Ghee is the Sanskrit name for clarified butter which has been in use for many years in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisines.
Ghee is made of real butter, usually buffalo or cow’s milk, but it can be made from any other milk producing animal. The milk is churned into butter then cooked at medium to high temperatures.
The butter melts and begins to boil, releasing most of the moisture in the butter. Solid matter sinks to the bottom and the top becomes frothy with the evaporating water. A thick layer of fat forms in the middle – that is the ghee.
As the boiling process slows down and most of the moisture evaporated, the maker of the ghee will scoop it carefully not to disturb the solids. The ghee is allowed to cool and is placed in air tight jars. The color of the ghee, because of this boiling process is slightly off yellow with a somewhat nutty taste.
The advantage of ghee, aside from its distinctive taste, is that it can keep for weeks without refrigeration. It is the only animal based products that bacteria will not grow on. Some studies suggest that ghee is healthier overall than traditional western fats because the process of creating ghee is natural, unlike the hydrogenated or semi-hydrogenated fats in vegetable oils used the in the western kitchen.
Ghee can be reheated and used instead of butter. It is excellent for deep frying because it has a high smoking point, above most vegetable oils (482⁰F, 250⁰C).
Ghee is high in vitamin A and vitamin D. It can support eye and bone health and helps in the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
Almost in every culture there is a form of ghee; the Egyptians use a similar product they call “local ghee”. In Ethiopia the ghee is made the same way but with added spices. The Moroccans age their ghee in underground caves for years. In Brazil, the unrefrigerated butter (called “butter in a bottle”) is actually ghee and in Europe the Wiener Schnitzel is traditionally fried in butter-schmaltz, a version of ghee as well.
Ghee can be made at home, but it requires some knowledge and time. It can be found at the ethnic food section of most supermarkets and in ethnic food stores.