Ghee. That quintessential Indian fat that must make an appearance as a cooking medium or condiment at every authentic Indian meal. I don’t know what arguments I should make in order to prove that it is a healthy fat, but what I can tell you is what a tremendous difference a mere half teaspoonful of good ghee can make to a simple daal or to a bowl of upma. Or a hot roti. I cannot imagine eating a modak or patole or chakolya or bissi bele bhath without ghee. When people turn up their noses at ghee or talk about how they can’t stand the smell of ghee making, it really breaks my heart and I am tempted to start off on a lecture on how ghee should really be made. (I don’t).  And it is quite simple, really–if I can do it, anyone can.

Good ghee must have a sweet smell and a uniform gold color. When it is getting made, it should not smell astringent; and when eaten, it should not scratch the back of your throat. When cool, it should form semolina-like granules and should not be only smooth and waxy. Here are my top tips on ghee making followed by step-by-step pictures of the process.

Top ghee making tips:

  1. Don’t put just the cream on the boil. Adding a natural yogurt culture is important as it gives the butter (and therefore the ghee) the correct taste and texture.
  2. Don’t be very stingy with the quantity of culture you add–a little extra will do no harm, less will make your buttermilk bitter and your butter and ghee will have a peculiar smell.
  3. In hot and humid weathers, give the cultured cream at least 6-7 hours to sour.
  4. Once you have extracted the butter, refrigerate it for a day–making the ghee immediately will yield lesser ghee. (Don’t ask me why.)
  5. Allow the milk solids to turn brown–it will not urn your ghee but instead, will give you a rounded, even flavor and smooth texture. Also, your ghee will last longer.
  6. Once you’ve strained the ghee, your iron wok will show off brown bits of burnt milk solids. This porous solid base still contains a little ghee and is difficult to scrape off and clean. To make this easier, simply pour half a liter or so of water into the wok and bring it to the boil. Let it reduce a bit while you do other things around the house. Then, strain the liquid into a bowl and refrigerate; the leftover ghee will float and solidify to the top. This is good enough for cooking. Also, the wok will be clean and a simple scrub and wash will make it as good as new.

Cream or top of milk collected through the week

Dahi (Natural yogurt)

Butter floating on the surface of the buttermilk

Butter melting in an iron kadhai

Butter clarifying

Almost there!

Straining liquid gold!

How to make ghee:

  1. Collect the clotted cream/top of milk from your pot of fresh milk every time you boil the milk. Refrigerate this cream until you have enough. (I wait for a week; my supply of a 1 to 1.5 liters of whole fat milk yields about 5 cups of cream at the end of the week).
  2. Once you have enough, add fresh, unflavored natural yogurt culture. To my 5 cups of cream, I add about 3 tablespoonfuls of dahi (yogurt). Leave this to sour for about 6-7 hours. If you live in a cold place, even 10 hours or overnight will do it no harm.
  3. Refrigerate the sour cream for 3-4 hours (especially if you live in a hot place). This makes it easier for the butter to come up faster.
  4. Transfer all the sour cream to your blender and add 1/4 cup of cold water. Run at the lowest speed for about 1-2 minutes. You will see the butter and buttermilk separating. Once the buttermilk looks thin enough and the utter has risen to the top, switch off and transfer to a bowl.
  5. Now, dip one pal in the bowl and turn once or twice anti-clockwise; this helps the butter to form a ball. Now simple pick up the utter, using your fingers as a strainer and wait for almost all of the buttermilk to strain off. Transfer the butter to another bowl. Use the buttermilk to make a kadhi (coming soon), or drink it just like that with a bit of rock salt and coriander leaves.
  6. Refrigerate the butter. This butter is excellent to bake with, by the way. And is excellent with dosas, idlis, and pancakes.
  7. To make the ghee, simply put the butter in an iron wok or kadhai and boil gently until the solids separate and a clear liquid remains.
  8. Strain and store in the refrigerator once completely cool.