Ghee – An Ayurvedic Healing Food
by Claudia Dávila
“It is promotive of memory, intelligence, vital fire, semen, vital essence (ojas), kapha, and fat. It is curative of Vata, Pitta, fever and toxins.” — Charaka, author of ancient Indian Ayurvedic text, Charaka Samhita.
Ayurveda teaches that ghee is a medicinal food that is excellent for good health when used in cooking or added to foods. It is one of the most ancient and “sattvic” foods known, healing to all doshas: best for Vatas, soothing for Pittas, and balancing for Kaphas in moderation. Please read my first article on Ayurveda to learn about the three doshas. For cold, dry, stiff and airy Vata types, ghee adds heaviness and lubrication to the body in the joints and in the digestion. Ghee is cooling and soothing for the fire-based ailments of Pittas, such as fever, acidity, and inflammation. For all three doshas, ghee helps memory and is a healthy fat that is good for the liver and immune system, though Kaphas should consume it in moderation as it also helps build body mass.
You can read more about ghee at the Ayurveda Holistic Community website or by googling “health benefits of ghee”.
When buying ghee, or any dairy product, look for organic. All toxins like to settle in body fat, and especially mammary glands, which makes it important to choose organic animal products like milk and butter, otherwise they tend to be the most laden with impurities like pesticides, herbicides and other toxins found in air, water and feed.
The other day I spoke with someone who cooked magnificent, healing ayurvedic food, and she said she made her own ghee and that it’s really quite simple. I believed her so I thought I’d try it myself, using organic butter of course! Here’s how I make my own ghee in less than half an hour.
HOW TO MAKE GHEE WITH ORGANIC BUTTER
1 block organic, unsalted butter
Place the butter in a heavy-bottomed pot and melt on medium-low heat. Adjust the heat until it begins to bubble nicely, without going too hot. Foam will begin to accumulate quite a bit on the top, and the melted butter will be very opaque. Stir occasionally for 15 minutes until the foam starts to reduce and break up, and the milky butter begins to look like clear, golden oil. When there’s a bit of brown sediment beginning to form at the bottom of the pan, the ghee is ready. Be careful not to burn it during these final minutes of cooking. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a little.
Meanwhile, sterilize a jar and its lid in a pot of boiling water, then remove and dry with a clean towel. Then, when the ghee is cooler, gently pour into the jar through a fine metal sieve, with or without cheesecloth lining it. You only want to get the golden liquid oil and not the sediment at the bottom of the pot. Store closed; no need to refrigerate. Use as you would butter or oil, in soups, cooked vegetables, stir into cooked rice or lentil dishes, or spread on toast and tea biscuits.
HOW TO MAKE GHEE WITH CREAM OF YOGURT
Sailaja shares her method of preparing ghee from homemade butter (called makhan in Hindi and vennapusa in Telugu).
Boil one liter of milk and turn off stove. Once it reaches room temperature, add a tsp of yogurt to the milk, place lid and ferment overnight. Next day, curd forms with a thick layer of cream.
Cream of yogurt or dahi (skin above yogurt) is removed each day and stored in a container and refrigerated (sometimes a little bit of yogurt also comes along with cream while removing the cream off the top of yogurt). At the end of the week, the collected cream of dahi (from cow’s milk) is brought to room temperature and churned using a wooden churner (kavvam) or ladle till the butter separates (churning could take 12-15 mts). Add 3-4 cups of water to this and continue to churn for a minute or two and the residue is a thick buttermilk. Strain the butter milk. Wash the butter (called vennapusa in Telugu) in water at least 4-5 times. This thoroughly washed butter can now be used to prepare ghee.
To prepare ghee, melt the butter in a stainless steel vessel over medium high heat. The butter will begin to melt forming a white froth on top. Now on simmer, stir occasionally and you will find that the froth will begin to thin slowly and the color of butter changing to a pale yellow shade. Continue to cook on low heat until it turns a golden color. The residue solids will settle at the bottom and the ghee which is clear, golden and translucent with a fragrant smell is ready. Filter the ghee which will solidify when completely cool. It can be stored at room temperature for 3 months or even more. Its best to prepare less quantity of ghee and finish it within a few days before preparing the next batch. That would be the best way to experience the real taste of ghee.
Step by step photos of ghee making with cream of yogurt (curd, dahi, perugu):
Claudia’s first article – Introduction to Ayurveda