Ghee is considered one of the most (if not the most) precious foods in Ayurveda.
What is Ghee?
When I first began my study of Ayurveda, one of the first foods I was exposed to was ghee. Ghee is the Indian term for clarified butter. When one clarifies butter, the milk fat solids are removed; thus, ghee is a healthy alternative to butter. Ghee can be used in place of olive oil in cooking and butter in baking.
Ghee is considered one of the most (if not the most) precious foods in Ayurveda. It is known to help build ojas or physical and mental strength and stability. Ghee is considered sacred in Ayurveda and Hinduism not only because of its various health benefits and medicinal applications, but also due to its origin from cows. In Hinduism, cows are sacred and are symbols of life and a main source of food for many.
Benefits of Ghee
In the West, the thought of consuming ghee for its health benefits might seem a bit backward because we are programmed to believe that fat makes fat period. However, we must have a paradigm shift and understand that healthy fat makes healthy fat, while unhealthy fat makes unhealthy fat. One cannot live without the intake of fats. Healthy fats from ghee or omega-3’s or 6’s keep our joints lubricated, skin and hair lustrous, insulate our bodies, provide protection for our internal organs, boosts our ojas (immune system and mental strength), lower cholesterol and prevent acute and chronic disease. Ghee is also known to heal internal wounds, particularly in the gastro-intestinal tract.
In short, ghee is a healthy fat that provides nourishment to our bodies and minds. These qualities are particularly beneficial in the fall and winter seasons where the dry and cold qualities are prevalent.
Where to Find Ghee
Ask for ghee at your local grocery store. If they do not carry it, I would check out if there is an Indian market in your area that does. As far as brands go, I recommend Purity Farms Ghee. This dairy uses high quality sweet cream butter from pastured cows on small organic-certified farms. It is important to confirm that the ghee you are buying is made in harmony with nature. This will be the most beneficial to your health and well-being.
Make Your Own
The thought of making my own ghee intimidated me a bit at first; yet, it truly is a simple process. After a few times of making it, you will feel like a pro.
You will need:
> 1 glass pint jar
> 1 mesh strainer
> cheesecloth (optional)
> 4 sticks organic unsalted butter
> soup pot
- Choose a pasture raised unsalted organic butter to make your ghee. The higher quality the butter, the better the ghee.
- It is important to make ghee with mindfulness. Allow other thoughts to subside and allow your ghee making to become the point of focus. Allow this process to become a form of meditation.
- Start with 4 sticks of butter. This makes 1 pint of ghee.
- Place the sticks of butter in a deep pot and place the pot on a burner.
- Put the burner on the lowest setting.
- The butter will begin to melt and your will start to hear a snap, crackle, pop. This is the milk fat solids separating from the clarified butter/oil.
- Stay close to the ghee as the process only takes around 15 minutes or less.
- When no more sound is made, it is time to turn off the burner and remove the pan from the heat. You will see brown flecks at the bottom of the pan.
- Allow the ghee to sit and cool for 10 minutes.
- Have a mesh strainer and/or cheesecloth ready. Strain the ghee through the mesh strainer and/or cheesecloth into your glass pint jar. It is okay to only use a mesh strainer if you have no cheesecloth handy. If you do have cheesecloth, place it in the mesh strainer then strain the ghee. The strainer and/or cheesecloth will catch the milk fat solids as the ghee fills your pint jar.
- Allow the ghee to sit with the lid off until it is completely cool. After it is cool, fasten the lid. Ghee can be stored in the fridge or simply put it near your oven or wherever you keep your olive oil.
- Rather than throw away the milk solids, you can add them to your dog’s food as a treat.
The Proper Color of Ghee
Your ghee should be a golden color. If it is black, you have cooked it too long. This burnt ghee should be discarded. If your ghee is more of a toasted brown color that is fine to use, it will just have a more caramelized flavor than the golden ghee. Do not get discouraged if your ghee gets burnt the first few times you make it. You live and you learn, right?
The Gift of Ghee
The gift of ghee this holiday season is an excellent way to treat your loved ones and perhaps introduce them to ghee.
You can even infuse your ghee with some delicious herbs like cardamom, cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg. To make this herbal infused ghee, simply make the ghee then add the ghee to a crock pot. Add anywhere from ½ tspn to 1 tspn each of cardamom and cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg. Cook the ghee on low for 4-6 hours. The low setting of your crock pot should not boil the ghee; instead, it should warm and infuse the ghee and herbs together.
Happy cooking and happy holidays! Namaste.
Trudy Collings is a student and teacher of yoga at Grass Valley Yoga and is currently studying at the California College of Ayurveda. Trudy believes that yoga and Ayurveda is for every body and hopes to assist people in establishing harmony from the inside out. Before becoming enveloped in yoga and Ayurveda, Trudy received her Bachelor’s degrees in Anthropology and English from the University of Florida.
~Ed: Kate Konieczny
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