that would be known as clarified butter after the ayurvedic tradition
August 18, 2009 5:23 AM   Subscribe

So I made ghee and bombed.

I made ghee but things didn't turn out as planned. I'm left with a brownish mixture that won't set at room temperature, a concoction with a strange, granular texture and rather off putting taste. Not ghee like at all.

I suspect two points of failure: first, my filter didn't properly separate out milk proteins as needed. But that is easily fixable next time around.

But secondly while boiling the butter I perhaps allowed the milk proteins to carmelise a little bit too much, as manifested by black, not brown dairy residue, both left in the pan as well as mixing in with my faux ghee, destroying it's taste as well as colour.

Any tips or pointers newbie ghee cooker? I've seen enough recipes to think I'm executing the process correctly, but I blew it when I should have stopped boiling.

Other ghee makers - how many times did you have to try before you were producing a standard product? Anything else I cook (muffins, puddings, bagels, cakes, casseroles, etc) I can crank out time and time again. But ghee seems very process & temperature sensitive, at least much more so than anything I've cooked in the past.

I realise that making ghee is an exercise in both paying attention and being patient. I think I just let the ghee heat for a little bit too long, but I'm not totally sure.

I spent a month in India in 2005 and want Mrs Mutant to acquire a taste for ghee like I did while there, but as its a little pricey at stores here in The East End I'd like to make it myself.

Ghee goes well with pretty much everything, and now that I've got a little time freed up, making ghee is top of my to-be-acquired-skills list.

Any tips from consummate and polished ghee makers would be appreciated.
posted by Mutant to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I have used Alton Brown's recipe many times (most recently this weekend) and never had a problem. I am guessing you overcooked it, so turning down the heat a bit sounds reasonable. It should only take a few minutes to make, in my experience. One difference I have sometimes heard described between ghee and drawn/clarified butter is that ghee is heated until the milk solids in the bottom are brown, imparting a nutty taste, where clarified butter is taken off the heat just a little before that point, leaving a more buttery taste. Others do not make that distinction, though. Anyway try it again; I am not the worlds best cook but have never had a problem making ghee.
posted by TedW at 5:38 AM on August 18, 2009

I make it in a Creuset pot on a gas stove with the heat turned all the way down. Every so often once it starts to boil, I stir it a bit and scrape the solids off the sides, so that they will cook and settle faster.

Once the color of the solids starts to darken at all, I turn off the heat and let the residual heat in the pot finish the job. When it has cooled somewhat but is still very liquid, I pour it through a milk filter (available in farm supply stores in the US, presumably also in the UK) to catch any stray bits of milk solid, but by that point there are only a very few bits floating around.

I've never had any problem at all with this system, other than walking away and completely forgetting about it for an hour, which does result in burnt ghee.
posted by bricoleur at 6:46 AM on August 18, 2009

Yeah, be careful when applying the heat. The idea is to separate the butter into three separate elements: the water (which will be boiled of), the solids, mostly protein (which get filtered out) and the rest (triglycerides, fatty acids, stuff).

The problem is IMHO the point where the water boils off - until then, most of the heat energy you add is used to turn liquid water into steam, a very energy-intensive process. When the water is gone, the temperature jumps if you don't control it carefully, as the newly added energy doesn't escape the pot anymore but accumulates within; that could lead to carbonizing the proteins or even breaking down the fatty acids.
posted by PontifexPrimus at 6:52 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used this recipe with great success. I also asked a question about what to do with the result.
posted by odinsdream at 7:15 AM on August 18, 2009

I just want to note that any recipe that takes just a few minutes is making clarified butter, not ghee (which you may be aware of, but just clarifying – ha!). Odinsdream's first link should take you down the right road.
posted by qwip at 9:10 AM on August 18, 2009

nthing overcooked. Keep the flame down. You really don't need very much heat to make this stuff.
posted by Citrus at 10:16 AM on August 18, 2009

I often make an Ethiopian equivalent to ghee, niter kebbeh, which includes cinnamon, cloves, garlic, cardamom, ginger, onion, and other spices. It's imperative not to burn any of this stuff or it gets bitter and nasty. I have a shitty gas stove that always has a hot flame ring in the middle of any pan, no matter how nice the pan.

So, I made a flame tamer out of aluminum foil that I first twist into a rope, then coil the rope to cover the burner. The pot sits atop the flame tamer and the heat is much more diffuse and mellow, good for long, slow simmering you need to make stuff like this.

Maybe a flame tamer would help you?
posted by ViolaGrinder at 2:40 PM on August 18, 2009

We get results we're very happy with by keeping the heat as low as possible and letting it cook a good long time — the milk solids glom together and float on top for a while, then sink to the bottom of the pot. We let it go until they become quite browned, but not blackened. The resulting ghee is a light amber color and has a nuttier flavor than it does if not cooked as long.
posted by Lexica at 7:55 PM on August 19, 2009

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