Processed cow milk is not good for you, but the nutrients in butter and other animal fats are valuable and important. Clarified butter (also called ghee) is butter with all the water and milk components removed, leaving just the oil. It's not as good as butter for spreading on toast, but it has a higher burn temperature which makes it much better for frying, and it keeps a long time without refrigeration. And it's not hard to make! Basically, you cook the butter on the stove at a low temperature, which separates out the non-oil parts. Here's what you need:
. One pound is good, and it should be from pasture-fed cows. "Organic" standards are now so weak that cows can be totally factory farmed and still certified. But in my experience the Organic Valley brand is excellent, and Kerrygold also claims to be pasture-fed.
Pot / Saucepan
. Stainless steel, ceramic, or glass. A thick bottom is good or even necessary. See below.
. You want smooth, low heat. The best for clarifying is one of those new stoves with a flat surface with the heating elements underneath, or induction. Old electric coils are pretty good, but you need a thick bottom to spread out the heat. On a gas stove it's difficult to get the temperature low enough. One trick is to stack up two of the metal burner racks, to increase the distance from the flame to the bottom of the pot. Another trick is to put a thick cast iron pan in between a stainless steel pot and the burner. That should work on any kind of stove, even hot coals from a fire.
. I've heard you're not supposed to stir it, but you may need to scrape the bottom if it starts to burn, or skim stuff off the top when it's done.
to put it in. For a pound of butter, a 16oz glass nut butter jar is perfect.
Now put the butter in the pot, melt it, turn the heat down, and wait. I've seen recipes that say it takes only 15 minutes, which is ridiculous. At a safe temperature, expect it to take at least half an hour. The melted butter should be lightly bubbling, not even threatening to burn. Solid stuff will settle on the bottom, and the top will be covered in foam, which may or may not condense and sink. What's happening is that the water is boiling off, and the stuff that was dissolved in the water is precipitating out.
As the water goes, the sound of the bubbling will slowly change, from "blblup, bldup, bdlbup" to "sssssssss". When it's done, the bubbles will be tiny and sizzly-sounding, the foam on top will be reduced, and the stuff on the bottom will probably be brown. You can test it by dipping some paper in the oil, being careful not to get any foam on it, then get away from the pot of hot flammable oil
, and light the paper on fire. If all the water is cooked out, it will burn cleanly and not sputter.
Now it's good to let it cool for about 15 minutes, because it's hotter than boiling water and stickier, and it can easily burn you. When it's cooler but still liquid, skim any remaining stuff off the top, and pour the oil into the jar, leaving the solid stuff in the pot. If you're in a warm climate without a refrigerator, it's important to not get any of the solids into the jar, so you should pour it through a coffee filter. I use one of those gold metal filters.
The solid stuff left over may or may not be good for you, but it tastes really
good, especially added to soups, so you might want to save it. It will go moldy in the refrigerator unless you mix in some vinegar.
(public domain, anti-copyright, last updated August 2013)