Monday, December 9, 2013

Clarified Butter, Yes Please!


Have you ever tried ghee or clarified butter? Usually found in health food stores, or in ethnic grocery stores, ghee can be quite expensive. Also, if your like me and you want the highest quality, 100% organic grass-fed ghee can cost you anywhere from $10 to $13 dollars for an 8 oz jar. Personally, that is too much for my budget. However, I can still have the same thing, for about $5.

First of all let me tell you some of the benefits of using clarified butter, or ghee. Since clarified butter is butter that has been simmered to remove milk solids (such as whey and milk proteins) and water, it has an increased shelf life and higher smoke point than that of normal butter. The removal of these milk solids increases the smoke point from 250°F to 400°F. This makes clarified butter a wiser choice for pan-frying when butter flavor is desired.


What is importance about the smoke point? Well, each cooking fat or oil has its own unique smoke point were the fats break down into a visible gaseous product called acrolein, or otherwise known as blue smoke. This smoke not only is irritating to the mucous membranes of our eyes and respiratory passages, but it is the visual sign that the cooking fats are breaking down, rendering a rancid fat. This tends to not only ruin the flavor of the food that is cooked but it can also be detrimental to our health if consumed. Rancid fats act as free radicals in our bodies, destroying cell membranes and causing an inflammatory reaction. Therefore, if you notice that the fat in your pan is smoking because you forgot to turn down the heat, it is wise to start over before continuing with your cooking.

Sautéing and pan-frying temperatures may reach anywhere between 350-450°F. Therefore make sure to use appropriate oils and fats to reduce their breakdown and the creation of toxic by products.

Approximate Smoke Points for Oils Are:

Butter                                            250°F
Clarified Butter                               400°F
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil                 350°F
Extra Virgin Olive Oil                      375°F
Refined Coconut Oil                       450°F
High Oleic Canola Oil                     475°F
Safflower                                      513°F      
                             
Also of note, clarified butter has negligible amounts of lactose, which may make it easier to digest for individuals that are lactose intolerant.

So join me and get an insiders tip on how to make your own clarified butter. The flavor itself is a reason to try it, for it is nutty and almost cheesy. It is great over popcorn, for your fried egg in the morning, on toast, or even for a quick stir-fry of fresh vegetables.


How To: Make Clarified Butter
Makes about ½ cup (4oz)
Ingredients:
1 stick organic unsalted butter 
Note: organic valley pastured butter is lightly salted but it still works fine

Directions:

1. Place the stick of butter into a small saucepan and melt over medium heat.
2. Once butter is melted reduce the heat to low and allow the fat to bubble. It will begin to form white foam, gently spoon the layer of foam off and discard.
3. Allow fat to simmer and spurt water for about 10-15 minutes. Keep removing foam with spoon.
4. Once foam has ceased to form, and the color has turned amber, turn off heat. Proteins should be stuck to the bottom of the pan, and the fat should be clear. Make sure to spoon any remaining foam from the top.
5. Then slowly pour the fat into a heatproof jar, making sure to leave the proteins behind. I like to use the small 4 oz mason jars.
6. Allow clarified butter to cool. Once hardened, cover with lid and store in a cool, dark space or keep in the refrigerator.

                                                                                                                                                                    

References:
1. McGhee H. On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of The Kitchen. New York: Scribner; 2004.
2. Corriher SO. Cookwise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed. New York: William Morrow; 2011.
3. Williams M. Foods Experimental Perspectives. New Jersey: Prentice Hall; 2012.


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