Have you ever tried clarified butter, or ghee? I love cooking with ghee, it has a delicious smoky, nutty flavor and is perfect for high heat cooking. And there are so many health benefits too, other than just the taste!
Ghee is a staple food in India, and they also use it for spiritual practice and for its medicinal qualities, which can include improving the voice and sight, and increasing longevity. It has a unique flavor, which is caused by the fermentation of the cream or butter, and the heating processes. It has a low moisture content, with possible anti-oxidative properties, and because of that it has a fairly long shelf-life. It may also contain high amounts of conjugated linoleum acid (CLA), which is an anti-carcinogen and used as a supplement for weight loss.
Ghee also contains vitamins A, E and K, which play an important role maintaining healthy vision, heart health and healthy skin, as well as a short-chain fatty acid that plays a important role in gut health too.
The production process for ghee starts off with butter, from cow’s milk, being melted over a slow fire, and then heated slowly until the separated water boils off. The vessel holding the butter is then allowed to cool. The semi-fluid, clear butterfat, which makes the finest ghee, rises to the top of the melted butter and may be poured off, leaving the curd (precipitated protein) at the bottom. This curd still contains 50 percent or more butterfat, and may be reworked with the addition of peanut oil or buffalo milk fat to make inferior grades of ghee.
Many people use the terms clarified butter and ghee interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference. While clarified butter is heated just to the point where the water evaporates and the milk solids separate, ghee is cooked just a touch longer so that the milk solids have a chance to caramelize before being removed. So butter first becomes clarified butter, and that could potentially then become ghee. Ghee is going to taste slightly nuttier, but both are going to have a more intense flavor than regular butter.
And because the initial process removes whey and casein from the milk, both ghee and clarified butter are suitable for people with a dairy allergy, or those avoiding lactose in their diets.
I don’t recommend replacing butter with clarified butter or ghee when you make bake goods — clarified butter is missing the water component of butter, which is crucial when baking. But for many other types of cooking it is ideal. You can add it to your steamed veggies, or use it when cooking eggs and grilling meat. You can even use it as a skin moisturizer too.
If you’ve never tried then I recommend you give it a go — and let me know what you think!
Ayda Ersoy is a nutrition and fitness director at The Diet Doc Hawaii. She can be reached at DietDocHawaii.com, Ayda@DietDocHawaii.com or (808) 276-6892