Butter

So you miss the butter, eh? Well here is the good news:  you can use its better looking cousin, Ghee.

Ghee is a Sanskrit word for clarified butter, an ingredient used primarily in Indian cuisine. Because the preparation of ghee involves clarifying butter with prolonged heat, it has a distinctive toasted flavor, often described as nutty or toffee-like.  Before the advent of commercial vegetable oils, ghee was widely used for deep-frying.

Ghee is most notably said to stimulate the secretion of stomach acids to help with digestion, while other fats, such as traditional butter and other oils, slow down the digestive process and can sit heavy in the stomach. Ghee is rich with antioxidants and acts as an aid in the absorption of vitamins and minerals from other foods, serving to strengthen the immune system. Ghee is also good for nerves and brain.

Making ghee involves melting butter without stirring it, which allows it to separate into 3 layers. The top foamy layer is whey protein. Under the whey is the butter fat and the casein protein sinks to the bottom.  Essentially, ghee is pure butter fat. Since, ghee does not contain casein, it is perfect for use in a casein-free diet.

Ghee is an excellent substitute in recipes that use butter.  It works well in baked goods. Ghee also has a high smoke point so it does not burn easily  and works well with pan-frying and other cooking methods that require higher heat.

Use ghee in place of butter and other “butter spreads” for a much more nutrient dense condiment.  Because one of the things that make regular butter taste so good is salt (and ghee is salt-free), consider adding a small sprinkle of salt to your ghee spread to mimic the salty taste of butter.

Because ghee has a slightly stronger flavor than butter, some children may notice the difference. If yours do, try softening ghee and mixing it with 50% coconut oil (refined coconut oil is flavorless)—and add a pinch of salt. Another option is to add of honey to the ghee and serve as a spread.

Prepared ghee can be found in the Ethnic Foods section of well-stocked grocery stores and at many Asian markets.  As long as ghee is stored in air-tight containers, it does not spoil easily. When buying ghee in the store, choose a brand that uses butter from grass-fed animals.

You can make your own high quality, nutritious ghee by using unsalted, cultured butter from organic, grass-fed sources.  There are many videos online that demonstrate how to make ghee. Making your own is less expensive than purchasing it. Feeling domestic? Here is how to make ghee at home:

What you will need

1 pound unsalted butter from grass-fed animals

strainer

cheese cloth

bowls or large measuring cups

sauce pan

Instructions

  1. Cut the butter into chunks and place them in the sauce pan.
  2. Heat on low until the butter is melted and bubbly. Do not stir! Whey will float to the top and be foamy. Casein will sink to the bottom of the pot.
  3. Use a large spoon to skim the whey off the top. You don’t have to worry about getting all of it, just get most of it.
  4. Once the butter is melted, has bubbled and foam is no longer rising, you are ready to strain it as clarified butter.
  5. If making ghee, continue heating it until the butter turns a golden brownish color and smells like toffee.
  6. Place multiple layers of cheesecloth into a wire strainer (not a colander) and set the strainer over a bowl.
  7. Using a 4 cup glass measuring cup, carefully pour the butter into the strainer, holding back any solid stuff you see at the bottom.

The goal is to leave the casein in the bottom of the sauce pan and only pour the butter fat through the strainer.  The strainer and cheesecloth are there to catch the little bit extra whey and casein that might float around.

Some people only strain it once but strain as often as you needed to make sure all the casein is removed. Keep in mind that the more you strain, the less volume you will end up with.

When done straining, pour the ghee into a container and refrigerate for use.

Note: some people use a gravy or fat separator to strain the ghee.

Have you made ghee? How did it go?

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