Making your own ghee is simple. All it takes is a little bit of time and attention, a mesh strainer, and a few paper towels to get it right.
Before we go there though, I’ll tell you what ghee is, why it’s a great ingredient to have in your kitchen, and why you should make it yourself. You’ve probably noticed that I use it in some of my recipes, but I haven’t actually taken the time to explain why I use it or how I make it until now. I think you’ll find this helpful.
What is ghee?
Traditionally used in Indian cooking, ghee is simply a type of clarified butter. It’s plain, unsalted butter that’s been heated until the sugar and protein separate from the fat and are skimmed off leaving only the fat behind. Basically, it’s the goodness of butter without the potential digestive or allergic reaction to the casein and lactose that are found in dairy products. (Butter is actually quite low in casein and lactose, but for those who are VERY sensitive, it’s great to get them out of there and still enjoy all the flavor and health benefits of butter!) For more in-depth information comparing butter vs ghee, check out this post by Michael Joseph from Nutrition Advance.
Ghee also has a higher smoke point than butter, which means you can cook with it at higher temperatures without running the risk of burning it. We’ll talk more about smoke point on Friday when I share the Ultimate Guide to Cooking Oils. Get excited about that post, by the way!
Now that ghee is growing in popularity, you might see it in jars next to the butter in the refrigerated section, but it actually doesn’t need to be refrigerated if handled correctly. Correctly just means that you’re careful not to use dirty or wet utensils to scoop it out when you use it, otherwise it could get moldy.
Why Should I use Ghee?
If you haven’t already seen it, you should check out my post Fatty Doesn’t Equal Fattening, which explains why incorporating healthy fats into your diet is actually beneficial to your health, and even your waistline if done wisely.
Saturated fat gets a bad rap, but it’s an extremely important part off a healthy diet. Your cells need saturated fat to maintain their structural integrity. Your brain needs saturated fat to function properly. Our bodies need saturated fat, and unfortunately it’s been demonized for decades. You might have noticed the recent TIME Magazine cover featuring a curl of delicious looking butter entitled “Ending the War on Fat.” This article is a major leap forward in the mainstream thinking about saturated fat and fat in general. Check it out if you can, and if you would like some free information on this subject, Chris Kresser has a great article you can read as well.
Ghee is is also rich in fat soluble vitamins A, D, and K2, CLA, and Omega 3 fats. All of these nutrients are vital to our health but aren’t often included in the Standard American Diet in adequate quantities.
Why Should You make Your Own Ghee?
The catch to get all the awesome benefits I just mentioned is that the butter that you start with needs to come from a cow raised on pasture in the sun eating grass. Most of the awesome health components of both butter and ghee are stripped away if the cow is not doing what cows do. Just like humans, cows need to be in the sun to synthesize vitamin D. The milk they make only has vitamins A and K2, CLA, and Omega 3s if they’re eating grass. Cows that eat grains end up producing milk that has a higher concentration of Omega 6 than Omega 3, which is much more plentiful in the Standard American Diet, and not something we should be actively seeking out too often.
While I haven’t specifically noticed ghee in the grocery store that mentions being sourced from grass fed or pastured cows, I did find this one for a whopping $23 a jar on Amazon. I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to pay anything close to that for a 14oz jar of cooking oil unless it’s made of gold and magic. Most brands available in the grocery store range between $9 and $14, but do not guarantee that they’re from grass fed cows. My solution to this expensive conundrum is to simply make my own.
Kerrygold grass fed butter is available at most grocery stores and runs $3 each. I use two at a time to create a 13 oz jar of ghee. This saves me between $3 and $8 a jar, depending on which brand I’m comparing.
How to make Ghee
- Start with two 8oz sticks of unsweetened grass fed butter and a medium saucepan.
- Heat butter on medium to high on the stove top until the butter completely melts, then turn it down to low (once you get the hang of this, you can make speed up the process by keeping the fire a bit higher, but burning it is a HUGE bummer, so start slow until you get the hang of it).
- Set your kitchen timer for 5 minutes and go do something else.
- Come back and check on it every 5 minutes, making sure it’s not burning. You know it’s going well when milk solids start to float to the top and/or sink to the bottom. I use a tiny mesh strainer that cost me $1 to skim the milk solids off the top as they accumulate. The paper towels* come in at this point, because when I rinse the strainer off between skims I don’t want to add any water back into the ghee. I dry the strainer very well between skims.
- Once the liquid is a clear yellow without a bunch of white streaks or chunks floating in it (usually takes about 20 minutes but could take longer your first time if you keep the stove on low), turn the fire off, set your timer for 10 minutes, and go do something else until it goes off.
- Carefully pour your pot of separated butter through the mesh strainer and into a jar that can hold at least 13 oz of liquid. Paper towels might also come in here because the solids could clog the strainer, which you’ll need to rinse out and dry thoroughly before proceeding (remember that mold I mentioned earlier).
- Let the ghee sit open or lightly covered with a paper towel on the counter to cool before placing on the lid and storing in your cupboard.
*It might seem wasteful to use paper towels for this project instead of cloth, but this is butter we’re talking about. Unless you’re doing your laundry that same day, you’re going to have a greasy nasty mess on your towel (whether it’s in your hamper or in your kitchen) that could attract unwanted creepy crawly visitors). In general, I try to mind my paper towel usage, but in this instance, I use them without hesitation.