Sunday, July 26, 2015

Ghee - A guide to slow cooker version.

Ghee is the name for anhydrous butter fat, an ingredient originating and deeply revered in IndiaAyurveda, the ancient medical science of India, recognizes ghee as an essential part of a balanced diet, and celebrates it as a  symbol of auspiciousness, nourishment and healing. Ghee is the very essence of butter; the end result of a long, slow, careful clarification process that removes all the moisture, milk solids and impurities. The butter is melted and the simmered long enough to boil off all the water, during which time it separates into layers and the fat takes on a buttery taste. Ghee is the layer of clear butter fat. The slow cooking needs to be precise, or else the fat layer burns and darkens easily.

One of the oldest memories I have is of my grandmother making ghee; and of me relishing every ingredient in the process. Naani began by starting to collect malai (milk fat) - she would buy cow’s milk for days, and simmer boil it for hours on end in a bronze pot. After the milk cooled down, she skimmed off the thick layer of fat that formed on the top of the milk. She was always gracious enough to ladle out large spoonfuls of this malai into our outstretched bowls. We’d layer our parathas with sugared malai for lunch, instead of the boring sabzi.

After days of collecting, once she had enough malai the next step was churning it into butter. She used an-fashioned wooden mathani to do this. After several hours of hard work, all of us grandkids were rewarded with a mouthful of divine, whipped white butter. Once again, the churning and collecting went on for weeks. The day that my naani actually made all that butter into ghee, she cleaned up her chowka really well, lighted the chulha with embers and put the butter to simmer. That day, we kids were totally banished from the area - for who was to say if we upturned a burning hot pot of fat on ourselves….and always, that evening, we got to eat our parathas with boora (powdered sugar) and fresh, aromatic ghee.

Back in Delhi, the Ghee was still an essential part of everyday cooking, but now, my parents bought it. Early on in the winters, my dad would scout the best known ghee shops in old Delhi, sniffing and tasting. Once he’d settled on one, he’d order a bulk quantity, enough to last us one whole year; until the next winter. For many years, even after coming to the USA, he kept my pantry well-stocked with all the Ghee I’d need. 

These last few years, I’ve tried every brand available in our local Indian grocery store; and even dabbled with making it myself at home. Unfortunately, I have not found a brand good enough to stick to, and have over-browned the ghee more times than I got it right while making it at home. Using a slow cooker to make ghee, although more time-consuming than the traditional stove-top, has been the most efficient method in my hands.

(Clarified Butter - Slow Cooker Version)

You will need:

  1. Slow Cooker
  2. Unsalted sweet cream Butter (16Oz or around 400g)
  3. A cheese cloth/ thin-meshed sieve

How I make GHEE:

  1. I have 3.5Qt Slow cooker that I turn on HIGH for this process.
  2. Put the butter in it - I used 4 sticks, each of 4 OZ.
  3. Keep the slow cooker uncovered, or partially covered, allowing for moisture to escape.
  4. Let cook for 2-4 hrs. In my slow cooker, I cooked for 3h and 15 min. At that time, there were 3 layers in the cooker- a top, brown, foamy layer; ghee in the middle and a bottom layer of milk solids.
  5. Allow to cool sufficiently, then sieve through the cheese cloth or meshed sieve into a clean, dry container.

My two cents: Fresh, aromatic ghee is always adds a joy in everyday cooking.

The absence of milk solids and water that favor the growth of organisms promoting rancidity makes ghee completely shelf stable. 

Ghee has one of the highest flash points (485ºF) which make this oil the best choice for high temperature cooking.

That being said, Ghee is 62% saturated fat. So indulge with caution!!