Monday, July 10, 2006

making ghee

In general, I stay away from fried and oily foods - not because I'm watching my diet but because I just don't like them (there are exceptions, of course!). But I can't give up whole milk, or ghee. Eating hot chapatis with ghee on them is one of those pleasures that I'm not going to give up anytime soon.

Making ghee is not too difficult. The core process is as follows:

  1. Start with a few sticks of unsalted butter (assuming you're not using homemade butter!)
  2. Put it in a pot on medium heat but watch it carefully and stir it every now and then to make sure that the bottom doesn't burn. (I use a nonstick pot just in case)
  3. Once it begins to boil, you'll see a thick froth forming on top.
  4. My grandma told my mother to cook with her nose and not her eyes. Once the butter turns into ghee, you'll smell the unmistakable smell of ghee. If you don't smell it, or don't know what it smells like - don't worry. In addition to that fantastic smell, you see the froth will thin out a lot, and the liquid below it turn clear. That's the ghee. You will also see some grainy residue sitting at the bottom.
  5. Take it off the heat immediately and let it cool slightly. This is where you have to be watching it carefully. If you leave it on the heat too long, you'll burn the residue and all of the ghee will acquire a burnt taste.
  6. Carefully strain the liquid ghee into a jar while it's still warm (before it solidifies). I just use a metal tea strainer that looks something like this.
  7. Don't throw away the solid residue! It's edible and actually has a great (albeit maybe acquired) taste.
  8. To use up the residue and any ghee remaining in your pot, cook a cup or two of basmati rice in that pot. It'll taste fantastic!

It takes about 15-20 minutes from the time you put butter in a pot to when the ghee forms and as you can see, the recipe is quite straight forward.

That said, I think everyone has their secret mixins to make the ghee taste better. My mami (mom's brother's wife) puts in a Betel leaf for flavor, and some rock salt to make it more grainy when it cools (the opposite of 'grainy' ghee is 'waxy' ghee - not considered a good quality). My only mixin is a few cloves which help give it a nice color and subtle flavor.

If you have a special ghee recipe, I'd love for you to share by posting it in the comments below!

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