Ghee is an oil with a long, and fascinating history, it has been a staple in Indian cooking for centuries. Ghee is a remarkable staple for athletes, especially when combined with additional Omega-3 oils.
Ghee may be unfamiliar to many Westerners, but has been used for at least 2,000 years, and comes with a host of benefits listed in traditional Ayurvedic texts. Ayurveda (the ancient natural healing system of India) regards Ghee as a vital food for healthy skin, mental clarity, good digestion, medicinal and rejuvenal qualities…a food for balancing all body types. Ghee is a Sanskrit word for clarified butter. According to Ayurveda, Ghee is the best oil for cooking and is at the top of the oily foods list.
What is ghee? Dehydrated milk butter without its solids. Ghee is the purified essence of butter. It is traditionally prepared by gently heating butter until it becomes clear golden liquid. The lactose and other milk solids coagulate and are meticulously removed. What’s left of the butter is a clear golden liquid, with the solids settled at the bottom. This liquid is ghee.
This process also evaporates most of the natural water content, making ghee light, pure and resistant to spoilage. Ghee has a very high burning point and doesn’t burn or smoke during cooking. It combines well with a wide variety of spices, and provides an excellent aroma and nutty flavour.
It is important to use unsalted butter, available at most supermarkets. Raw unsalted butter ( made from unpasteurized cream) is best but this is difficult to obtain. Ghee is often called clarified butter, but this may be a misnomer. Ghee requires a longer cooking time and the foam which rises to the surface during the cooking process is not skimmed off as may be done when clarifying butter.
Modern science tells us that Ghee harbours phenolic antioxidants. Many believe it enhances the medicinal quality of the food. Ghee contains butyric acid, a fatty acid with antiviral and anticancer properties.
Ghee is 100% butter fat which is used in many oil therapies, healthy cooking and herb combinations. Ghee is salt and lactose free so it is beneficial for those who cannot drink milk or eat cheese. Ghee has approximately 14 grams of fat per tablespoon.
The butter you bring home from the store is 80% butterfat, 18% water, and 2% protein solids. Ghee does not require refrigeration. No cooking oil can match ghee for its pleasant taste and ease of digestion.
CLA (conjugated linolenic acid) is one of several components of Ghee. In resent studies it has been shown to slow the progress of some types of cancer and heart disease, and may also help to reduce body fat while increasing lean muscle mass.
Ghee imparts the benefits of fat without the problems of oxidized cholesterol, trans fatty acids or hydrogenated fats. It is also resistant to free radical damage. Although it is a source of easily digested saturated fat, Ghee is low in EFAs ( essential fatty acids) needed by the brain, therefore, when using Ghee, remember that you must supply your Omega-3’s from other nutritious oils.
Butter is usually packaged in foil to protect it from light, the absorption of odours, moisture loss, and discoloration. Butter may be stored in its original package in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 months. Butter can also be frozen, but it begins to lose some of its flavour after about 6 months. Ghee is traditionally kept, sometimes for months without refrigeration. In fact it is recorded to have kept well for 100 years.
Butter will eventually turn rancid if kept at room temperature ghee will not. It’s the moisture in the butter that promotes decay. Virtually moisture-free, ghee has no such problem. It will retain its original freshness and flavour for months, even without refrigeration. Ghee is a practical way to preserve butter.
Besides being a practical way to preserve butter, Ghee is a staple of Indian cooking like olive oil is to the Italian cuisine. Ghee is also used by the best French chefs.
Unsalted or sweet butter and cultured butter are not the same. Cultured butter has a strain of friendly bacteria added to it, similar to that in buttermilk, the result is a slight tartness. Salt is added to butter for some flavour but mostly as a preservative. Unsalted butter is widely available in grocery stores and is often called “sweet butter”.
WHAT IS CULTURED BUTTER?
In cultured butter, yeast is added to the cream to; make it ripen, giving the butter a distinct flavour. Cultured butter is perfect for spreading on toast, as well as for cooking and baking. It is available in both salted and unsalted form. Cultured butter is quite common in Europe, and is getting popular in Canada.
RECIPE FOR MAKING GHEE
Yields: 1 1/2 cups (375 ml)
Preparation Time: 1 hour
1 pound (450 grams) cultured unsalted butter
YOU WILL NEED:
4 cup (1 litre) Pyrex cup (clean and thoroughly dry)
Fine meshed sieve (strainer)
Glass jar with airtight lid (clean and thoroughly dry)
Place butter in a heavy saucepan.
Heat over medium-high heat until butter has melted and begins to boil.
When the surface of the butter is covered with a frothy white foam, reduce heat to a very low temperature. Simmer, uncovered and undisturbed, until the gelatinous protein solids have collected on the bottom of the pan, and a thin layer of pale golden, crusty solids has formed on the surface. This takes approximately 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
Pour ghee from saucepan through sieve into Pyrex cup, if there are any solids in the ghee, no matter how small, strain it again until it is perfectly clear. Wash strainer and dry thoroughly. Pour ghee from Pyrex cup through sieve into a clean, dry glass jar.
Be sure to cool the ghee to room temperature before covering with airtight lid. Ghee that is well purified, filtered, and properly stored will last for months in or out of the refrigerator.
Use as you would regular butter. Brush a layer on corn-on-the-cob or drop a dollop on top of any steamed vegetable. Pour into the hollow of a freshly baked potato or sauté with fish. Stir-fry, bake, sauté or spread-any which way you use it, ghee will find flavour with you. GHEE-LIOUS!!!
“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”