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The best fat for the job


Fat Guy
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Purely going on flavor, not health, here are my preferences for cooking fats:

MANTECA (Mexican lard) - essential for Mexican cooking. It is brown from all the pork bits left in it and has a deeply porky, satisfying flavor.

SUET - for chili

GHEE - for most Northern Indian dishes and all Persian dishes - a good brand is essential, e.g. Vindavran. Note that ghee is not the same as clarified butter!

COCONUT OIL - for some Thai dishes and many southern Indian ones

RENDERED PORK FAT - for many Northern Thai dishes

CRACKED COCONUT CREAM - for many Southern and Central Thai dishes

BUTTER for most northern European dishes

OLIVE OIL for the south and for sauteeing fatty cuts like pork chops that will shortly give up their own fat... plus...

"VEGETABLE OIL" - I guess it's usually canola, I have no idea whether it's healthy, but often it's exactly what you want when you don't wish the fat to contribute a certain flavor to a dish. I use it for most of my southern Indian dishes and some northern ones (even ones that may later have a second part fried in ghee). It's also great for deep-frying.

Also... LAMB TAIL FAT is considered a necessity for many Persian dishes. It's almost impossible to source in the US, unfortunately - the food processors discard the tail - my partner was invited to come slaughter his own at one farm that raises the breed, so that the tail could be saved. He hasn't taken them up on that opportunity.

P.S. - I highly recommend Jennifer McLagan's book "Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient." Beautiful, informative & packed with interesting information from recipes to advice on rendering different fats, as well as health info.

Edited by patrickamory (log)
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Also... LAMB TAIL FAT is considered a necessity for many Persian dishes. It's almost impossible to source in the US, unfortunately - the food processors discard the tail - my partner was invited to come slaughter his own at one farm that raises the breed, so that the tail could be saved. He hasn't taken them up on that opportunity.

Is there a reason that it needs to be the tail? Is that fat tastier than other lamb fat?

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...Canola oil seems to be little too clean of everything and i dont feel like thats a such great idea. Finnish industry push rapeseed oil like crazy but i rather use a good Cretan olive oil instead of those "motor oils".

Can you please explain a bit more what olive oil you like ? For me, sauteeing (sparkling fresh fish, just floured to reduce spattering) in ordinary-grade olive oil is one of the joys of Italian family-style cooking. What makes Canola an industril "motor oil" where such oilve oil isn't ? Or did I mis-read you ?

For maintaining my cutting board, I like edible mineral oil, which *is* getting close to motor oil...

and patrickamory, do you have more detail on

Note that ghee is not the same as clarified butter
? (I meah other than the fact that many commercial ghee brands contain ingredients that don't come from butter - or cows - in the first place and so to me are less authentically ghee than what's traditional ?)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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...

and patrickamory, do you have more detail on

Note that ghee is not the same as clarified butter
? (I meah other than the fact that many commercial ghee brands contain ingredients that don't come from butter - or cows - in the first place and so to me are less authentically ghee than what's traditional ?)

It is my understanding that ghee is to clarified butter what dark roux is to light roux: the butter is cooked until it is golden brown and then clarified, as opposed to clarified butter, which is cooked such that it is not coloured. I'm interested in any additional differences as well.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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...Canola oil seems to be little too clean of everything and i dont feel like thats a such great idea. Finnish industry push rapeseed oil like crazy but i rather use a good Cretan olive oil instead of those "motor oils".

Can you please explain a bit more what olive oil you like ? For me, sauteeing (sparkling fresh fish, just floured to reduce spattering) in ordinary-grade olive oil is one of the joys of Italian family-style cooking. What makes Canola an industril "motor oil" where such oilve oil isn't ? Or did I mis-read you ?

For maintaining my cutting board, I like edible mineral oil, which *is* getting close to motor oil...

and patrickamory, do you have more detail on

Note that ghee is not the same as clarified butter
? (I meah other than the fact that many commercial ghee brands contain ingredients that don't come from butter - or cows - in the first place and so to me are less authentically ghee than what's traditional ?)

I just use the best tasting Cretan olive oil from local supermarket. Its http://www.gaea.gr/en/our-products/extra-virgin-olive-oils/?&EntityID=050607bd-af43-44ff-826d-e5ca56a3d945 this, we dont have gourmet olive oils, but i like the flavour this one.

I make sure its as fresh as possible, or i dont buy it, i check the date. I am not so experienced with flavours so this might

be crappy to real chefs :)

I am not a scientific person and not much a cook either, but theres growing number of biochemist etc thinking that canola oil, during extraction is already oxidized, and due to its poor unnatural omega 3/6 ratio isnt healthy. Its not as bad as soybean oil but it aint no olive oil either. It is perhaps due to high level of phytonutrients in olive oil makes it safer to use heated than any of the high PUFA seed oils. Especially when cooking something that is easily oxidised, like fish. Herbs like rosemarin, dill, thyme, curcumin, citrus fruits and perhaps even red wine inhibits oxidation of fats and are a good idea, and ofcourse they just happen to taste good :)

I just rather use olive oil due to fact that it doesnt remind me like the rancid fats at local Mcdonalds. I dont deep fry anything tho, so i dont know much about that. But if i did, i would deep fry with duckfat or perhaps tallow. You would want the fat to be saturated to stand up oxidation. I think they used to use these fats before, it was propably the last time fries very actually not so bad for the health :D

Edited by Jan Virtanen (log)
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Purely going on flavor, not health, here are my preferences for cooking fats:

MANTECA (Mexican lard) - essential for Mexican cooking. It is brown from all the pork bits left in it and has a deeply porky, satisfying flavor.

SUET - for chili

GHEE - for most Northern Indian dishes and all Persian dishes - a good brand is essential, e.g. Vindavran. Note that ghee is not the same as clarified butter!

COCONUT OIL - for some Thai dishes and many southern Indian ones

RENDERED PORK FAT - for many Northern Thai dishes

CRACKED COCONUT CREAM - for many Southern and Central Thai dishes

BUTTER for most northern European dishes

OLIVE OIL for the south and for sauteeing fatty cuts like pork chops that will shortly give up their own fat... plus...

"VEGETABLE OIL" - I guess it's usually canola, I have no idea whether it's healthy, but often it's exactly what you want when you don't wish the fat to contribute a certain flavor to a dish. I use it for most of my southern Indian dishes and some northern ones (even ones that may later have a second part fried in ghee). It's also great for deep-frying.

Also... LAMB TAIL FAT is considered a necessity for many Persian dishes. It's almost impossible to source in the US, unfortunately - the food processors discard the tail - my partner was invited to come slaughter his own at one farm that raises the breed, so that the tail could be saved. He hasn't taken them up on that opportunity.

P.S. - I highly recommend Jennifer McLagan's book "Fat: An Appreciation of a Misunderstood Ingredient." Beautiful, informative & packed with interesting information from recipes to advice on rendering different fats, as well as health info.

Does the lamb tail fat taste different than fat from lamb marrow bones? Sounds interesting, have to ask from my local farm when they clip the tails, i would buy them. :) I already ordered whole lamb head so they are used to my strange requests :D

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...

and patrickamory, do you have more detail on

Note that ghee is not the same as clarified butter
? (I meah other than the fact that many commercial ghee brands contain ingredients that don't come from butter - or cows - in the first place and so to me are less authentically ghee than what's traditional ?)

It is my understanding that ghee is to clarified butter what dark roux is to light roux: the butter is cooked until it is golden brown and then clarified, as opposed to clarified butter, which is cooked such that it is not coloured. I'm interested in any additional differences as well.

Ghee is clarified until the milk solids go golden and sink to the bottom and all the water evaporates off. The milk solids are carefully strained out. What is left is pure fat and can be used even for deep frying.

I am not an expert on clarified butter but I think the main difference is that less carmalisation of the milk solids take place. Does less water get evaporated off too? I don't know for sure, but I think that ghee is heated for longer. In our house we heat it until the ghee stops "singing" (making little musical plip-plop sounds) as this shows all the water is gone.

By the way traditionally in India ghee is not made from butter made out of sweet cream. The cream off the top of yoghurt is set aside for a few days until there is enough, and then it is churned into butter which is in turn made into ghee.

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So its basicly fermented or cultured? Atleast in local room temperatures shouldnt take long? :)

I see, some ghees are made from buffalo milk too.

I suppose it is like the difference between sweet butter and cultured butter.

A lot of the milk in India is buffalo and yes all the normal dairy products (butter, ghee, paneer, yoghurt, etc.) are made from it. Ayurvedically, I believe cow ghee is slightly preferred.

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Sorry for the delayed response on this - LAMB TAIL FAT for Persian cooking comes only from Karakul sheep. They have a little hump in place of a tail, and a large quantity of fat is stored there. They are also known as "fat-tailed sheep." Only 10 or 15 farms in the US raise Karakul sheep (there are some other breeds of fat-tailed sheep).

And yes, it is supposed to have a distinctive flavor. Unfortunately I've never had it.

I think others have answered the ghee question better than I - Jennifer McLagan goes into far more detail in her book 'Fat', and if poster v. gautam sees this thread, he or she will definitely have something to say on the subject - I'd also check out this thread:

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Thanks for the link to that thread, which I hadn't read before. I too appreciate v. gautam's insights, though I think it's over-doing it to call ghee from sweet butter flavourless.

I'll have to try the genuine cultured-butter kind. In the meantime, in the same way as I can still enjoy good country ham when I don't have the parma, bayonne or serrano variety, I'll be carrying on with the easy-peasy ghee, whose flavour & richness I really enjoy, and I'll remain thankful that I'm avoiding the cheaper brands of commercdial ghee that have cottonseed oil and the like in them. The main difference around here between ghee and clarified butter seems to be the frequency with which I overcook the ghee and end up with, umm, noisette ghee.

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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Nothing wrong with ghee from sweet butter, it's delicious and works well in recipes.

FWIW, here is how I set about making ghee from scratch in one of the traditional ways (more on that below):

Step 1 - Bring the days milk to the boil and leave to cool for several hours. I use Amul gold which is something like 6% fat. I am almost certain it is buffalo milk but would appreciate if anyone could confirm that. I don't use a doodhwala at the moment as I am not sure how good our local one is (with watering milk down, etc.) and I like knowing that my milk is definitely all milk!

Step 2 - Scoop the cream off the top of the milk. Resist the temptation to eat it all there and then, and set it aside in a tub in the fridge.

Step 3 - Repeat for several days until I have enough cream.

Step 4 - Add a little yoghurt to the cream and leave overnight to culture it.

Step 5 - Churn the cream into butter.

Step 6 - Resist the temptation to slather it all over roti and instead make ghee in the "normal way".

Other ways that people round here use:

*Make yoghurt from the milk everyday and scoop the cream directly off that, then follow same steps but no need to culture the cream once enough is gathered.

*Don't add yoghurt to the cream as by the time enough is gathered the cream sours a little naturally (depending on time and on refrigeration).

*Don't bother making butter from the cream - the cream is put directly in a pan and cooked into ghee. Have never done this myself but apparently it works.

Edited by Jenni (log)
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Nothing wrong with ghee from sweet butter, it's delicious and works well in recipes.

FWIW, here is how I set about making ghee from scratch in one of the traditional ways (more on that below):

Step 1 - Bring the days milk to the boil and leave to cool for several hours.

You have no idea how amazing that sounds. Here all milk is pasteurized and homogenized and mixed at the dairy plant from milk from hundreds of different cows and farms, then put into containers and sold days -- if not weeks if it's ultrapasteurized -- after it came from the cow.

Except in my hippie ancient history days when I got natural milk in bottles from a local farm, I have never in my life had day old milk.

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Well let's not be too rosey eyed about India's dairy industry. Whether your fresh milk is from a local doodhwala or you buy the bags of Amul milk (it's still pretty local), you can't pretend that these cows and buffalo are having a nice life. I won't go into it any more but let's just say that for me, the UK has the best dairy in that the quality is high (if you buy right) and the cows have a better life (again, if you buy right). Cows in nice big rolling fields, that's what I like. Ah, must be my West Country roots!

By the way, you must be able to get unhomogenised milk in the US? In the UK, raw is hard to get (unless you have a good relationship with a farmer) but unhomogenised is easy enough, at least in the south west. Used to get organic, unhomogenised jersey cow milk from a local-ish farm back in Bristol. Could also get an extra creamy milk that wasn't jersey cow from a different company. I think they added some cream back, that's all.

Lovely childhood memories of our summer visits to an "uncle" (can't remember the actual relationship) in Devon who was a farmer and getting lovely fresh milk straight from the cow. As for my Mum, well she grew up with milk that her brother bought home every day from the farm he worked on. Again, fresh from the cow. He's still farming away but sadly they don't have dairy cows on the farm any more so she can't call in any favours!

Edited by Jenni (log)
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I think I am correct in saying that here in the US it is nearly impossible to (legally) get unpasteurized milk from a commercial outlet. There is a dairy farm a couple miles from here that I get my milk and cream from. They are USDA inspected and licensed to sell to the public and only recently were able to sell small amounts of unpasteurized milk. I know a retired dairy farmer from New York that said he'd never ever drink unpasteurized milk from any cow that he had not raised himself and knew that cows health was sound but that was before the USDA had set up regulations to control how it is sold to the public.

I believe that until quite recently is was even illegal to sell or import cheese made from unpasteurized milk.

Edited by Norm Matthews (log)
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I believe that until quite recently is was even illegal to sell or import cheese made from unpasteurized milk.

I was unaware they changed the rules. Got a link?

(And Pilgrim's stopped making Old Speckled Hen cheese. Damn!)

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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... Fair enough, but you don't need unpasteurised milk to scoop the cream off anyway, just unhomogenised.

Or put another way, if it's raw milk, you need to scald it. If it's pasteurised, you need to scald it. But if it's UHT-treated, long-shelf-life milk you can just get straight on with culturing it.

(Shouldn't we take this whole ghee discussion over to the other thread ?)

QUIET!  People are trying to pontificate.

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I was able to get pasteurized UN-homogenized milk when I lived in Santa Fe, NM in the early 1980's through the mid-90's -in glass bottles. It was great buying milk and scooping out a goodly proportion of cream to use for sauces or baking. I am not sure if the dairy still exists.

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