Ghee comes to us by way of Indian cooking and Ayurvedic medicine where it has been revered as a medicinal food for millennia. It’s a total staple in our home and one my all-time favorite concentrated sources of good quality fats. I’ve really been loving it so much lately and decided it was time to write a post about it and spread the ghee love! So what is it? Essentially, it’s clarified butter. In the process of making it the water part of butter evaporates and the milk solids separate out from the fat, leaving us with just the nutrient-rich oils found in butter. Because the water and milk solids are removed you get much more fat (good fats!) per serving than butter. It’s a suitable dairy alternative for folks allergic to dairy (although folks should always be cautious trying it the first time if they have a severe daily allergy) because the milk solids like lactose, which are what cause allergic immune reactions, are strained-out in the process of making it. It has a very high smoke point (485 degrees) making it a wonderful high-heat oil, great for browning aromatic spices for all kinds of dishes, for greasing pans when baking cakes, cookies etc, for frying, sautéing, and can also be substituted for butter in any recipe, including breads, cakes, cookies, and so on. It also makes a delicious swap for butter on bread, on grains, and anywhere else you use butter. It’s also traditional to infuse herbs into ghee!
The Health Benefits of Ghee
Increases agni (can be thought of as your digestive or metabolic fire) and improves nutrient absorption and assimilation
Nourishes ojas (the body's vital energy)
Strengthens the brain and nervous system
Lubricates connective tissue and makes the body more flexible
Carries the medicinal properties of deeper into the tissues of the body (anupana/vehicle). For this reason its traditional to infuse herbs into ghee- check-out our post on Ashwagandha Ghee for a recipe! This is also part of why its so beneficial to brown the healing aromatic spices in ghee when you’re cooking.
Rich in Vitamins A, D, and E. Rich in Vit K2 (when sourced from grass-fed cows)
Suitable for dairy-free folks. The casein (there are only small amount in butter to begin with) and lactose is strained-out
One of the highest natural sources of CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) – an antioxidant with anti-viral properties
Rich in butyric acid, a saturated short-chain fatty acid shown to be anti-inflammatory and to improve gastro-intestinal health (seems to helps heal and seal the gut)
Making Your Own Ghee
1 lb organic unsalted butter
(makes 1 2/3 cups ghee)
When possible make this with grass-fed/pastured butter- I love the Kerrygold brand. Put the butter in a medium-sized pot and heat gently on medium heat until the butter starts to melt, then reduce heat to low. Cook until the butter just starts to boil and continue cooking on this low temperature with the lid off the pan. The butter will often start to sputter and foam as it cooks and then start to quiet down. This is the water portion cooking off. In about 12-15 minutes your ghee will start to smell like popcorn and turn a lovely golden color, and whitish curds will form on the top of the golden-colored ghee, which are the milk solids separating from the fat. At this point start watching your ghee very closely to be sure that it doesn't burn! Soon the whitish curds will turn a light brown color and the boiling will quite down, which means that your ghee is ready! The total cooking time should not be longer than 15-20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the ghee cool until it is just warm and the solid curds have mostly settled to the bottom. Strain the ghee through cheesecloth into a dry glass jar. Its important to be sure that no water comes in contact with your finished ghee product, since this will promote bacterial growth and cause you ghee to go bad. If you want your ghee to have a super smooth consistency, then cool it in the fridge. Ghee is shelf-stable and can be stored unrefrigerated. It’s said to improve with age although I’ve never had a batch around long enough to test this! I hope you love ghee as much as I do-Enjoy!