What is Ghee and Why Should I Care?
Ghee, also known as “clarified butter”, “butter oil” or “drawn butter”, is delicious, healthful and fits in well with the Paleo diet. Many people have immune reactions to the milk solids (lactose and casein) in dairy products and may not even realize the source of the problem. This, among other reasons, is why the Paleo diet generally eliminates dairy. (I recommend trying a 30 day elimination period such as the one outlined in the Strictly Paleo Plan to help determine your tolerance of dairy products.)
Even if you find you need to avoid dairy, most likely you can still enjoy ghee. Ghee is butter that has had all the water and milk solids removed. It is somewhat different from clarified butter in that the process of making ghee involves toasting the milk solids resulting in a nutty, rich flavor. Unlike butter, ghee has a long shelf life and can be used for high temperature cooking. It is also not as difficult to make as you might think.
The Health Benefits of Ghee
A tablespoon of ghee contains 8g Saturated fatty acid (SFA), 3.7g Mono-unsaturated fatty acid (MFA) and 0.5g Poly-unsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). Saturated fat, contrary to what you might have learned, is not an evil menace directly responsible for heart disease. (See this post and this abstract from “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”). Mono-unsaturated fats (also known as oleic acid) are the main structural fats of the body and are non-toxic even at high doses.
Ghee is also rich in fat soluble vitamins like A, D, and K2, as well as CLA (conjugated linoleic acid). CLA is an essential fatty acid found almost exclusively in grass-fed animals and may protect against cancer, heart disease, and type II diabetes. To get the benefit of CLA from butter and ghee, I strongly recommend you purchase varieties from pastured (grass-fed) animals. Using organic butter will also ensure you are avoiding hormones and pesticides that may find their way into your ghee.
Here are a couple of brands of pasture butter I use:
How To Make Ghee In The Oven
The traditional way to make ghee is on the stove top. But by making ghee in the oven you will avoid standing in front of the stove for long periods of time. It is important to make sure the milk solids toast enough to imbue the ghee with a nutty taste but if you let it go too far you can burn the solids and ruin the entire batch. The following process is fairly simple and will result in a nicely toasted ghee taste without the need for constant observation.
These instructions are for making about 1 1/2 cups of ghee. Times will vary with different quantities.
What you need:
1) 1 pound of organic, pasture butter 2) oven-safe pan 3) cheese cloth or thin fabric for straining 4) glass container
- Place one pound of pasture butter in a Dutch oven or other oven-safe pan.
- Place pan into oven and cook, uncovered, at 250 degrees F. (No need to preheat) When you check on it after 45 minutes this is what it should look like. The milk solids are rising to the top.
- Continue cooking for another 30 minutes. At this point the water is boiling off and the milk solids are beginning to settle to the bottom of the pan and are browning.
- Remove the pan from the oven (about 1 hour 15 minutes total time) and allow to cool slightly.
- Strain through three layers of cheesecloth or even an old t-shirt or thin kitchen towel. Your empty pan may look something like this with milk solids on the bottom and some browned bits.
- You will be left with the pure butter oil – no water or milk solids like lactose and casein.
- Pour the ghee into a glass jar that can accommodate at least 12 ounces.
- Store the ghee in the glass container at room temperature for up to six months or in the refrigerator for up to one year.
- Use your ghee for searing meats, sautéing veggies, cooking eggs or adding to sweeter recipes like Spiced Apple Compote or Fried Sweet Plantains.
One of the benefits of making ghee yourself is that it is much less expensive than purchasing it. Making ghee in the oven will also create such an amazing aroma in your home you will begin to look forward to doing it.
Best wishes for ghee making, eating and cooking!