If you are an enthusiast of Indian-inspired cuisine, you probably recognize one of the main ingredients called ghee. It’s an ever-present condiment in Indian homes and is often referred to as “liquid gold.” Did you know that this classic butter product can offer you several health benefits?
Anthropologists say that early humans first were nomadic hunters and gatherers. After they domesticated pasture animals like sheep, goats, cows, and yaks, they eventually added animal milk to their diets. Like many world-changing inventions, dairy products like butter, yogurt, and cheese were probably invented by accident.
Food historians believe that the process for churning butter was discovered around 4,000 BCE in the East. It wouldn’t take long for this creamy concoction’s popularity to spread around the known world. People invented butter churns and used the dairy product as an essential staple in most world cuisines.
The Beginnings of Ghee
In the modern Western world, people usually consider butter as a product of cow’s milk. However, butter can be produced from other large mammals. For thousands of years, countries in the East have enjoyed tasty butter made from the milk of sheep, goats, buffalo, and yaks.
Although butter will remain stable at room temperature, warmer weather can make it melt and go rancid. Most of India has a tropical climate, making keeping butter difficult in times before refrigeration. The heat is incredibly oppressive in the Northeast section of India, so the people discovered a way to make their butter stable in hot weather.
Nobody knows how they got the idea of cooking the butter until the milk solids and water evaporated, leaving pure butterfat. But once these early food scientists did, they found that it would stay fresh and delicious even in the scorching weather. The discovery was probably around 2,000 BCE, and the Indians called their creation ghee.
It was so venerated in India that they called this butter product the “sacred fat.” Holy Hindu scriptures say that the gods sent it down as a gift. Not only did they use it for cooking, but it was used as a health tonic and for religious ceremonies.
Sacred temple candles are still often made of ghee. Since this dairy wonder lasts a long time and doesn’t require refrigeration, it didn’t take long to become popular worldwide. In Europe and the West, this creation is often called clarified butter. After the milk solids and water has cooked and evaporated, the remaining butterfat has a lovely, nutty flavor.
If you are following a healthy diet, should you even consider using this ingredient? After all, it is pure fat, and you’ve been trying to avoid fatty dairy products. The good news is that clarified butter is a healthy fat that you can use in moderation.
DIY Clarified Butter
Most major grocery stores sell jars of massed produced ghee in the shortening and oils section. You might be in for a case of sticker shock because it’s not cheap. Fortunately, a little goes a long way, and it can last for up to three months on your counter or up to a year in the refrigerator.
If you want to save a little money and learn a valuable skill, you can easily make this butter product at home. All you need is a pound of quality unsalted butter. You’ll also need a sterilized jar and lid for storing the finished product.
Slice butter into small, roughly equal chunks and set aside. In a Dutch oven or heavy skillet over medium heat, add butter and gently stir until it melts. Reduce the heat to low and allow the liquid to simmer. Note that butter and margarine are not the same, so you must use real butter.
As the liquid simmers gently, it will start to bubble, and the milk solids will separate. These solids will come to the surface, leaving water and fat underneath them.
Carefully use a spoon to skim away the floating milk solids. You can sell these in a container in the refrigerator to flavor mashed potatoes or steamed vegetables. Continue removing the milk solids until nothing is floating on the surface.
Although the surface milk solids are removed, you will notice some that have stayed on the bottom. Allow these to continue simmering in the liquid until they turn a light caramel color. This will give the final product its hallmark warm, nutty flavor.
As soon as you notice that the bottom solids have browned, immediately remove the skillet from the heat. Set it aside and allow it to cool for about five minutes.
Use a fine-mesh strainer and three layers of cheesecloth to strain the liquid into a glass measuring cup. Discard the solids and carefully pour the golden liquid into your storage jar. You can keep it on the counter for up to three months or store it in your refrigerator for up to a year.
Remember that your butterfat will become a soft solid at room temperature. You can use a spoon to scoop out what you need at a time. In the unlikelihood that your butterfat becomes discolored or has an off odor, discard it.
Ten Possible Health Benefits of Ghee
Ghee has a higher smoking point and is ideal for frying and sautéing. If you are lactose intolerant, you can still enjoy this product because the lactic acid is gone. Besides cooking, here are ten health benefits that you may receive when you use ghee.
1. It’s Good for Your Heart
While this dairy product does have saturated fat, it also is a valuable source of Omega 3 fatty acids. Your body needs a certain amount of these “good fats” for healthy cardiovascular and brain health. Again, moderation is the key.
2. Get Better Sleep
Who would believe that enjoying a tasty butter product would help you sleep better? In the ancient traditions of Indian Ayurvedic medicine, many Indian people use ghee as a massage oil. Some Ayurvedic practitioners recommend rubbing your temples with some of this liquid gold to help you relax and go to sleep.
3. Soothing Arthritis Pain
If you have arthritis or other joint issues, you know how painful it can be. Some research suggests that consuming moderate amounts of this butter product may help reduce painful inflammation. Perhaps it’s from the healthy fats that your body requires for lubricating your joints.
4. May Benefit Your Body Cells
Ordinary chemical reactions in your body often leave free radicals floating around in your bloodstream. In their efforts to bond with other molecular material, these rogue radicals attack and damage cells throughout your body. This pure butterfat provides several antioxidants that may defend your cells against this damage.
5. May Boost Your Immune System
Like all the other systems throughout your body, your immune system requires essential vitamins and minerals for optimal performance. This delightful butterfat provides the usual dairy vitamins of A, K, E, and D. These nutrients can boost your immunity and keep illnesses at bay.