Ghee or clarified butter is used in many Indian dishes. Ghee is a vital ingredient in Indian sweets and is used in biryanis, pulavs, fried rice and also in breakfasts like idli, sambar, pongal, upma, ghee roast dosa and other dishes. By adding ghee to any dish, the dish can be enhanced with extra flavour and taste. Homemade ghee is fragrant and gives extra richness to any dish.
Before I explain how to prepare ghee in an easy way, I would like to explain about the different ways to extract butter. Ghee is purely made from buffalo's milk or cow's milk in India. Ghee is made from butter and butter is extracted two ways:
The first method involves making cultured curd from pure raw milk and then churned in a traditional way to get the butter. This is considered to be the best and healthy butter (also in Ayurveda, they opt for the traditional one, which purifies and nourishes the body).
The second method involves making cultured cream and then churned to get butter. Cream is collected from milk by boiling raw milk, allowing it to cool and scoop of the layer of cream that is formed. A little curd is added during the collection period.
What does cultured cream and butter mean?
Dairy products, such as milk, butter or cream are said to be “cultured” when they go through a fermentation process that gives the product a slight tang.
In my childhood I used to see my mother and grandmother, taking the layer of cream from the boiled milk, which was kept to cool. The cream forms like a thick layer on top of the milk. This is collected in a bowl over a period of a week or 10 days. She used to add a little curd in between to culture and make it sour. This process is done until you get a good amount of cream. She used to take a churner (Indian whisker or dhal ghotni type) and whisk nearly more than 1/2 hr and only then only we used to get good butter. Alternatively, she used a blender (Indian mixer/grinder) to blend it and in few minutes we get good butter. She used to strain it or scoop out the butter from the top. She then cooked this butter to make ghee. The remaining residue which is left after taking out the butter is basically like a thick butter milk, which my mother used to give to her maid, who in turn used to eat it with rice or make spicy buttermilk by seasoning or adding tadka to it. Nothing goes waste in the process.
Both the methods, which I have explained above are very long and tiring process - takes up a lot of time and hard work. As we all know now-a-days, a lot of people are extremely busy and time-poor, but we can still have our own home made tasty ghee made from store-bought butter, if you follow the simple method.
To make ghee, the butter is melted down and heated/cooked to a point where all the moisture evaporates and the milk solids settle down. People allergic to milk protein can safely cook with pure ghee as the offending proteins are removed during the clarifying process. The lactose and other milk solids get removed and the liquid, which is left is pure ghee.
To make the ghee more flovoursome and full of aroma, just add some betel leaves or curry leaves or drumstick leaves while preparing ghee. The kitchen will be filled with freshness from the aroma of ghee. Once, my aunty taught me how to enjoy the ghee in a simple way when no side dish is available at home and you are feeling lazy to cook food for lunch, but you have some cooked rice in the fridge. She will drizzle 1 tsp of ghee on warm rice and south Indian mango pickle, mix both and eat it. It is so tasty and spicy as well, I have no words to describe, although not everyone may feel the same. So, prepare ghee my way and enjoy it the way you like.
If you are in the United Kingdom, try to get organic butter or cultured butter. If not, you can get any unsalted butter available. While making ghee, I always use unsalted butter.
Cooking time: 20 - 25 mins
Serves: As per usage
- Butter (unsalted) – 250 gms
- Curry leaves – 10 to 12
- Betel leaves - 1 or 2
- Drumstick leaves – 1/3 cup
- Jar or bottle for storage
- Bring the butter to room temperature.
- Place the butter in a wide vessel and melt it at medium heat only.
- Once it is melted, reduce the heat to medium to low flame and cook. Do not close the lid.
- Cook on a low flame for 15 to 20 mins (the whole cooking time) or it can take more time also.
- When the butter is melted, it starts forming foam on top of the melted butter and it will be creamish in colour.
- After a few minutes, it slowly starts forming thick foam or froth on top and it changes to a golden colour.
- I don’t stir the ghee much, until just to see whether the golden solids are settled. If you are not able to see the milk solid turning to golden colour because of foam formed on the top, you can just clear the foam aside with the help of a spoon and see.
- Again after a few minutes, a light brown type foam is formed. The milk solids starts to settle down.
- At this stage, you can add either curry leaves or drumstick leaves or betel leaves (only add one type of leaves)and it gives additional aroma, flavour and taste to ghee. If you don’t have, just continue the cooking. When the leaves are added to the ghee, it starts spluttering and turns crispy while cooking.
- As soon as you see the golden colour or light brown colour sediments (milk solids settling below the bottom of the liquid) and the brown foam or froth, which is still there but reduced, switch off. It will continue to cook.
- After a few minutes you can see that all the golden solids are turned into brown solids (sediments) and are below the bottom of the liquid (settled) including drumstick or curry leaves (whichever leaves you added for flavouring) and a clear liquid (ghee) is there in golden colour.
- When it is still lightly warm, strain it into a bottle.
- When it gets cold, it will get thick. It can be brought back to the liquid form easily later by reheating.
- Do not refrigerate, keep it in a cool place. It comes up to a small bottle. You can store the ghee in an airtight container for a few months.
- Never cook ghee on high flame and in hurry burry. You need patience to cook ghee.
- Always buy good butter. If it is organic or cultured butter, then best.
- If you are using ghee for sweets, then don’t add any herbs to flavour it.
- With the remaining drumstick leaves and milk solids, which you have strained, you can prepare delicious and quick ghee fried rice. Heat the vessel again and add 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup hot rice. Mix well with the remaining drumstick leaves and stir for a few minutes until it is blended well with the remaining milk solids and the crispy drumstick leaves.