Ghee, otherwise knowns as clarified butter, is traditionally revered in Indian culture, and has been used as part of the vast cuisines of Central Asia, and also in Ayurveda, for thousands of years. It is lactose-free, shelf stable, and has a high burning point.
From an Ayurvedic standpoint, ghee is considered a vital means of improving digestion, increasing the absorption of nutrients, enhancing the healing properties of herbs, lubricating the body inside and outside, boosting immunity—and provides many more benefits, too. Ghee nourishes the body and all the doshas, and it especially balances vata, which is so universally imbalanced in most of us these days*. Ghee can be used to provide internal and even external oleation, to help mitigate environmental and cultural toxins and stressors that provoke vata (air and space) dosha.
Yesterday, the 26th of December, was the Full Moon, and so I made ghee. The Full Moon is a day that the Vedas say is auspicious for making ghee because it increases the quality of Soma - a Vedic source of nourishment, nectar, and bliss - within this magical substance. Soma is associated with the moon, and soma "nectar" is often referred to in the ancient texts as a means to attain greater wellbeing - even immortality.
The Moon, like the Sun, enables Life as it has evolved to exist and thrive on our planet. Just as the gravitational pull of the Moon can draw upon the ocean tide, the essence of the milk used to make ghee is enhanced during this brief but powerful moment in the lunar cycle.
In fact, a local purveyor of Ghee, Full Moon Ghee, makes ghee on the full moon. If you don't feel like making ghee, I highly recommend their product. It's costly, but sublime, organic and local!
I use ghee mostly in cooking, not only for its high smoke point, but also to add richness to dishes, especially Ayurvedic ones! I also use it cosmetically at times, especially in the Winter when my skin and lips get really dry. I've also experienced Netra Basti, an amazing eye-restorative practice that's really helpful if you suffer from itchiness, redness or eye strain.
So, I try to honor the Moon’s ancient, mysterious, life-giving power by making ghee on the Full Moon, usually every few months when my ghee supply runs low. Traditional Vedic chanting and a reverent mindfulness of the special qualities of ghee, while you're making the ghee can add to is benefits, and from an Ayurvedic perspective, also help increase its nourishing, rejuvenating powers as you make it.
Here's how I make ghee:
What you'll need:
15-20 minutes at most.
Put the butter into your saucepan and bring up the heat to medium. The butter should slowly come to a simmer - you'll hear an increasing sound of water bubbles being evaporated off and solids separating as the ghee comes to its gentle roar.
Once it begins to bubble strongly and sounds fairly loud, turn the heat down to medium-low. Really watch and LISTEN to the ghee. Be mindful as you make it to its look, sound and smell. The clarified part will become more golden and the solids will change from white to tan or light brown over time. The sound of evaporation will decrease as the water dissipates and burns off. You'll start to smell the butterfat becoming more rich - it has a theater-popcorn-like smell that is heavenly.
Don't stir during all of this: just watch, smell and listen. You'll see foam rising to the top and whitish curds dropping to the bottom as the fat begins to separate from the solids. Some folks like to skim the foam off, but I let the ghee do its thing, and simply move the foam to one side to keep an eye on the color of the milk solids. Plus, I believe stirring tends to create a more "crystallized" ghee when it hardens afterwards. This crystallization doesn't effect the taste, just the look and consistency. (Plus, the Kerrygold butter never seems to have a foaming or a crystalizing issue.)
Eventually, the sound of evaporating will die down, to only a few tiny plops and plinks. It's now, in these last few minutes, that you must watch your ghee like a hawk! Don't let it overcook or burn: burning is indicated if the mild solids become dark brown or black! The solids should be at most caramel colored by the end, and the ghee a lovely golden color.
When the sound is almost nonexistent and the curds are lightly tanned, take the saucepan off the heat, and let the ghee cool to lukewarm. Again, don't stir, but do carefully pour the ghee into your jar through a fine meshed sieve or cheesecloth to strain out the foam and solids, which can be composted (some folks like to add these to baked goods for an increased "brown butter" flavor!)
Ghee is shelf stable and can be kept on the counter indefinitely - like honey, it is believed to be a product that only gets better with age, as long as no contaminents are in the jar, or put into the ghee with a utensil, so always use a clean spoon when taking ghee out of the jar!
*Ghee is a wonderful source of healthy fat for almost everyone - but, as with most fats, should be used sparingly, nevertheless. It is not recommended for folks with high cholesterol levels, nor for those with heart disease, fatty liver issues, obesity, and some pregnant women with digestive issues. Consult with me or with an Ayurvedic Health Counselor in your area. While its lactose content is very low to nonexistent, and folks with lactose intolerance issues should be able to use it - it's not dairy free, In fact, ghee is the soma nectar, the nes plus ultra, ultimate form of dairy, and thus, in Indian culture where the cow is considered Holy, most highly revered and honored.