch.
8) Refrigerate the ghee. If you're like me, you've just made 40oz of the stuff and that will last me many months. If you're not going to bake with the solids right away, put them in the freezer.

As a bonus, your kitchen will smell yummy for a couple of hours :-)

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