I know that I’ve hated on homemade ghee in previous posts but you’ll have to forgive me, since I’ve finally seen the light. Some recipes online make it look WAY too complex and tricky to get just right. It took a little more in depth research about what actually happens when ghee is made and understanding what is necessary in the process to yield true ghee before realizing that the process need not be so complex.
If you are not familiar, ghee is made by heating butter (traditionally from cows, as in the following recipe) to the point where the milk solids (lactose, casein, whey protein) are separated from the butter fat. Water is also evaporated in the cooking process, which shrinks the overall volume of the liquid by an average of 15%. Although this number depends on the quality of butter you are using. Butter from free-range cows will generally yield a much lower water (aka “moisture”) content than butter from conventionally raised cows. See this informative chart if you’re curious about the water vs milkfat content of your butter.
Essentially, ghee is 100% milkfat, whereas butter is not because of the moisture and solids content.
So why does it matter whether we’re consuming just the milkfat or the other stuff, as well??
First: dairy allergies/intolerances. Most allergy panels are run using lactose, casein, and proteins as markers for “dairy.” When eliminating these from the butter, many people find that it no longer irritates their GI (caution: this many differ from individual to individual depending on the severity and /or type of allergy/intolerance).
Second: nutrient content. With increasing dairy intolerances among the population, especially considering the FDA has made it illegal to sell raw butter (pasteurization being one of the main causes for many dairy intolerances), ghee is a way to bring the nutrients of milkfat to more people. Milkfat is high in omega3 and omega9 fatty acids, and vitamins A, D, E, and K. It is also an excellent source of CLA’s (conjugated linoleic acid).
Third: smoke point. With a smoke point of about 485F (butter being at 375F due to the milk solids), ghee is more heat-stable and will also for high-heat cooking without oxidation.
Fourth: flavor. Less important but only slightly. 🙂 The flavor of butter is found in the fat. Think: buttered popcorn flavor but au natural. That’s what you’ll find when you make your own ghee. A delicious, rich, and nutty smoothness to add to your sautéing needs.
So onto the process.
(read through this before heading to the recipe!)
In my research, I found that if your oil is kept consistently at a low temperature for a long enough time, the milk solids will all have a chance to separate and fall to the bottom. A thermometer is not needed here, simply watch to make sure it’s never at a rolling boil (you’ll know because it will splatter A LOT), but simply a gentle simmer.
You’ll add the butter to a deep heavy pot, preferably one with great heat conduction. Optionally, you can add herbs or spices. I like to keep it simple with a few bay leaves for a savory richness. Bring the butter up to a simmer and turn the heat down slightly. Keep an eye on it because as the water evaporates, the heat will concentrate in the pot and can get hotter and hotter although kept at the same temp. After making it a time or two, you’ll find the right low temp on your stove to keep it at.
Allow it to run on a low simmer for 20-30 minutes. Do not worry about scraping the foam off in stages, as many recipes instruct. The foam is simply the milk solids collecting at the top. As the butter is heated, these solids will all toast up and fall to the bottom. Set a timer and work on something in the vicinity of your kitchen for the next 20 minutes. If the heat is at the proper low temp, there is no need to tend to or stir. Check back on the butter after the first 20 minutes and look at the color. You’ll notice in the above pictures, the butter is a brighter yellow color when first melted. Once it’s closer to completion, the color will darken slightly to a more golden yellow, as shown in the picture just below.
You’ll know your ghee is done when the liquid is golden, the dark milk solids have gathered at the bottom (also as shown just below), and most of the surface foam has dissipated. IF the foam isn’t gone completely, but the liquid is golden and the milk solids are dark and visible, turn the heat off! Scrape off whatever foam is left, as much as is possible. Cooking to get rid of ALL the foam can occasionally cause you to burn your ghee, which can make for a not-so-nice flavor. Scraping foam off at the end ensures you’ve removed whatever milk solids didn’t have a chance to toast and head to the bottom of the pan.
From this point, you’ll simply let the liquid cool (to at least body temperature) in the pan. Pour it through cheesecloth/paper towel/tea towel and a funnel into a glass jar. Seal it and keep it at room temperature for 3-6 months, or in the refrigerator for much longer.
Yields: approx 20 oz
1 lb grass-fed butter, salted or unsalted
2 bay leaves
Dry goods: cheesecloth, paper towel, or tea towel
a large funnel (for straining)
glass jar (for storing)
Melt the butter in a heavy bottom pot over medium heat. Add the bay leaves, if using, and bring the butter to a low simmer. Watch the butter for the next 5 minutes, or so, to be sure it maintains a low simmer (it should not be boiling) and lower the heat, if needed. Simmer on low for 20-30 minutes, no stirring or scraping needed.
Once the butter has darkened slightly to a rich golden color and the milk solids appear dark at the bottom of the pot, the ghee is ready. Scrape off any remaining foam and set the pot aside to cool.
Once cooled, strain the mixture through cloth and a funnel and into your glass jar for storage. Keep at room temperature for 3-6 months or in the refrigerator for longer.