“To early Chinese Buddhists, the progression of obtaining cream from milk, churning the cream into butter, and refining butter into ghee was representative of spiritual evolution; ghee symbolized the finest essence of life, the attainment of enlightenment,” writes Miriam Kasin Hospodar in her Ayurvedic cookbook, Heaven’s Banquet.
Ghee is India’s version of clarified butter. This golden, spreadable butter makes my world a happier place. I cook with it, add it to soups and sauces, slather it on toast, drizzle it over popcorn, eat it by the melted spoonful. Everything is better with ghee. It is good for you, and very simple to make at home. It is semi-solid at room temperature and melts into a clear cooking oil with a high smoke point, so it can even be used for frying.
Ayurvedic medicine uses ghee in many remedies. Like most healthy oils, ghee helps maintain a shiny coat. It also lubricates the body internally, much like lotion does for the skin. I recommend it (be advised, I have no medical training) for creaking joints, brittleness, dryness in the body, frazzled nerves. Try adding ghee with black pepper to vegetables that typically cause gas. I turn to ghee for help with sluggish digestion and constipation. A process called internal oleation calls for ingesting a teaspoon of melted ghee each day for several days to help dislodge and eliminate toxins from the tissues of the body.
I am still fasting, and don’t want to lose any more weight. I decided to add ghee to my fast to increase my caloric intake and to allow myself a tasty treat. I wrote in the last post that I was eating small meals as needed at the beginning of the fast, but for the past several days I have stuck to liquids only. To give myself the sensation of having a meal, I dice a one-inch segment of zucchini, saute it ghee and add broth. This has been very good for satisfying hunger, and allows me to sit down at the table for meals with family and friends. When I begin to add food back into my diet I will eat kitchari with ghee. Stay tuned for that recipe.
I will describe the quick stove-top method for making ghee, which takes about 30 minutes. Ghee can also be made in large quantity overnight in a crock pot on the lowest setting, or in the oven. Use the heaviest pan in the kitchen, like a cast-iron skillet. Melt 1-2 pounds of organic, unsalted butter over the lowest-possible heat. All water in the butter will evaporate, the milk solids will sink to the bottom of the pan, and a foam will form over the top of the clear liquid. Watch carefully to make sure that the milk solids do not burn. After about 30 minutes, the foam on top will turn a golden color, and the butter will smell like movie theater popcorn. At this point, remove from heat.
Carefully skim off the foam and set aside. This foam is delicious and medicinal, try it over rice. Next, strain the remaining liquid through several layers of cheese-cloth or clean cotton. Pour the clear liquid into a completely dry jar or other container. As it cools, it will become semi-soft and opaque. It is very important that the container not have any moisture whatsoever, and that it can be sealed. Moisture and contact with air creates an environment where bacteria can grow. Always use a clean, dry knife or spoon to serve ghee. Store at room temperature for a month or longer. While aged ghee is said to be highly beneficial, that is perhaps best left to the experts.