Ghee, or Indian-style clarified butter, is super-easy to make. It’s also a wonderful, tri-doshic food that nourishes your tissues, emotions, senses, and mind. In fact, one of the ancient Ayurvedic treatments for depression is to gaze into a warm, fragrant bowl of melted ghee for 20 minutes each morning.
Ghee is safe for every constitution (vata, pitta, and kapha). It is especially soothing for vata and pitta. If you have an active kapha imbalance—or the season, or day, or your general environment is kapha provoking—you may want to moderate your intake of ghee.
You can use ghee in cooking wherever butter or oil is called for. Because ghee is solid at room temperature, it is not suitable for salad dressings.
Ghee is also the gold standard for burning in offering lamps (jyotir), and can even be used for self-massage. Ghee infused with various herbal preparations is a standard treatment in Ayurveda.
If made and stored properly, ghee will last for months, if not years, without refrigeration.
How to make ghee
- Prepare a pint-sized glass jar by cleaning it thoroughly and letting it completely air dry. A mason jar works well. Both the jar and the lid must be free from any dirt or grease and must be absolutely dry with no lint from towel.
- Put 1 pound of absolutely fresh, unsalted, organic butter in a heavy pot with a rather thick bottom and high sides. Different brands of butter contain radically different amounts of water and milk solids. The quality of the butter you begin with greatly affects the amount of butter oil (ghee) you will harvest. The best brand I have found for ghee-making in the U.S. is Straus Family. Whole Foods brand organic butter also works well. I’ve heard that Trader Joe’s organic is good, too.
- Melt the butter over medium-low heat. When the melted butter starts simmering, it begins to foam. Turn the heat a bit lower, and continue at a low simmer with the butter uncovered. Stir once with a clean wooden or metal spoon.
- While simmering, small white curds appear on the surface, and the amount of foam slowly decreases. The solids progressively settle on the bottom of the pot.
- As the butter ghee continues simmering, you’ll see that it becomes more and more transparent. From time to time, use a wooden spoon to gently move the surface of the simmering butter to better check its transparency. Don’t go deep with the spoon; the purpose is not to stir but to check if the clarified butter is taking on the lovely golden color so characteristic of ghee.
- When the ghee is finished, it will have a rich, sweet pop-corny smell, a golden transparent color and the foam on the surface will have greatly reduced in amount and will be dry and thin. The solids on the bottom of the pan will be a golden brown. Once the butter is all melted and simmering, it should not take more than 20 minutes to finish. It will take longer if you make a bigger batch of ghee, or if your butter is not high quality.
- Take the ghee off the heat at once as it can burn easily at this point. Allow it to cool a little while you prepare the jar.
- Cut out a double- or triple-layer square of cheese cloth big enough to completely cover the mouth of the jar with some hanging over the sides. Whether you need a double or a triple layer will depend on the the weave of the cloth. Secure it over the mouth of the jar with a rubber band. Make sure you depress the cloth a little way into the mouth of the jar, forming a pocket in which to pour the ghee. You can also use a sieve lined with cheese cloth. Whole Foods and other natural food stores carry cheese cloth. Another option is to strain the ghee using a gold mesh-style tea strainer that can be seated in the opening of the mason jar.
- Pour the golden liquid slowly through the cloth or tea strainer into the jar. Discard the brownish curds at the bottom of the pot. The finished ghee should be absolutely clear, golden butter oil.
- Allow the ghee to cool thoroughly at room temperature before putting the lid on it. This prevents condensation from ruining the ghee. When the ghee is cool, put the lid on the jar. At this point, unless it is a very hot day, the ghee will have solidified.
- DO NOT REFRIGERATE YOUR GHEE. This will cause condensation as you move between the fridge and the warmer temperature of your kitchen, opening and closing the jar. It is also important to always use a perfectly clean spoon to scoop out ghee for use in cooking. Never get any food particles or water in your ghee as this will cause it to go rancid and moldy.
ENJOY YOUR GHEE!
This ghee recipe is the joint production of Ayurvedic clinician, Susan Fauman, and Shambhavi Sarasvati.