Ghee Whiz – an “almost-butter” alternative for the dairy intolerant

I’ve been on a food book binge lately: biographies, non-fiction overviews of specific foods, recipe books, etc.  One that I picked up is called Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages by Anne Mendelson.

It’s a strange selection for me – I don’t drink milk.  In fact, I have avoided milk for several years because of how the whey protein affects me.  But, one of the recipes in the book caught my eye specifically because it removes the whey – and other milk proteins – from the mix.  The recipe was for spiced clarified butter, or ghee.

How to Make Savory Ghee from @Maoomba

Scroll down for recipe and photos on how to make savory ghee at home

In the process of making ghee, the highly-perishable milk solids and water from butter are removed or evaporated, and you are left with the longer-lived fats.  In other words, almost all of the lactose, casein, and whey proteins found in the milk solids are removed, making ghee a potentially wonderful “almost-butter” alternative for the dairy intolerant.  Try it sparingly to see how you react to it.

Clarified, or drawn, butter has long been used in a number of South Asian, North & Eastern African, and Mediterranean cuisines.   Provided that organic butter from grass-pastured cows is used, it has also gained recent favor among traditionalists, real-food enthusiasts, and Paleo nutritionists alike.  The better the source of the butter, the better the ghee – both for flavor and for health.

Back to the Book

The Ethiopian spiced clarified butter recipe on page 52 (if you are interested in picking it up) in Anne Mendelson’s book, Milk: The Surprising Story of Milk Through the Ages, included shallots, ginger, garlic, turmeric, and various exotic spices like cloves, cardamom, and fenugreek.

While that sounds amazing, I decided to use onions, shallots, and garlic only – staples no matter what we cook around here.  This will give us a chance to spice things according to what a recipe calls for, no matter the cuisine.

And for insight into the process, I turned to Anjuli of Smart Mouth’s post called Homemade Indian ghee if you dare.  I highly recommend you visit her post for troubleshooting and cooking tips based on her family’s way of making ghee.

Savory Onion and Garlic Clarified Butter (Ghee) Recipe

Makes about 2 cups

  • 1 pound unsalted, grass-fed, organic butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 medium red onion, minced
  • 2 large shallots, minced
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced

Supplies you’ll need

  • A knife and cutting board
  • Stainless steel pot
  • A spoon
  • An air-tight jar – possibly one with a latch lid
  • Fine-weave cheese cloth or muslin folded a few times
  • A funnel (optional – I used a fine gauge strainer as a way to prop my muslin)
  • Patience

How to Make Savory Clarified Butter (Ghee): A Photo Tutorial

A quick overview of the process from Wikipedia:

“To prepare ghee, the butter is usually melted in a stainless steel vessel over medium high heat. The butter begins to melt, forming a white froth [the whey] on top. It is then simmered, stirring occasionally and the froth begins to thin slowly and the color of butter changes to a pale yellow shade. Then it is cooked on low heat until it turns a golden color. The residue solids [which include the other milk proteins] settle at the bottom and the ghee, which is now clear, golden and translucent with a fragrant smell, is ready. The ghee is then filtered, and it will solidify when completely cool. The texture, color, and taste of ghee depend on the source of the milk from which the butter was made and the extent of boiling and simmering.”

Note: I had to cook mine at medium heat to achieve a very clear ghee within an hour.  Monitor your heat.

How to Make Savory Ghee from @MaoombaYou will need 1 pound of organic butter, ideally from pasture-fed cows and unsalted (though salted apparently works fine)Chop your butter into small chunks.You will need a red onion, a couple of shallots, and 4 large cloves of garlic. For those of you wanting to put in more garlic, be forewarned - this is potent stuff even at the 4-clove level!Mince up all of your aromatics.First add the butter to a heavy-bottomed pan and melt it at medium heat for about 5 minutes. Then stir in your aromatics and let things sit for another 5 minutes or so, at which point it will begin to froth. Begin stirring the ghee every minute or so to prevent things from sticking/burning.Over the next 30 minutes or so, the whey will move to the top of the pan as the ghee simmers (going from a light simmer to more of a boil). The whey will continue to appear as long as there is still whey in the butter. If you stir the bottom, you will also notice that it is kind of sludgy. These are all of the other milk solids settling to the bottom. Do keep stirring every minute to keep the solids from sticking and burning.Scoop the whey off of the top of your ghee. Notice how the why darkens as the ghee begins to caramelize.Continue to monitor your ghee. It should become increasingly clear and more golden. And there will be less whey coming to the top. It will start to clump and begin to brown around the edges of the pan. When it reaches this point, lower the heat to medium low - some even suggest low - for another 8-10 minutes. Stir repeatedly, and watch as the ghee turns more orange.When the top of your ghee is bubbly (not frothy) , scoop up a spoonful of the aromatics and milk solids from the bottom of the pan. Check to make sure they are not burning - they should brown, but not burn. If they are still whitish, keep cooking. If they are browned, get ready to strain the ghee.This is as brown as things should get. You will notice that the whey line closer to the top has started to brown and the bottom is golden where the aromatics cooked.When your ghee is done - it will probably take between 45 and 60 minutes depending on how high you set your heat (med is good), carefully and immediately pour your still-hot ghee into the sterilized jar with cheese cloth on top. It is best to do this in the sink and to set up your jar before you need it. The aromatics and fats will stay in the cheesecloth.Your ghee should be clear enough to see through. If it is not, you have a couple of options. A) return the ghee to the pot and cook it a little longer, removing more milk solids. B) Re-strain the ghee and just refrigerate it - it may still have solids in it, but will work fine as long as you are not highly sensitive to them.Your ghee will begin setting as it cools, turning an opaque yellow. It will take several hours to cool completely. To avoid trapping moisture, leave the lid ajar for the rest of the day or over night.The next day, your ghee is ready for use. Be sure to keep the lid closed when not using it, use only clean utensils to scoop it, and consider refrigerating ghee with add-ins to ensure freshness.
How to Make Savory Ghee from @Maoomba
You will need 1 pound of organic butter, ideally from pasture-fed cows and unsalted (though salted apparently works fine)

You will need 1 pound of organic butter, ideally from pasture-fed cows and unsalted (though salted apparently works fine)

Chop your butter into small chunks.

Chop your butter into small chunks.

You will need a red onion, a couple of shallots, and 4 large cloves of garlic. For those of you wanting to put in more garlic, be forewarned - this is potent stuff even at the 4-clove level!

You will need a red onion, a couple of shallots, and 4 large cloves of garlic. For those of you wanting to put in more garlic, be forewarned - this is potent stuff even at the 4-clove level!

Mince up all of your aromatics.

Mince up all of your aromatics.

First add the butter to a heavy-bottomed pan and melt it at medium heat for about 5 minutes. Then stir in your aromatics and let things sit for another 5 minutes or so, at which point it will begin to froth. Begin stirring the ghee every minute or so to prevent things from sticking/burning.

First add the butter to a heavy-bottomed pan and melt it at medium heat for about 5 minutes. Then stir in your aromatics and let things sit for another 5 minutes or so, at which point it will begin to froth. Begin stirring the ghee every minute or so to prevent things from sticking/burning.

Over the next 30 minutes or so, the whey will move to the top of the pan as the ghee simmers (going from a light simmer to more of a boil). The whey will continue to appear as long as there is still whey in the butter. If you stir the bottom, you will also notice that it is kind of sludgy. These are all of the other milk solids settling to the bottom. Do keep stirring every minute to keep the solids from sticking and burning.

Over the next 30 minutes or so, the whey will move to the top of the pan as the ghee simmers (going from a light simmer to more of a boil). The whey will continue to appear as long as there is still whey in the butter. If you stir the bottom, you will also notice that it is kind of sludgy. These are all of the other milk solids settling to the bottom. Do keep stirring every minute to keep the solids from sticking and burning.

Scoop the whey off of the top of your ghee. Notice how the why darkens as the ghee begins to caramelize.

Scoop the whey off of the top of your ghee. Notice how the why darkens as the ghee begins to caramelize.

Continue to monitor your ghee. It should become increasingly clear and more golden. And there will be less whey coming to the top. It will start to clump and begin to brown around the edges of the pan. When it reaches this point, lower the heat to medium low - some even suggest low - for another 8-10 minutes. Stir repeatedly, and watch as the ghee turns more orange.

Continue to monitor your ghee. It should become increasingly clear and more golden. And there will be less whey coming to the top. It will start to clump and begin to brown around the edges of the pan. When it reaches this point, lower the heat to medium low - some even suggest low - for another 8-10 minutes. Stir repeatedly, and watch as the ghee turns more orange.

When the top of your ghee is bubbly (not frothy) , scoop up a spoonful of the aromatics and milk solids from the bottom of the pan. Check to make sure they are not burning - they should brown, but not burn. If they are still whitish, keep cooking. If they are browned, get ready to strain the ghee.

When the top of your ghee is bubbly (not frothy) , scoop up a spoonful of the aromatics and milk solids from the bottom of the pan. Check to make sure they are not burning - they should brown, but not burn. If they are still whitish, keep cooking. If they are browned, get ready to strain the ghee.

This is as brown as things should get. You will notice that the whey line closer to the top has started to brown and the bottom is golden where the aromatics cooked.

This is as brown as things should get. You will notice that the whey line closer to the top has started to brown and the bottom is golden where the aromatics cooked.

When your ghee is done - it will probably take between 45 and 60 minutes depending on how high you set your heat (med is good), carefully and immediately pour your still-hot ghee into the sterilized jar with cheese cloth on top. It is best to do this in the sink and to set up your jar before you need it. The aromatics and fats will stay in the cheesecloth.

When your ghee is done - it will probably take between 45 and 60 minutes depending on how high you set your heat (med is good), carefully and immediately pour your still-hot ghee into the sterilized jar with cheese cloth on top. It is best to do this in the sink and to set up your jar before you need it. The aromatics and fats will stay in the cheesecloth.

Your ghee should be clear enough to see through. If it is not, you have a couple of options. A) return the ghee to the pot and cook it a little longer, removing more milk solids. B) Re-strain the ghee and just refrigerate it - it may still have solids in it, but will work fine as long as you are not highly sensitive to them.

Your ghee should be clear enough to see through. If it is not, you have a couple of options. A) return the ghee to the pot and cook it a little longer, removing more milk solids. B) Re-strain the ghee and just refrigerate it - it may still have solids in it, but will work fine as long as you are not highly sensitive to them.

Your ghee will begin setting as it cools, turning an opaque yellow. It will take several hours to cool completely. To avoid trapping moisture, leave the lid ajar for the rest of the day or over night.

Your ghee will begin setting as it cools, turning an opaque yellow. It will take several hours to cool completely. To avoid trapping moisture, leave the lid ajar for the rest of the day or over night.

The next day, your ghee is ready for use. Be sure to keep the lid closed when not using it, use only clean utensils to scoop it, and consider refrigerating ghee with add-ins to ensure freshness.

The next day, your ghee is ready for use. Be sure to keep the lid closed when not using it, use only clean utensils to scoop it, and consider refrigerating ghee with add-ins to ensure freshness.

Ways to Use Ghee

  • You can substitute ghee for all butter uses
  • Add it to soups for a touch of richness just before serving
  • Instead of oil, add ghee to water when cooking rice
  • Use ghee in marinades
  • Sautee meat, fish, vegetables in ghee
  • Replace a small portion of oil with ghee when making homemade mayonnaise

Personally, I’ve used it when scrambling eggs, in an other-wise dairy-free broccoli soup, and on baked spaghetti squash noodles.  It is incredibly rich, so a little goes a looong way.  Although, I seem to have lost my appreciation for dairy richness after so many years of eating next to none; you may not have the same issue.

Ghee Storage and Safety

Ghee is very shelf-stable and can last for more than a year.  In fact – this stability and lack of need for refrigeration are the reasons that ghee was first developed.  It helped cultures store dairy fats where no refrigerators existed.  Despite not needing to refrigerate it in its pure state, some people still do – especially if you add fresh herbs and aromatics like onions and garlic to the mix.  If you are at all concerned that you did not get all of the milk solids out or if you add other ingredients to your ghee, consider putting it in the fridge – it should last for 4 to 6 months.

Important: always store your ghee in an air tight container and make sure to use dry utensils when spooning it out of the jar so that you avoid reintroducing moisture.

Have you made ghee?  What challenges did you encounter and how did you manage them?  Do you have other tips for perfecting it?

Comments

  1. Suzanne says

    Hi Stormy! I’m trying this! We’ve been using Ghee for the last year and love it. I had no idea I could make it myself. I’ll have to let you know how it goes. btw… LOVE the costume :)

    • Stormy says

      HI Suzanne, I had no idea how many people use ghee. It’s been truly interesting to hear about how they make or buy it. I heard from someone that she makes her ghee in crock pot (instead of on the stove) and then uses a trick from Alton Brown’s method featured in the book Good Eats: The Early Years. Once the butter is clear, she add 2 inches of hot tap water, forcing the clarified butter to rise to the top. She puts the whole container in the fridge and then, after it cools, scoops out the hardened clarified butter disk and wraps it in wax paper. Kind of nifty; I think I’ll try this next time. Thanks for the costume comment, too – just gotta be me : )

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