Ghee: What is it and Why Should You Make it Yourself?

grassfed ghee

Making your own ghee is simple. All it takes is a little bit of time and attention, a mesh strainer, and a few paper towels to get it right.

Before we go there though, I’ll tell you what ghee is, why it’s a great ingredient to have in your kitchen, and why you should make it yourself. You’ve probably noticed that I use it in some of my recipes, but I haven’t actually taken the time to explain why I use it or how I make it until now. I think you’ll find this helpful.

What is ghee?

Traditionally used in Indian cooking, ghee is simply a type of clarified butter. It’s plain, unsalted butter that’s been heated until the sugar and protein separate from the fat and are skimmed off leaving only the fat behind. Basically, it’s the goodness of butter without the potential digestive or allergic reaction to the casein and lactose that are found in dairy products. (Butter is actually quite low in casein and lactose, but for those who are VERY sensitive, it’s great to get them out of there and still enjoy all the flavor and health benefits of butter!) For more in-depth information comparing butter vs ghee, check out this post by Michael Joseph from Nutrition Advance

Ghee also has a higher smoke point than butter, which means you can cook with it at higher temperatures without running the risk of burning it. We’ll talk more about smoke point on Friday when I share the Ultimate Guide to Cooking Oils. Get excited about that post, by the way!

Now that ghee is growing in popularity, you might see it in jars next to the butter in the refrigerated section, but it actually doesn’t need to be refrigerated if handled correctly. Correctly just means that you’re careful not to use dirty or wet utensils to scoop it out when you use it, otherwise it could get moldy.

Why Should I use Ghee?

If you haven’t already seen it, you should check out my post Fatty Doesn’t Equal Fattening, which explains why incorporating healthy fats into your diet is actually beneficial to your health, and even your waistline if done wisely.

Saturated fat gets a bad rap, but it’s an extremely important part off a healthy diet. Your cells need saturated fat to maintain their structural integrity. Your brain needs saturated fat to function properly. Our bodies need saturated fat, and unfortunately it’s been demonized for decades. You might have noticed the recent TIME Magazine cover featuring a curl of delicious looking butter entitled “Ending the War on Fat.” This article is a major leap forward in the mainstream thinking about saturated fat and fat in general. Check it out if you can, and if you would like some free information on this subject, Chris Kresser has a great article you can read as well.

Ghee is is also rich in fat soluble vitamins A, D, and K2, CLA, and Omega 3 fats. All of these nutrients are vital to our health but aren’t often included in the Standard American Diet in adequate quantities.

Why Should You make Your Own Ghee?

The catch to get all the awesome benefits I just mentioned is that the butter that you start with needs to come from a cow raised on pasture in the sun eating grass. Most of the awesome health components of both butter and ghee are stripped away if the cow is not doing what cows do. Just like humans, cows need to be in the sun to synthesize vitamin D. The milk they make only has vitamins A and K2, CLA, and Omega 3s if they’re eating grass. Cows that eat grains end up producing milk that has a higher concentration of Omega 6 than Omega 3, which is much more plentiful in the Standard American Diet, and not something we should be actively seeking out too often.

While I haven’t specifically noticed ghee in the grocery store that mentions being sourced from grass fed or pastured cows, I did find this one for a whopping $23 a jar on Amazon. I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to pay anything close to that for a 14oz jar of cooking oil unless it’s made of gold and magic. Most brands available in the grocery store range between $9 and $14, but do not guarantee that they’re from grass fed cows. My solution to this expensive conundrum is to simply make my own.

Kerrygold grass fed butter is available at most grocery stores and runs $3 each. I use two at a time to create a 13 oz jar of ghee. This saves me between $3 and $8 a jar, depending on which brand I’m comparing.

make your own ghee

How to make Ghee

  • Start with two 8oz sticks of unsweetened grass fed butter and a medium saucepan.
  • Heat butter on medium to high on the stove top until the butter completely melts, then turn it down to low (once you get the hang of this, you can make speed up the process by keeping the fire a bit higher, but burning it is a HUGE bummer, so start slow until you get the hang of it).
  • Set your kitchen timer for 5 minutes and go do something else.
  • Come back and check on it every 5 minutes, making sure it’s not burning. You know it’s going well when milk solids start to float to the top and/or sink to the bottom. I use a tiny mesh strainer that cost me $1 to skim the milk solids off the top as they accumulate. The paper towels* come in at this point, because when I rinse the strainer off between skims I don’t want to add any water back into the ghee. I dry the strainer very well between skims.
  • Once the liquid is a clear yellow without a bunch of white streaks or chunks floating in it (usually takes about 20 minutes but could take longer your first time if you keep the stove on low), turn the fire off, set your timer for 10 minutes, and go do something else until it goes off.
  • Carefully pour your pot of separated butter through the mesh strainer and into a jar that can hold at least 13 oz of liquid. Paper towels might also come in here because the solids could clog the strainer, which you’ll need to rinse out and dry thoroughly before proceeding (remember that mold I mentioned earlier).
  • Let the ghee sit open or lightly covered with a paper towel on the counter to cool before placing on the lid and storing in your cupboard.

*It might seem wasteful to use paper towels for this project instead of cloth, but this is butter we’re talking about. Unless you’re doing your laundry that same day, you’re going to have a greasy nasty mess on your towel (whether it’s in your hamper or in your kitchen) that could attract unwanted creepy crawly visitors). In general, I try to mind my paper towel usage, but in this instance, I use them without hesitation.

grassfed ghee

Fatty Doesn’t Equal Fattening

I named this recipe Cranberry Brussels Sprouts with Turkey because the Brussels are the featured ingredient — the turkey is delicious and turns this into a one-pot meal (which I love for weeknights — easy setup, easy cleanup), but you can do this without the turkey and it will be just as wonderful as a side (and totally vegan if that’s your thing). I promise.

This combination of ingredients might seem weird (it did to my husband), but I can promise you that it’s delicious and totally not weird! We both wolfed it down for dinner last night, and I happily ate leftovers for lunch today. cranBrussels3I happened to already have ground turkey cooked in the freezer for this dish (a great versatile ingredient to have on hand, by the way!), but in case you don’t have cooked ground meat ready to go, I have quick instructions right before the main recipe to help you out. (it will add about 15 minutes to your total cook time).

You might read this recipe and think to yourself “This sure seems fattening.” It’s true that there’s a lot of fat in this recipe. Between the coconut oil, macadamia nuts, and the olive oil, it adds up. However…

Fatty doesn’t equal Fattening

Dietary fat doesn’t necessarily lead to body fat. In truth, excess carbohydrates (especially the refined, high-glycemic ones) are more likely to lead to fat storage over time, according to a number of studies. It’s also true that some fats are better than others, and this recipe is jam-packed with some of the best fat there is. In fact, coconut oil has been shown in a host of studies to promote fat LOSS. And macadamia nuts are rich in Omega 3s, the heart healthy fat that most of us don’t get enough of. Olive oil is a delicious, monounsaturated fat that brings another awesome set of nutrients into your system to promote fat loss.

Of course, adding excessive calories to your diet won’t help you maintain your weight, but replacing refined carbohydrates, sweets, and/or grains with highly beneficial fats, proteins, and veggies most certainly will. (And please note that I add the extra virgin olive oil after cooking, not during. Avoiding the heat keeps all the healthy attributes intact.)

As someone who has trouble moderating sweets, I have noticed that I often crave them right after a meal. It’s almost this primal feeling within me that I won’t be satisfied until something sweet hits my tongue. Fat is a great source of satiety in food. I’ve personally found that when I replace carbohydrates with healthy fats in a meal, my need for sweets at the end is all but gone. This is, in part, due to a hormone called leptin, which tells the brain that we have had enough and our fat stores are sufficient. Don’t just take my word for it though, Dr. Ron Rosedale and Dr. Mercola have a good bit to say about leptin that reflects the advice I’m giving here:

“The solution is to … eat a diet that emphasizes good fats and avoids blood sugar spikes — in short the dietary program … [that] emphasizes healthy fats, lean meats and vegetables, and restricts sugar and grains.”

After this meal, I didn’t even think about dessert. And coming from me, that’s a pretty big deal.

cranBrussels4

Cranberry Brussels Sprouts and Turkey

Serves 4 or 3 very hungry people

If you need to cook your turkey, start here:
  1. Heat your skillet
  2. Add ghee or coconut oil
  3. DON’T salt the meat, just throw it on (about 1 lb)
  4. Cook until browned and most of the liquid has cooked off, then add in whatever herbs, spices, and salt you’d like – for this particular batch, I used garlic powder, onion powder, and fresh parsley and oregano from the garden.
Ingredients:
  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts, roughly chopped and rinsed
  • 1 lb cooked ground dark meat turkey (as always, shoot for organic here)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cranberries (this is the part Loren thought was weird)
  • 1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts (I just pulsed them a few times in the food processor to break them up)
  • 1-2 tbs coconut oil
  • aged balsamic vinegar
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • REAL salt or sea salt
  • black pepper
Directions
  1. Preheat your oven to 500F
  2. Heat a large skillet
  3. (Cook meat here and then remove if you haven’t already done that, no need to clean the pan, just go to step 4)
  4. Add coconut oil and cranberries and cover on medium high until they soften
  5. While that’s cooking, chop and rinse your Brussels
  6. Add in the Brussels, stirring until coated
  7. Drizzle the aged balsamic over Brussels and stir in (shouldn’t be more than a tablespoon, but use your judgment) until coated
  8. Cover for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally
  9. Stir in salt, chopped nuts, and cooked meat (if you’ve already salted the meat, go easy on the extra salt)
  10. Place skillet in the oven for about 15 minutes
  11. After removing from the oven, drizzle 2 to 3 tablespoons EVOO over the top
  12. Serve piping hot

cranBrussels1

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