Alice Medrich’s Clarified Butter in the Microwave/Ghee in the Slow Cooker

Sunday August 21, 2016

Here’s an easy method for clarifying butter that yields more than the traditional saucepan method does and with less fuss, the method developed by the cooking genius of Alice Medrich. The butter is cut into several chunks and melted it in a narrow glass container in the microwave, without stirring. After it rises once or twice, it settles into three perfect layers.

Alice uses full power in my 800-watt microwave (my microwave is 1300): try medium power in a larger watt oven. In any case, keep watch. Cut the butter into 1 tablespoon-sized chunks (for even melting with minimal spitting) and put it in a heatproof jar or Pyrex measuring cup that is taller than it is a wide; a 1 cup Pyrex measure or similar size jar is perfect for 1 stick of butter. Choose a container tall enough so that the butter can rise without overflowing.

Heat the butter until it is melted and rising: let it rise towards the top of the container, then stop it. If the butter is not separated almost perfectly with foam on top, clear yellow clarified butter in the middle, and a little watery liquid on the bottom, let it settle down again, and then microwave and let it rise once more (watching carefully). The second rise should give you perfectly separated layers!

Remove the butter from the oven and let it set undisturbed for a few minutes (or longer, but not long enough to re-solidify the butter). Tilt the container and spoon off and discard the layer of foam. Pour and/or spoon the clear clarified butter into another container, leaving the watery liquid behind. Clarified butter keeps indefinitely in the refrigerator in a covered container.

Recipe and text copyright Beth Hensperger 2016

Please enjoy the recipe and make it your own. If you copy the recipe and text for internet use, please include my byline and link to my site.


Ghee is clarified butter, a fat used extensively in Indian cookery, and known for its especially delicious flavor. The unique nutty flavor and sweet aroma of the melted butter is only found in ghee. Clarifying butter, like many other processes in cooking, was borne out of a need to preserve. The process separates the milk solids from the butter fats, resulting in a much longer shelf life. In India, refrigeration is generally not an option, and by taking their butter one step further, it has a shelf life at room temperature for up to 1 year. It is cooked over very low heat long enough for the milk solids to separate from the melted butter; it develops a deliciously nutty aroma and a beautiful golden hue. For this purpose, the slow cooker is perfect and the worry of burning is removed. You can find clarified butter in many cooking stores and specialty markets, but it can be costly, and it’s just as easily made at home. Making ghee is a patient and peaceful home cooking process.

Ghee is the Sanskrit descendant of the Proto-Indo-European *ghrei-, “to rub,” “to anoint.” It evolved into Khristós in classical Greek, meaning anointed or covered in oil, and then was used to translate Hebrew “messiah” (“Anointed”), evolving into Latin Christus and English Christ. Christ” (pronounced /ˈkraɪst/) is a title derived from the Greek Χριστός (Christós), meaning the “Anointed One”, a translation of the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (Messiah). Ghee has been used in religious rituals for centuries.

According to Ayurveda, ghee is very rejuvenating, and has many health-giving properties. Many people claim various health benefits from using ghee. Ghee is the most easily digestible of the cooking fats and oils. It is a staple in India, and can be used as a substitute for butter or oil in cooking when the dish is going to be served warm or hot. Ghee, like most oils, can be cooked at higher temperatures than butter without burning, but due to its lower melting point, it’s not the best fat to bake a cake with. It is a 100 percent saturated fat.

Ghee contains no oxidized cholesterol or hydrogenated fat, so it is good for special diets, and has a very high smoking point (unlike plain butter, the solids of which burn quickly), so it is good for cooking and deep frying. Ghee keeps well (it can be kept at room temperature but lasts weeks in the refrigerator), so you might want to make a larger amount so you’ll have it on hand. Because it’s clarified, this butter can also stay fresh longer without going sour — the milk solids that can cause standard butter to go rancid have been removed. Of course, the milk solids also impart rich flavor, so clarified butter will not have the same depth of flavor as standard butter. Always use unsalted butter.

Ghee Made In the Slow Cooker

This is the easiest way to make a large batch of ghee that I know. You can start it in the morning, and leave it cooking all day, or start it before you go to bed, let it cook all night, turn it to keep warm all day, then deal with it when you come home in the evening. Kerrygold brand is grass fed (available at Trader Joe’s). You can use blocks or sticks of butter. Ghee, like butter, tastes differently depending on the source. So don’t go out and buy cheap butter just because you’re making it in bulk. You can make ghee with 1 to 4 pounds of butter at one time, but make sure you have a slow cooker large enough.

Makes about 1 pint ghee

Ingredients

1 pound organic unsalted butter

Instructions

1. Cut the butter into 1/4 pound portions and place into 1 ½- to 4- quart slow cooker (you want the crock three times bigger than the butter mix to prevent spilling over). Cook on LOW temperature setting uncovered, or with the cover covering half the crock to allow for proper evaporation. 
Leave melt for 6 hours. Depending on your slow cooker temperature, it can take 8 to 12 hours. When the butter is melted, you can stir with your spoon to see where it’s at, and then let it sit.

photo courtesy of ruchi's kitchen

2. The first stage of melting, the whey proteins in the butter will begin to produce foam. Don’t remove this foam; it will begin to be absorbed into the butter and you might hear a crackling sound of moisture and liquid being evaporated. The next stage, the sea of foam will part, and the milk solids will begin to clump together.It will still smell like butter. Watch the edges of the pan at this point. You will notice their change in color as the milk solids cook Later it will smell nutty and the milk solids, which will settle on the bottom of the pan, will have started to turn golden brown. Set up your straining system to be ready when the ghee is. Fold your cheese cloth so there are four layers, and lay it in the strainer over a large measuring cup.

photo courtesy of ruchi's kitchen

3. Ghee is done when a second fizzy dry foam forms on top of butter, and the butter turns golden-orange. When the ghee is finished, the milk solids should have separated into brown crusty foam on top, and brown crusty curds on the bottom, with clear yellow butter fat in between. If it’s not quite there yet, if the bottom layer still seems kind of runny or the solids are still white or tan, that means that all the liquid hasn’t bubbled off yet, and it needs another hour or two or three. And it usually curdles on the bottom in one big lump so you can even get away with not straining at all. The unsalted butter generally results in a fine sediment that needs to be strained out.

4. Cool down slightly and strain the ghee through a piece of cheesecloth in a mesh strainer or a clean cotton kitchen towel or napkin to remove all the caramelized and browned butterfat. When straining, you can dump all of the brown solids on top of your cheese cloth, but make sure none gets into the ghee. Pour the golden liquid into a pint jar glass 
container for storage. Cover. Ghee can be stored at room temperature for about one month, or in the refrigerator for up to 3 months, where it will solidify. Ghee can be used anywhere butter would normally be used. It has a sweet flavor that is wonderful change of pace.

Excerpted from Not Your Mother’s Slow Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger. (c) 2016, used by permission from the Harvard Common Press.


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