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A Couple of Questions About Making Ghee


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#1 Shel_B

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Posted 29 October 2013 - 10:36 PM

It's been ages since I made ghee, and maybe I only made clarified butter.  In any case, after reading several recipes and watching several videos, I'm confused about a couple of things.  I want to make the ghee starting with a good quality butter, rather than starting with milk or cream. 

 

Some recipes suggest skimming the foam that forms when cooking the ghee, others not, and they suggest just straining everything when the ghee has cooked.  How important, or not, is skimming the foam while cooking and before straining?

 

How important is it to use a butter with a high fat content?  I have access to butter with a fat content of 85%, and, of course, all the way down to a more typical supermarket 80% or so.  My inclination is to go with the organic, grass fed, 85% butter ... will that make a noticeable difference compared to a butter with a lower fat content, such as 82% - 83%?

 

Thanks for any suggestions and help.


.... Shel


#2 Paul Bacino

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 04:32 AM

I use plugra..I think it's 83%.. What I noticed in let say land of lakes, is the amount of foaming, from the water content. I speck. Which takes longer to brown the solids.

Ghee has.the nuttiness of browned solids?
Clarified doesnt ?

I don't skim, but I find also. The more you do the easier to make and then pour off.

Just me, chiming in.

Cheers
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#3 scott123

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 07:54 AM

This is probably going to ruffle a few feathers, but, when it comes to cooking methods, I'd be hard pressed to find a more unnecessary technique than that of making ghee.  Ghee was birthed from necessity.  If you drive away the moisture and separate the solids, you can prevent a normally perishable product, butter, from spoiling while not being refrigerated.  Past peoples of the subcontinent didn't say "oh, I have to make ghee because it tastes so wonderful,"  they made it because, if they didn't, the butter would spoil. Modern cooks with access to refrigeration have absolutely no need for ghee.

 

While some of the best food I've ever eaten has been in Indian restaurants using either peanut or vegetable oil, a little light browning of the milk solids in butter can be a fantastic addition to a dish.  You don't need instructions, though.  You just cook the butter on a low temp until it takes a little color, watching it carefully so the butter doesn't brown.

 

No straining, no skimming, no hassle.  Leave that garbage in the history books where it belongs.


Edited by scott123, 30 October 2013 - 07:55 AM.

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#4 patrickamory

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 08:00 AM

Wow, weird. I love ghee and use it all the time, not just for Indian cooking. The nutty flavor is distinctively different from that of butter. Also, it lasts for months at room temperature and doesn't spoil.

 

(I buy readymade - Vrindivan brand.)



#5 scott123

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 08:11 AM

The nutty flavor is distinctively different from that of butter.

 

It's not that different from lightly browned butter. And lightly browned butter is usually about half the price.



#6 Hassouni

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 08:13 AM

Whether it was born out of necessity or not, as Patrick stated above, it has a considerably different taste from butter, as well as different properties (much higher smoke point for one, and being pure fat I suspect it extracts the flavors from spices more thoroughly). It ain't no garbage.


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#7 Shel_B

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 08:25 AM

 

It's not that different from lightly browned butter. And lightly browned butter is usually about half the price.

 

 

I understand that people who have dairy intolerance can generally consume ghee since ghee does not have casein (a type of milk protein) and lactose (milk sugar) which some people find difficult to digest.  Browned butter, and butter, does not have this attribute.

 

Further, price is not a factor when making ghee at home - one still buys the butter, or at least I would be starting with butter.

 

Further, you say the taste of ghee is not "that different" from browned butter.  That suggests, even by your standards, there is a difference, one that some people may find desirable.


.... Shel


#8 Shel_B

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 08:28 AM

Whether it was born out of necessity or not, as Patrick stated above, it has a considerably different taste from butter, as well as different properties (much higher smoke point for one, and being pure fat I suspect it extracts the flavors from spices more thoroughly). It ain't no garbage.

 

The higher smoke point is one reason some people like cooking with ghee, and prefer it over butter in all its forms. 

 

Anyway, this thread has degenerated enough that I'll just move on to other things.  Thanks to all those who have been helpful and addressed my original question.  Much appreciated.


.... Shel


#9 Shel_B

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 08:45 AM

I use plugra..I think it's 83%.. What I noticed in let say land of lakes, is the amount of foaming, from the water content. I speck. Which takes longer to brown the solids.

Ghee has.the nuttiness of browned solids?
Clarified doesnt ?

I don't skim, but I find also. The more you do the easier to make and then pour off.

Just me, chiming in.

Cheers

 

Thanks!  Plugrá has a good reputation, though I most likely will use either Kerrygold or Straus, both of which are easier for me to come by.


.... Shel


#10 scott123

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 09:49 AM

 

 

It's not that different from lightly browned butter. And lightly browned butter is usually about half the price.

 

 

I understand that people who have dairy intolerance can generally consume ghee since ghee does not have casein (a type of milk protein) and lactose (milk sugar) which some people find difficult to digest.  Browned butter, and butter, does not have this attribute.

 

Further, price is not a factor when making ghee at home - one still buys the butter, or at least I would be starting with butter.

 

Further, you say the taste of ghee is not "that different" from browned butter.  That suggests, even by your standards, there is a difference, one that some people may find desirable.

 

 

Patrick was referring to readymade ghee and my response was in that context. Readymade ghee is slightly different in flavor to homemade. Lightly browned butter and homemade ghee are indistinguishable, though- and imo far better tasting than any commercial ghee. The lightly browned milk solids that occur in ghee are delicious. They're the same beautiful flavor as the rest of the ghee and don't change the taste in the slightest if removed. The only purpose for removing them is longevity- which, if you have a refrigerator, you don't need.  Investing all that labor to remove them is ridiculous.

 

Unless you're lactose intolerant. If you're lactose intolerant, then yes, you're stuck with having to strain and skim, but, for the millions of people that aren't, it's a waste of time.

 

And, just to be perfectly clear, I'm not knocking clarified butter.  Clarified butter is irreplaceable in many applications.  If you're making Indian food, though, there are no applications where milk solids are undesirable. Nobody deep fries with it, nor does anyone use it for tempering spices.

 

If you have a refrigerator (and aren't lactose intolerant), throwing away deliciously tan milk solids is a crime, imo- especially with all the labor it takes to remove them.



#11 OliverB

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 09:49 AM

I just buy it now, pretty cheap and lasts for ever. When I made it myself I strained it, the solids settle on the bottom anyway. Skimmed some of the foam off with a spoon.


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#12 Porthos

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 09:55 AM

I feel compelled to point out that the OP's question was about technique, not should he or shouldn't he make ghee at all. I might just try making some for the fun of it.


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#13 FeChef

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 12:51 PM

I have never bought ghee nor have i made ghee. But I make brown butter all the time and it is excellent on popcorn, steamed clams, lobster, and crab legs. Its also the secret ingredient in my homemade perogies with butter and onions. Whoever said make sure not to brown the butter doesnt have a clue.



#14 pbear

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Posted 30 October 2013 - 09:02 PM

Returning to the OP, a few thoughts.  There are, as you say, several ways to make ghee.  Which one uses depends, in part, on which qualities one favors.  Myself, I'm looking for the browned butter flavor, high smoke point and extended shelf life.  For which I use the simple method of cooking the butter over low heat, taking care not to scorch, until the milk solids precipitate out (no skimming - I want the solids to brown), about an hour,  Then I strain through a very fine sieve.  I generally work in 1 lb batches, which makes about 1-1/2 c ghee.  As others have mentioned, a few particles of solids pass through the sieve and sink to the bottom of the storage vessel.  I don't worry about those, as I scoop the ghee from the top, toss when I get down to the sediment layer and make a new batch.

 

With this method, at least, the water content of the butter doesn't matter much.  All the water will be cooked off, so a couple percentage points in water content affects the cooking time by only a few minutes.  (By contrast, those few percentage points can make a big difference in pastry.)  Also, I'm pretty sure the quality of the butter doesn't matter much (except, of course, that it shouldn't be rancid), as the browning process will overwhelm the fresh taste of a premium butter.  No harm in using one, but no advantage either imho.


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#15 Blether

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 07:56 AM

The purists (qv extensive discussion in past threads) will tell you that unless you start with cultured butter (effectively butter from full-fat yoghurt), you're not making ghee.

 

There again I enjoy making clarified-butter-that-I-think-if-as-ghee for Indian dishes, because it tastes good and it's close to tradition.  Scott, sure, but in a forum that's rife with elaborate combinations of technique, molecular gastronomy, hours-for-a-dish recipes and extensive discard - huh ?

 

Constructively, one use I've found for them golden-fried milk solids is indeed to just eat them.  But there must be more...


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#16 Shel_B

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 08:10 AM

The purists (qv extensive discussion in past threads) will tell you that unless you start with cultured butter (effectively butter from full-fat yoghurt), you're not making ghee.

 

 

I have access to cultured butter and, I believe, butter made from yogurt (not 100% sure on that point).


.... Shel


#17 scott123

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 10:56 AM

Scott, sure, but in a forum that's rife with elaborate combinations of technique, molecular gastronomy, hours-for-a-dish recipes and extensive discard - huh ?

 

I pour over food for hours on end. Sometimes it feels like I never stop.  But every technique outlined within both these walls and my own kitchen laboratory, regardless of how complex, labor intensive or expensive, has validity because it alters the end product in some way. It changes the taste.  Double blind taste test ghee with the golden colored milk solids and ghee without. No one will be able to tell the difference. If it's impossible to tell the difference (and you aren't lactose intolerant), why devote the extra labor?



#18 Dexter

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 07:09 PM

Something that I have done (and I may get pantsed for by the purists) is after I've lightly browned the butter, and skimmed off the foam, I allow the now essentially clarified butter to cool very slightly, then pour in about an inch of very warm water without stirring.  This immediately settles to the bottom, cleanly separating the solids which stick to the bottom from the fats that I want to keep.  Pop the pot in the fridge overnight, and remove a clean disc of solid fat the next morning.  Doing it this way, I feel that I get a better total yield from the procedure, and a cleaner final product.  It doesn't appreciably (at least as best I can tell) hydrate the final product.



#19 patrickamory

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 08:32 PM

Good to see you again, Blether!

 

Somewhere back in the archives, V. Gautam (sp?) had some incredible posts on regional Indian ghees... 



#20 pbear

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Posted 31 October 2013 - 10:40 PM

The purists (qv extensive discussion in past threads) will tell you that unless you start with cultured butter (effectively butter from full-fat yoghurt), you're not making ghee.

 

Always interested in learning new things.  Per your suggestion, I searched for the prior threads.  I assume you have in mind these two: Ghee (Clarified Butter) and Store bought ghee (which ended up including a lot of discussion on making from scratch).  Both included many very informative posts by v. gautam, mentioned by patrickamory,  I have (I think) a pretty good "knows what he's talking about" meter and VG hits a 10.  Accordingly, I withdraw my intuition-based assumption that there's no point in using cultured butter for ghee.  I will mention, though, that VG considered this only a distant third to the traditional method, which uses yogurt.  He ranked in the middle, and much closer to the ideal, a somewhat fiddly process of separating the butterfat from commercial Munster cheese.
 



#21 Shel_B

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Posted 01 November 2013 - 08:00 AM

Always interested in learning new things.  Per your suggestion, I searched for the prior threads.  I assume you have in mind these two: Ghee (Clarified Butter) and Store bought ghee (which ended up including a lot of discussion on making from scratch).  Both included many very informative posts by v. gautam, mentioned by patrickamory,  I have (I think) a pretty good "knows what he's talking about" meter and VG hits a 10.  Accordingly, I withdraw my intuition-based assumption that there's no point in using cultured butter for ghee.  I will mention, though, that VG considered this only a distant third to the traditional method, which uses yogurt.  He ranked in the middle, and much closer to the ideal, a somewhat fiddly process of separating the butterfat from commercial Munster cheese.
 

 

 

I'm not going to make ghee from yogurt or from Munster cheese, but I do have a wide variety of butter available to me.  Within the next couple of weeks, I'll make ghee from a few types and qualities of butter, and maybe use a couple of different techniques, and see what the results are.

 

I bought some ghee at the market a few days ago, and thought that I'd get some greater flavor from it, but, in that regard, I was disappointed.  Yet numerous reviews on line suggest that it's a good quality ghee.  Maybe my expectations are too high, or I don't know what to look for in a flavor profile.


.... Shel


#22 Blether

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Posted 01 November 2013 - 08:02 AM

Hi Patrick, hey, Scott, and hello, pbear !

 

I haven't had the chance IRL to compare Gautam's genuine ghee vs clarified butter, but IIRC he was emphatic about how different the taste is.  Scott, how about you ?


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#23 Blether

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Posted 01 November 2013 - 08:08 AM

 

.. I don't know what to look for in a flavor profile.

 

 

That doesn't sound right.


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#24 Shel_B

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Posted 01 November 2013 - 08:15 AM

 

 

.. I don't know what to look for in a flavor profile.

 

 

That doesn't sound right.

 

 

And why doesn't that sound right?  I've only had ghee once in my life, forty years ago, so how do I know what ghee should taste like, or what the possibilities are, or how different techniques might effect taste?


.... Shel


#25 Blether

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Posted 08 November 2013 - 09:28 AM

It doesn't sound right because on the one hand, I know you've put a lot of time into your knowledge of food - it was meant as a compliment - and on the other because even if you hadn't, everyone has the simple ability to say "I like this" or "I don't like this".  Having the practised skill to create ghee with one flavour or another is a quite different subject :-)

 

ETA: as for your experience of ghee from the market - I believe there are products - even Indian brands - on the market that call themselves ghee but contain no ingredients that came from a cow.


Edited by Blether, 08 November 2013 - 09:34 AM.

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