Recent studies show that butter is not quite the food demon it has been made out to be in the past few decades. In fact, going back to pure, whole full-fat food may actually prevent obesity instead of causing it. But as with most tasty things, moderation is key. These studies don’t provide free license to load up on butter, cream, and whole milk, but they do indicate that choosing them over the fake food “fat free” alternatives is healthier.
Clarified butter is butter that has had the milk solids and water removed until all you are left with is pure butterfat. While the word “butterfat” doesn’t sound all that healthy, there are a few advantages to clarifying your butter:
- The process of clarifying the butter removes most of the lactose and casein that is contained in butter, which makes it great for those who are lactose intolerant.
- If you are a follower of Ayurveda, ghee (a class of clarified butter) is considered a health food. It lubricates connective tissues and promotes flexibility, according to the Ayurvedic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
- The phenolic antioxidants in clarified butter help bolster the immune system.
- Clarifying butter increases its smoke point to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. This means you can use it at much higher temperatures without the butter burning, which is great when cooking things like omelets, fried potatoes, and fish.
- Because the milk solids have been removed, your clarified butter has a much longer shelf life than regular butter. It can be stored in the refrigerator without spoiling for six months or so.
The butter you use for clarifying should be unsalted; salted butter has been linked to unpredictable results when clarifying butter, but I have made clarified butter using both unsalted and salted butter and have had no problems. You definitely want to purchase the best organic butter you can, however. The cheaper the butter, the more water and chemicals are present, which can negatively affect making your clarified butter, and will decrease the quality.
It’s easy to make your own clarified butter:
- Take a pound of butter and place it in a deep saucepan over very low heat or a double boiler.
- Let your butter melt slowly so it doesn’t burn, and until a scum forms on the top (these are whey proteins). Skim this off with a skimmer or a spoon.
- Continue simmering your butter for about 10 minutes until no more white scum forms at the top.
- After you remove the scum from the top, you will see that the milk solids fall to the bottom. The clear yellow clarified butter will float on top.
- Strain your butter through cheese cloth or a fine sieve to separate the clarified butter from the whey proteins.
- Store your clarified butter in a glass jar or crock.
You can save the milk solids and whey proteins to flavor dishes such as biscuits or sauces. And please note that one disadvantage of clarifying butter is that it loses some of its buttery flavor along with its milk solids, so while it’s wonderful for adding flavor in high-heat cooking, a slice of bread fresh from the oven is best accentuated with regular butter.
Ghee is a form of clarified butter, but they are not the same. To make traditional ghee, you must let your butter simmer along with the milk solids until the milk solids caramelize, then they are removed. This caramelization lends a nutty taste to your ghee.