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I'm often making ghee for my cooking. However, I've never seen how it's done, I've only read how to do it, I'm having some doubts about its preparation.

  1. Should heat butter slowly or fast? I saw both directions in recipes and I don't know which one is better. Or does either of them have some advantages?
  2. When I know ghee is ready? When cooking it, it goes roughly through these phases:

    1. Foam is forming (and I'm collecting it and putting away).
    2. Foam gradually stops forming, but white pieces are floating in the liquid, I cannot see the bottom of the pot.
    3. The liquid becomes clear, solid whitish pieces are lying on the bottom. Small bubbles are still forming.
    4. As the pieces on the bottom turn dark, small bubbles eventually stop forming.

    I believe the proper time is somewhere just after 3., but I'm not sure about that. I don't want it to get burned, but at the time I want it to be really pure. Some sources claim that ghee is ready when the surface becomes completely still. But this doesn't happen until all the pieces on the bottom turn dark, and I feel at this time it's like a bit burned.

  3. If I want to keep ghee for a long time (I've read that the older the better), what is important to be aware of in order it doesn't go bad?

I couldn't add tag ghee to the post, if someone has enough points, feel free to do it.

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1 Answer 1

  1. You can start it on high, until it is completely melted, and foaming, to save time. Then reduce to a slow simmer to evaporate the water.

  2. You want all of the water to be evaporated—this is critical to the shelf life of your ghee.

    This is indicated by the solids beginning to brown and the cessation of bubbles as you noted; the milk solids cannot brown until all of the water is evaporated. This is because as long as water is present, it will prevent the temperature from rising to the threshold required to brown the milk solids. Once the water is evaporated, the temperature in the pot will rise past 212 F / 100 C, and the browning can begin starting around 250 F / 120 C (IIRC).

    Side note: Although I have not seen a traditional recipe recommend it, I imagine it would be very effective to use a candy or deep fry thermometer to monitor when the temperature passes 212 F / 100 C by a reasonable margin.

    You will be leaving the browned milk solids behind, so they will not be in your final ghee.

    This typical recipe describes this part of the process as follows:

    Let the butter simmer for up to one hour. Keep an eye on it and keep the flame on your stove as low as possible. The ghee is done when you see browned butterfat caramelized on the bottom of the pan and the top portion of the ghee is clear.

    To completely remove the water, you want to continue to heat, until no bubbles remain. As sarge_smith kindly points out, once the agitation from major boiling completes, and the solids settle, local conditions directly in contact with the bottom of the pan may allow some browning, while a small amount of water remains in the ghee.

  3. Store your ghee in a sealed container not exposed to oxygen, preferably opaque or in a cabinet to prevent ultraviolet light from reaching it, both of which contribute to rancidity. Refrigerating smaller quantities doesn't hurt, but when sealed for long term storage, ghee should be shelf stable for at least a year, assuming you evaporated all of the water. Even if you are worried that some water remains, you should still easily get a month of shelf life, longer in the refrigerator.

See also: Should ghee be kept out of light?

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Thanks. Concerning 2., I observed that milk solids are getting brown, but still small bubbles are appearing from the bottom. This is what confuses me. Should I wait until those small bubbles completely cease, even though the milk solids are completely dark brown at that time? –  Petr Pudlák Feb 9 '13 at 19:54
    
Afraid you have pushed my knowledge to the limit. Perhaps someone more expert will jump in. The link here has a great picture of what it looks like done. aayisrecipes.com/2007/05/14/how-to-make-ghee –  SAJ14SAJ Feb 9 '13 at 20:00
    
if you are still getting bubbles, it means that you haven't quite gotten all the water out. Those bubbles are formed by the water turning to steam. Fats don't bubble if there aren't any water present. –  sarge_smith Feb 10 '13 at 11:15
    
@sarge_smith I wanted to say that, but wasn't sure enough--how would the temperature of the fat rise high enough to brown the milk solids while there is still unevaporated water in the mixture? –  SAJ14SAJ Feb 10 '13 at 18:19
    
@SAJ14SAJ because they are in contact with the bottom of the pan, thus are getting just enough conduction heat to start to brown. While the mixture is frothing, there is enough movement to prevent that, but once it settles, that is no longer the case. Really, you are only talking about a short period of time, unless your burner is just barely heating the fat past boiling. If you are seeing a few intermittent bubbles, you should just kick the heat back to high until they disappear. –  sarge_smith Feb 11 '13 at 12:04
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