You might remember when we had a long discussion about the benefits of lard, and you may have thought me out of my mind when I described the health benefits over some cooking oils and other culinary fats. And then, hopefully, you scored some or made some organic pork lard of your own, and became 100% sold on using it in your own kitchen.
Another fat, which is actually very old but a lot of folks act like it’s new, is on the scene and it is a mean, not-so-lean cookin’ machine. I mean, let’s be honest, it’s FAT. They’re all FAT. So, let’s all remember everything in moderation, and even a little fat means so, so very much flavor (if it’s the right fat) and let’s talk about the buttery, nutty, aromatic deliciousness that is GHEE.
Ghee is a kind of clarified butter that originated in India long, long ago. This is not your “drawn butter” of old, though — ghee is made by carefully melting unsalted butter over low heat, and then simmering it until all the water has boiled off and the milk solids start to get roasty-toasty in the bottom of the pan. Allowing this process, where the solids brown and add their yummy flavors to the clarified fat, makes it (in my opinion) even more delicious than butter alone. Clarified butter does not simmer with the milk solids so it doesn’t get that extra layer of flavor.
When warm, ghee (pronounced, “gee”, not “jee”) looks like clear cooking oil, but has a very recognizable buttery smell. Since the water and milk solids are separated from the ghee, this gives it a higher smoking point so it is GREAT for frying! When cooled, it becomes firm just like sticks of butter, but is spreadable at room temperature. Fantastic on toast or muffins. And a benefit for those who are lactose-intolerant, the milk solids are removed so it should not be irritating to the digestive system.
Ghee is essentially shelf stable, because the milk solids have been removed so there is nothing to go rancid or spoil. You should be able to keep your properly-strained ghee on the countertop for a month with no problems, but there is nothing wrong with refrigerating it.
Like other animal-derived fats, ghee also contains vitamins and is particularly high in Vitamin A, as well as being a source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
At the end of the day, it’s not that ghee is a nutritional powerhouse, but that it is delicious, is much better for you than synthesized vegetable oils, is great in moderation, and is delicious. Also, it is DELICIOUS.
Don’t run out and buy a $8 jar of ghee just to try, though. Why should you, when you can make a pint of ghee on your own in very little time, for the cost of a pound of unsalted butter? Let’s get right down to it, and I will show you how to make ghee!