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Smen has a very strong smell.

I was told it is very similar to ghee (clarified butter) and yet it is not the same thing.

I could tell by the smell that it was very different.

Some simply call Smen rancid butter. I was told that it is prepared like ghee. By melting butter and then straining the fat from the impurities.

Would anyone know the exact difference between Smen and Ghee?

In Morocco they used it in most of the meat dishes and also in the couscous preparations. I could always smell it in these dishes and was often put off by its very string and lingering smell. Is it just me? Or do others find it very strong as well?

I also find ghee very strong. But Smen, is even stronger.

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  • 3 months later...

Samen (not Smen) is not rancid butter or rancid ghee. The Samen that my grandma and mom use in Lebanon is actually homemade and smells and tastes very pleasant. My grandmother churns her own butter in a small washer, yes a clothes washer !!!! no kidding , of course she only uses it for that purpose and it fits a few gallons of milk and is not a high speed one but rather one of those old ones that twirl clockwise/anti clockwise for as long as they are on (perfect for churning the butter). She then makes the Samen like Suvir described by melting the butter and and skimming any impurities and you have "samen". It is used to cook a lot of stuff like eggs, bulgur, rice, or any other item that needs to be sauteed. And it does have a strong nice aroma to it (BUT NOT RANCID, UNLESS IT WAS RANCID OF COURSE).

However I am not sure what the difference is between "ghee" and "Samen"!!! Sorry Suvir.

FM

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Wow! Thanks Foodman. Where does grandma live?

You know, I think the samen I have tasted in Morocco, and also in NYC, has perhaps been rancid because it turned so. And the chefs sharing it with me did not want to admit so.

No wonder I thought it smelled like rancid butter or ghee.

Do you get some of your grandmas home made samen? What dishes do you use it in?

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Grandma lives in a town in North Lebanon. She does send me foodstuffs but not Samen, the reason being that there are more important stuff to send such (that's what I got two weeks ago) as hommade fig-almond preserves and "shanklish" which is a type of moldy smelly cheese that I absolutely love and is very common in north Lebanon and Syria. So Samen unfortunatly is not on her mailing list :smile:. If i did have it however I would probably use it for sauteing and as a tasty addition to rice or burgul.

FM

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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5{s in a town in North Lebanon. She does send me foodstuffs but not Samen, the reason being that there are more important stuff to send such (that's what I got two weeks ago) as hommade fig-almond preserves and "shanklish" which is a type of moldy smelly cheese that I absolutely love and is very common in north Lebanon and Syria. So Samen unfortunatly is not on her mailing list :smile:. If i did have it however I would probably use it for sauteing and as a tasty addition to rice or burgul. 

FM

Wow! You sound luck a lucky man. Grandma in Lebanon sending you goodies to the US. WOW!

No such luck for me.

I just enjoy what they have back home..and make my own here..

Every now and then my mom comes with pickles... And I am grateful. :smile:

Your grandma sounds amazing. Thanks for sharing this with us.

I am most fascinated by your grandma having used a washing machine to churn cream or butter. How brilliant!

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She is an amazing woman and I do get stuff from her about 3 or 4 times a year whenever someone is coming to the states. However something cam to mind while thinking about your comment about how strong the flavor of the samen you tried was. Could it have been sheep's or goat's milk maybe that was used to make it instead of cow's?I know both are used but I have never tried them. Only fresh cow's milk is used in my grandma's kitchen.

FM

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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She is an amazing woman and I do get stuff from her about 3 or 4 times a year whenever someone is coming to the states. However something cam to mind while thinking about your comment about how strong the flavor of the samen you tried was. Could it have been sheep's or goat's milk maybe that was used to make it instead of cow's?I know both are used but I have never tried them. Only fresh cow's milk is used in my grandma's kitchen.

FM

Very good question you raise.

I think the one in Morocco was certainly sheeps or goats ( I think goat).

But the one in Lebanon, I am not sure.

And yes in India, we prefer cows milk. It has the best taste and no smell. Makes perfect sense.

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  • 3 months later...

Smen made tradionally by Moroccon Berbers is seasoned with herbs etc and stored to age. The ageing develops the flavour. The more flavour the less you have to use. As butter was a precious commodity (energy source) only well-off people could afford to age there Smen for any lenghth of time, so having the oldest, stinkiest Smen is a status symbol. Or so I have read.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Smen in general is clarified butter, but the smelly smen seems to be a peculiarly Magrebi and more specifically Moroccan phenomenon.

According to Paula Wolfert, unclarified butter is referred to as zebda,

in Morocco, while clarified butter is called smen (see Wolfer, Couscous, 36-39). Smen is not always "aged", but Berbers apparently developed the habit of burying it in the ground for safekeeping.

Clarified butter seems to go by a bewildering number of names even in

the middle east, as indicated by this useful page on butter products by the FAO. Note how many different romanized transliterations there are for smen, such as samn, samnah, samneh (can some Arabic speaker tell me if this reflects different Arabic spellings or not?) Interestingly roghan is used in Iran to refer to clarified butter, while I believe in India it typically refers to animal fat (is this so, Suvir?).

Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host

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  • 2 weeks later...

According to Jamal Bellakhdar writing in La pharmacopee marocaine traditionnelle "smen is clarified butter infused with origanum compactum (vulgar) and preserved for at least a month before using."

He suggests that though many herbs and spices have been found to kill or inhibit bacterial species on which they are applied, this type of oregano is one of the most potent. Moroccans make the smen with sheeps milk and keep it for years in clay jars.

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  • 2 months later...
Note how many different romanized transliterations there are for smen, such as samn, samnah, samneh (can some Arabic speaker tell me if this reflects different Arabic spellings or not?)

the different namings indicated above merely reflect different dialects or accents. As a North Lebanese I pronounce it "SAMEN" but in Beirut it is more likely to be pronounced "SAMNEH". But they are still the same product --clarified butter.

FM

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  • 4 weeks later...

I used to buy herbed smen when I lived in Morocco. Nowadays, I only make it when I'm planning a Moroccan dinner party or teaching a cooking class. It really makes a difference in flavor.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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I used to buy herbed smen when I lived in Morocco. Nowadays, I only make it when I'm planning a Moroccan dinner party or teaching a cooking class. It really makes a difference in flavor.

I have no access to your books at this point.. .my books and I are temporarily separated. Would it be too much to ask if you can share the process if not the entire recipe here?

Thanks in advance. :smile:

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Suvir: I used to write my comments under the name of hedgehog until I was "outed" by Russ Parsons.

note the comments above I added about smen.

“C’est dans les vieux pots, qu’on fait la bonne soupe!”, or ‘it is in old pots that good soup is made’.

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Just to comment on the Samen/Ghee difference. After some research and thinking about the issue for my "Lebanese Cuisine" class I concluded that the main difference is that traditionally Samen is made with sheep's milk while Ghee is strictly made form cow's milk. I could be wrong, but other than that I do not think there is a difference.

Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  • 1 year later...
Smen in general is clarified butter, but the smelly smen seems to be a peculiarly Magrebi and more specifically Moroccan phenomenon.

The Algerian smen is pretty stinky too. My maman totured me with that stuff. :biggrin:

"First catch your Berber".

Part Berber here. :wink:

I can be reached via email chefzadi AT gmail DOT com

Dean of Culinary Arts

Ecole de Cuisine: Culinary School Los Angeles

http://ecolecuisine.com

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 1 year later...

A late addition to this thread, but....

Read all the previous and wanted to make a comment. It comes from a cross-training perspective.

I've used ghee for Indian cooking for years. Part of the "deal" with ghee is that it does not go "off," even in the hotter areas of the subcontinent. Research by me and explanations by Indian friends seemed to point to the fact that clarifying the butter (removing the solids) renders it more stable and storable. As an added benefit, it doesn't burn (that seems to be the European motivation for clarifying butter). When you in India, the ghee pot just sort of hangs out in the very hot kitchen, undaunted.

So, when I'd make smen using clarified butter it just sort of sat there. Nice, salty, flavored, but nothing more than that. I'd used unsalted, organic, pasturized butter, boiled/cooked it thoroughly, so I shouldn't have been too surprised by this.

Back in the day I'd also used Paula Wolferts "bathe and store" technique, but had lost hope when it, too, sort of sat there. I don't think I let it sit long enough, to be honest.

Fast forward to present.

Last spring I bought some certified raw butter (unpasturized) at our local Napa farmers' market. Quite a different taste to be sure. Pleasant, a bit "wild," a little sour. Delicious.

As I'd purchased a pound tub and don't eat much butter, it crept to the back of the refer and hid. A few months later I was cleaning out the fridge and found it.

BINGO! There was a little bit of mold, but all in all the flavor was delicious. Sort of cheesey, not rancid. It jogged the old grey cells so I went back to "Couscous and Other Good Foods from Morocco" and there was the bit about adding a little bit of blue cheese to your smen-in-the-making to get the right note of pungency.

So, in the future, I think this is the direction I'll take. Live butter!

Pasturized butter is (blessedly) inert and inactive. This raw butter was pretty frisky, and the results of my negligence reminded me of the smen I'd had in Morocco....

All this for what it's worth. I guess it pays to be a bit of a sloven from time to time.

Finally, I'm planning on finalizing some interest warka/dioul/malsouka tricks I've been using. It involves a 14" Lodge cast iron dutch oven lid turn upside down and it works about 100% better on my old gas range than the honest-to-God, purhcased-in-Fez-el-Bali "tobil dial warka" which I've been using for years.

Can't wait to try popiah skins on it.

Noel in Napa

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Looking up a few recipes, it seems that there is more than one smen. Seems logical since, indeed, ghee never goes off, so the smen that goes rancid cannot be the same as ghee.

I found a recipe which is more or less the same as for ghee. This one is said to be for cooking purposes only and mild-flavored.

And another one (smen mellah) which is, plainly, heavily salted raw butter packed in a jar and left to age. This one is, I believe, the rancid kind used for flavoring purposes (couscous, meat dishes).

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  • 3 weeks later...
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