When I graduated college, unorthodoxly in the middle of winter, nearly half a lifetime ago, my friends threw a party for me. Generously, they tried to identify my favorite food to serve at the gathering. They were all a bit flummoxed. Each of them knew that my favorite food was not typical party-fare. My favorite food?: buttered toast.
I would sit for hours reading, studying, drawing up plans for new projects fueled by thick slices of German rye bread that I’d toast in the oven then slather with butter. A sprinkling of salt and a cup of tea and I was set for hours on end.
Then life happened. First the dairy left the dietary picture. Gone was the butter. Then it was goodbye gluten. My favorite food no longer favored me. Can you relate?
So when I found ghee (pronounced with a hard G and rhymes with Glee), I was in heaven. Who knew that clarified butter was devoid of both lactose and casein, and was considered a healing agent in Ayurvedic (traditional Indian medicine) practices for centuries?
Let’s get clear:
That’s exactly what ghee does. It’s butter that’s gotten clear; clear of all the milk proteins and solids. Ghee is traditionally made from either cow or buffalo’s milk. The milk is heated which causes it to separate into three parts. The milk fat solids (which contain the dairy’s proteins) sink to the bottom. The water rises to the top. What’s left in the middle is a clear golden oil. This is ghee.
Three great things about ghee:
- First of all, it’s butter for those of us who can’t have it. Ghee is lactose and casein-free. I can’t say I use it all the time for myself, but when I’ve prepared a grain-free muffin or scone to satisfy one of my own hankerings, it seals the deal. I do use it more readily for my son. The fat soluble vitamins in contains will help with bone growth and organ integrity. (As for taste, when I first found my way to ghee after not eating dairy for a good many years, I might just have uttered “I can’t believe it’s not butter.” If you’re transitioning right from butter to ghee, you may more readily decipher the difference.)
- Ghee is a higher heat oil. This means it reaches its smoke point later than many commonly used cooking oils, like olive oil. It oxidizes less readily, is less likely to cause free-radical damage, and is ultimately more healthful at these higher temperatures. In France, as I understand it, they cook their eggs in clarified butter precisely because it won’t turn brown and overheat, retaining the integrity of the look and taste of the dish. (These concepts can be confusing to digest and are explained in detail in the Replenish PDX Fat or Fiction class!)
- Speaking of digestion, in Ayurveda ghee was customarily used for its healing properties. Among them is ghee’s ability to ignite the digestive fires to help break down your food. It’s said to do this in several key ways, from stimulating and balancing the secretion of necessary stomach acid that facilitates the breakdown of our foods, especially our proteins, to helping to deliver the nutrients within the food to the cells.
The Ayurvedic tradition would expand upon this list considerably. It’s the go-to substance for boosting immunity, healing wounds, improving mind power, softening the skin and remedying what ails you.
If you’re dairy or lactose-free, ghee is for thee.
It’s important to note that ghee is an end product. This means that its a concentration of the quality from which the original product, the milk, has come. Antibiotics, hormones and chemical pesticides will be concentrated in the ghee if they were in the butter and previously the milk. For this reason, be sure to look for ghee from organic and ideally pastured butter (or look for pastured butter if making your own!).
Where do I get me some ghee?:
Here are a few brands in keeping with our concerns for quality. The first three are clearly grass-fed and organic. The one that follows is organic but I was unable to find anything verifying the feed for the animals.
their coconut ghee is also a great option!
In your local health food store you might find the ghee on the shelf near the Indian foods and coconut milks. Sometimes its stored in the fridge. If you don’t find any, ask them to carry one of these!
One of my favorite things about ghee is that it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. This keeps it soft, spreadable and easy to use and measure. In fact, when I was making my own ghee some years ago, I could use the cupboard storage to illuminate whether I had done a sufficient job removing the milk proteins. If any mold appeared in the jar, I hadn’t been careful enough. It’s those milk proteins that are turning rancid!
Making ghee for your family:
I’m going to hand this one over to an expert. Come meet Kimi Harris from The Nourishing Gourmet and let her take you step-by-step through the process of making ghee.
If you have favorite ghee making tips or uses for your ghee, or if you go out and try it and have a story to tell, let us know! Consume your ghee with glee.
P.S. If you struggle with weight loss or weight loss resistance, I’d love to hear from you and help you! Please take just a minute or two to complete this survey.
Tonight (Thursday night) we will be selecting eight local PDX (Portland) survey participants to join me for breakfast at Abby’s Table this Sunday morning! Winners will be chosen randomly and if you’ve completed the questionnaire, watch your inbox tonight for an update. Thanks for participating!
Your comments and feedback are always welcome. Is there an ingredient you'd like to learn more about? Is there a nutrition class you always wish existed? Let me know!