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Ghee, Clarified Butter in Indian Cuisine
Ghee, what is it?
Ghee, is also known as clarified butter and originated in India. It is the most commonly used fat used for cooking in many parts of India. It is a clarified butter from either buffalo or cows. All the milk solids will have been removed through a clarification process. It becomes very pure, to the point that it needs no refrigeration. No milk solids left, means no refrigeration necessary, so it was even good to travel with. Still, I have seen it said that if you make your own, homemade ghee, that you can go ahead and store it in the refrigerator, as that is best.
Ghee is ideal for many Indian cooking techniques, because it can be heated to high temperatures without burning. It can even be used for deep frying.
The description of the taste of ghee is something like a nutty, buttery taste. Others have said that it has a nutty, caramel like flavor. Many Indian grocers sell it, and some find it more convenient to buy, but it can also be made. I share a video, that shows a man talking about it, and showing how they make it back in India and what the reasons are for the more flavorful ghee from India.
How to make Ghee, and other information about it
More about Ghee
Northern India is the place where Ghee seems to have originated and first used. It was probably discovered by the nomadic peoples that had no regular crops that consisted of oil rich foods. So they were in need of a easily transportable cooking fat. Ghee would be the perfect solution.
When ghee is properly made, it is not only free of milk solids, it is free of any water as well. Because of this, it won't sputter, burn or blacken when being used for your recipes.
The best way to get ghee is to make it yourself, as sometimes in markets, it is adulterated with other oils and fats. Pure ghee is expensive and because of this, many people have no access to it. Ghee is available to people in the United States from some specialty food markets and stores. Often it is sold in cans, and will keep well for up to two or three months or so in the refrigerator.
Ghee is a versatile cooking medium
The aroma of ghee is wonderful and so flavorful that you can use about half, or even up to two thirds as much as other cooking oils. Also, it won't smoke during cooking. The really nice thing in Indian cuisine is how nice it blends with such a wide variety of spices. Ghee is great if you need to saute something, bake, or deep frying, and even as a spread.
What the Ayurvedic texts have to say about the benefits of Ghee
The Ayurvedic texts even consider ghee the ultimate cooking oil, but also says that it has a rich mixture of mind and body benefits. How interesting that ancient texts would speak of the benefits of ghee. Below, are some of the benefits of ghee in your diet.
Helps Absorption Evidently, ghee is a large part of the science behind formulating ayurvedic herbs. As an oil, ghee can bond to the lipid soluble nutrients and herbs to get to the parts of the body that they need to. It penetrates the lipid based cell walls in our bodies. Critical for absorption. It is inside the interior of the cells, that herbs and nutrients give their biggest benefit. Nutrients are no good to us if they can't be absorbed by our bodies.
As a Preservative The ayurvedic texts also spoke of how ghee can act as a preservative, since it does not easily spoil. It can help maintain the freshness as well as the potency of foods and herbs, and doesn't spoil easily.
Aiding Digestion Ghee can be a good thing for helping to deal with stomach acids by balancing things out. It helps to repair the mucus lining of the stomach as well, protecting it from hurtful acids.
First Aid for Burns the ayurvedic texts spoke of ghee being helpful in preventing blisters and scars in skin that has been mildly burned. It suggest applying it quickly after the burn.
Good for the mind It is interesting to note that ghee is said to help the mind in all of the ways it functions. Learning, recalling, and memory are all enhanced.
Ayurvedic Balance, and Overall Health It is said that ghee helps balance the Vata, and the Pitta. The Vata is the ayurvedic mind and body operator that helps control movement (in the mind and body). The Pitta, helps to control heat and metabolism. Ghee has been bestowed the title of rasayana in the ayurvedic texts. That title only given to herbs and foods that have proven to be of great help to one's overall health, well being and longevity.