Ghee (Clarified Butter),
Oil of the Kitchen Goddess:  

What You Need to Know



compiled by
Mary Ceallaigh




Many people in the West have become fat phobic. We may fixate upon fat-free or low-fat foods to protect our
hearts, reduce our waistlines, or assuage guilt about other excesses.  Plenty of people view spreading butter on
bread as one step above using motor oil!  

Meanwhile, many people in the East have become Ghee-phobic, due to widespread national health issues that have
arisen since the introduction of an industrial hydrogenated vegetable fat called Desi Ghee (like Crisco with yellow
food coloring).  Since the 1970s, when this hydrogenated fat (with its atrocious trans-fatty acids) began to be
heavily marketed in India and used in restaurants, heart disease and cancer rates have likewise skyrocketed.

Though authentic Usli Ghee can still be purchased from small farmer suppliers or made at home, it is of course
much more expensive than the dirt-cheap non-food item known as hydrogenated vegetable oil, or Desi Ghee (new
generation, or, fake ghee).   Arriving on the scene to take advantage of this national Indian health dilemma is a
major campaign by the Olive Oil industry, heavily advertising - with its paid medical spokespeople - the various
benefits of this imported, non-native substance which in it's "Pure" form is extracted via a largescale chemical
solvent industrial practice, and in it's supreme "Extra Virgin" form is as expensive as Usli Ghee, but without Ghee's
extenuating health benefits.  

If you are able to purchase Extra Virgin olive oil on sale, it is still good to use it 50/50 along with Ghee in the
kitchen, here's why:   authentic "Usli Ghee" - clarified butter -  offers a unique health benefit that olive oil cannot
compare to:
 Usli Ghee is high in HdL "good" cholesterol and has absolutely no LdL, the "bad" cholesterol.  Hdl is
an amazing molecular substance that actually scrubs plaque from the arteries and facilitates excellent circulation,
which Deepak Chopra MD wrote about in the early 1990s (in his book
Perfect Health).   Usli Ghee is a central part
of Ayurvedic Medicine as well, because of its unique capacities as a carrier oil that brings the properties of various
herbs and spices into the deepest tissues of the body (as Dr. Vasant Lad writes about in
The Yoga of Herbs).  
Authentic Ghee is the secret to the very best-tasting aromatic Indian vegetable and legume dishes, as well as rice
pilafs and sweets which are so fragrant to the palate, and waft through the house like a blessing.   

So, what should you do about fats in general these days and Ghee in particular?

The truth is that our bodies need fat to function. People who diet and exercise to the point where their body fat
is extremely low run the risk of dangerous heart arrythmias and general infertility if they do not take in enough fat
in their diet. Our bodies also need healthy fat to produce and regulate hormones and assimilate the essential
nutrients as well as other elementals that nourish the physiological communication of the body's glandular system.  
Ghee is an ancient healing oil that is the best ally for flourishing mind-body health.   Ayurvedic practitioners (and a
growing number of Western researchers) believe Ghee has conductive  properties that carry healing deep into the
body tissues and glands.  Highly valued in Ayurvedic healing as a rejuvenative and elixir, Ghee is easier to digest
than pasteurized butter  (raw butter is a different, wonderful substance hard to come by these days, another
subject altogether).

On the other hand, the saturated cooked fats in regular butter can cause real problems, especially in excess
and/or without a complementary solvent (for example, French and Northern Italian cuisine, while heavy in
saturated dairy fats, is consumed along with moderate wine which is why those traditional dietary lifestyles have
comparatively much lower heart disease and cancer rates).  Regular butter has LdL, bad, cholesterol, and when
not organic, the milk solids in modern butter contain the concentrated substance of all the toxins of modern milk,
such as pesticides and hormones.  Turning that heart-clogging butter into Ghee removes those dangerous solids,
producing a golden-clear and pure oil that also creates clarity of circulation.

Ayurvedic medicine, widely practiced in India and growing in acceptance around the world, proposes that keeping
your body in balance promotes health. In Ayurveda, Ghee is said to benefit connective tissue and joints, promoting
flexibility.  Mixed with Honey, it is also used as a topical remedy for the skin.  Ghee is considered of universal value
in promoting health, no matter your body type - it is rejuvenative to all. (Interestingly, Ghee, being a most
precious oil, has also been used as a devotional offering in Hinduism since ancient times, at weddings as well as a
variety of other ceremonies.  Ghee oil lamps have traditionally been used for high holiday purposes, however that
is changing in urban environments).

Ghee, or clarified butter, is made by heating butter long enough to allow the moisture present in the milk solids,
which cause spoilage, to evaporate.  Thus, it does not need to be refrigerated, and its spreadability takes morning
toast to a whole new level!  Ghee has a gentle, nutty aroma and a pale yellow to gold color when cool (depending
on the extent that the cook roasts or browns it).

To increase the shelf life of Ghee and to give it an interesting dimension, Indians add leaves of the betel nut plant
or cinnamon plant, nutmeg, cloves, dry ginger, or a piece of turmeric.  Also, when making Ghee, the separated
milk solids can be saved for using in flaky breads on special occasions, as they are very flavorful (and terribly
saturated it's true, and to be avoided by those over 21)...

If you learn to love & appreciate Ghee, making it is a pleasure, as well as much cheaper than buying it at the
market.  Though you may begin with the over-caution and worry of any novice, after your 3rd or 4th time, you will
find you have developed a relationship with butter's transformation that has as much to do with your listening
heart as it does with any kitchen timer.  As butter cooks, it speaks with continuous gurgles, pops, and sizzles.  
When clarifying is complete, it quiets down, and the Kitchen Goddess responds by taking the pot of Ghee off the
burner!  Thus, when you make Ghee, you want to be sure you can stay connected and LISTEN - no frying onions
or stereo music to confuse the sounds.  It is advisable to keep your focus in the kitchen, and maybe pour yourself
some tea or lemon water... Making good Ghee is a meditation.

HOW TO MAKE GHEE:

Have a widemouthed jar ready for filling with Ghee.  You can use a fine wire mesh strainer or cheesecloth
attached with rubberband to the jar, for straining - or not (some people just carefully pour the clarified butter
into the jar, leaving the solids in the bottom of the cooking pan and sacrificing about a teaspoon of Ghee in the
process).

Put 1-2 pounds of organic butter into a saucepan and set the heat on the stove to  medium-low...not too low, not
too high.

As the butter melts, it merrily crackles and pops and foams as the water in the butter evaporates and the small
white milk curds sink to the bottom of the pan.  These are the solids that you will strain later.  The foam can be
skimmed off while cooking.

It will take around 15 minutes for 1lb, and 25 minutes for 2lbs, before the liquid gold stops sputtering.  Depending
on your stove, you may need to turn the heat up to medium once the solids have begun to cover the bottom of
the pan. You want to ensure that complete clarification has happened, if not, the Ghee will be prone to mold
during countertop storage.  Experienced cooks purposely add an extra few minutes to brown the oil darker, yet
not burn it, which is an intuitive art that can be learned.  Roasted Ghee is richer in flavor, and smokes even less
than lighter Ghee when cooking with it.

When ready, gently strain the Ghee into your jar.  Cover partially with lid or cloth until cool - a few hours, then
seal the jar.

As long as the oil stays free of water, it need not be refrigerated.  If kept in a warm kitchen, Ghee will stay liquid.  
In a cool kitchen, it will solidify to thick soft spread, in a very cold kitchen or in the fridge it will temporarily
solidify.


Swad!