Monday, March 1, 2010

Making Ghee

I learned how to make ghee some time ago and have since found it indispensable. Ghee is a purified form of butter in which water and milk solids have been removed by boiling and straining. Ghee originated in ancient India, and the idea of removing the milk solids and water from butter is found in other cultures as well.

High quality fresh butter contains water and quickly spoils, but by making it into ghee it can be safely stored without refrigeration for a very long time. As you have probably experienced, the milk solids in butter cause it to burn easily, and by removing them ghee becomes more useful for cooking. In general ghee, like butter, makes food delicious and satisfying.

'Fast' food drenched in rancid hydrogenated vegetable oil is one thing, but high quality, naturally fat-containing foods are not unhealthy. On the contrary, oils such as ghee are strengthening to the body and support good health. While certain individuals with conditions such as obesity should avoid fats, and though, as with everything, we can harm ourselves by overindulgence, reasonable amounts of the right kinds of fats and oil are nourishing and healthy.

I think if you go to the trouble of making ghee you will decide it is a good idea.


The butter must be boiled gently so that the ghee does not burn while all the water evaporates. When the water has evaporated the ghee is poured through layers of cheesecloth into dry, sterilized jars. The jars are allowed to cool and are then sealed and stored at room temperature for use.


- at least one pound of the best butter you can get
- a knife
- lidded glass jars
- tongs
- large pot, preferably thick-bottomed
- cheesecloth


0. Take the butter out of the refrigerator to warm up. You should use no less than a pound of butter because otherwise it might burn and/or not be worth the time you are investing. I usually use a two pound roll of butter.

1. boil your jars and lids in a pot of water to sterilize them. Use metal tongs or some other way of not burning yourself to remove the jars from the water and place them face down somewhere clean to cool and dry. Before you pour any ghee into your jars, be sure they are completely dry.

2. Cut the butter up into smaller pieces to let it melt more easily. If you have a thick roll, this will be easier with a big knife that you can push down on with both hands.

3. Melt the butter in a wide and tall, uncovered and thick-bottomed pot on low-med heat. Gently bring the melted butter to a low boil. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting at which the butter still bubbles. You will notice white froth foaming on the top and the yellow ghee underneath. You should not stir the pot at any time in the process.

4. Continue to cook the ghee until all the water is gone. The more butter you begin with, the longer it will have to boil. A pound of butter will probably take around thirty minutes or more. You can judge how much water is left by watching and listening for bubbling. In the beginning you will see and hear steady bubbling and gurgling noises, but the frequency and magnitude of these decrease as the water disappears. Keep a close watch on the ghee when the bubbling has diminished. You may also see some starting-to-burn milk solids at the bottom of the pot near the end of the process. At some point you have to decide it is done or the golden-colored ghee will go too far, change taste and turn a darker color. Before that happens, take it off the heat and let it sit uncovered to evaporate more and cool for about 15 minutes.

5. Make sure your jars are all dry. Some people first skim off the unwanted crust from the top of the ghee. I think this is a good idea although it is not the way I have done it in the past. You will lose a small amount of ghee, but it will make straining the ghee easier.

6. I usually just poured it through cheesecloth into the jars. The cheesecloth gets clogged with milk solids I should have removed in step 5, and so I squeeze out the burning hot ghee into a little bowl to save it and then brush off the milk solids from the cloth. Be aware that the ghee may be very hot.

7. After filling the jars, allow the ghee to cool down uncovered. If you cover the jars of hot liquid ghee, water will condense on the underside of the lids and fall back in. Instead, put the lids on after the ghee cools, solidifies and becomes opaque.

8. Store ghee in a dry place at room temperature. It should not be refrigerated because water will get into the jars. Only put clean, dry utensils into the ghee.

Try making a simple pot of basmati rice and adding some ghee to the water. It makes a big difference.

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