Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Clarified Butter

When gourmet cooking the 'real food' way, it comes in handy to know some traditional techniques that are often overlooked these days, but are important to consistent, quality cooking.  Being able to clarify your own butter is one of these techniques that lends the professional taste to everyday cookery.

Clarified butter is called by many names in various cultures (ghee, samna, brown butter), but it is essentially the same substance.  After being slowly simmered, the milk fat and the water are separated from the golden, buttery goodness to produce a product that has a very high smoke point (485 degrees F) which allows the home chef to cook delicate items, such as chicken breasts, in butter without the butter burning into an icky brown mess. It also acts a preservative.  The milk fat particles are what spoil in butter.  Clarified butter can last quite a long time.  Ours is usually completely used up before we ever get to a spoiling point.

The technique is quite simple, but takes a little bit of time.  Begin by starting with quality butter from grass-fed cows.  While not absolutely necessary, this increases the nutritional content of the final product. Cut the butter into small pieces and put in a saucepan over a very low heat source.  You are aiming for a very low simmer.

The butter will separate into three layers.  At the top will be some foam.  At the bottom is a the layer of sediment, or the milk fat.  The water will be boiling off.  In the middle will be the golden clarified butter goodness.

Keep the butter at a low simmer until you can no longer hear any sizzling.  The sizzling means that the water is still being evaporated.  You want to completely get rid of the water.  Once the sizzling stops, skim the foam from the top.  Set up a glass mason jar with a funnel lined with cheesecloth, a yogurt cheese bag or even a pillowcase.

Slowly pour the butter through the funnel trying to keep the sediment in the pan as it can clog your cloth.

If your cloth does get a little clogged, it's alright, but move it around for the liquid to drip through another spot on the cloth.

Your clarified butter is now ready to use in recipes.  While liquid when it is first strained, the clarified butter will become solid when left a low enough temperatures.  I store mine in the refrigerator.

Use your clarified butter for any recipe that calls for sauteing in butter.  It is also great all by itself and full of wonderful nutrients.

This post is linked to Real Food Wednesday at Kelly the Kitchen Kop.

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