I just came back from Illinois where I went to spend Diwali week with my parents. This is partly because the Kiwi has been in New Zealand for the last month (this is why the photos from the last few posts have been somewhat lacking since he took his DSLR with him and left me with a point and shoot which I borrowed from friends). But I digress. I rarely am home for Diwali, so this felt like a special treat. I love Diwali at home because my Mom goes through a crazy cooking phase where she dishes up about 30 different types of desserts in small bite size pieces—perfect for grazing throughout the day (um, and night). The fun part is popping a sweet into your mouth with no knowledge of what it is or what to expect as every year she makes a handful of the standard sweets and then a heap of wildly creative ones. I love the guessing game. It reminds me of eating chocolates out of those assortments boxes without the guide. So that when you get something you don’t like you always have an excuse to try another one.
This year was no different. We had a dining table covered in sweets. At some point I was standing over our the table testing out various sweets when I popped an unknown-to-me sweet into my mouth. It was delicious so I asked my Mom how she made it. I was only barely listening as I was too busy trying to decide what to taste next, but then she said something that stopped me: “and then you deep fry it in ghee”. Um, what? I didn’t know you could deep fry anything in basically butter. Of course the sweet was delicious. How can anything deep-fried in clarified butter not taste delicious?
But first things first, if I was planning on using ghee to deep fry, I figured I needed to learn how to make ghee first.
Ghee is not complicated to make—you heat up unsalted butter and get rid of the milk solids and non-fats. And yet it is strangely hard to get it right. When made correctly, ghee lasts unrefrigerated for a very long time—like oil. When not made right—as in some milk solids or water are left in the butter—then ghee needs to be refrigerated and may go off in a month or so. You will be able to tell it has gone off because it will get moldy. I have made small amounts in the past and mine always go bad when left outside. Thus, I have resorted to sticking homemade ghee into the fridge.
But to get deep-frying right and as delicious as possible, you want all the solids and other non-fats gone.
In the past my problem, I have been told by my Mom, is that I haven’t left the butter cooking on the stove long enough. This is tricky as you don’t want the remaining fat to burn but you also want to leave it on long enough so all the solids either rise and clump at the top or remain on the bottom of the pan.
So this time, I put aside my fear of burning the ghee and left it on longer. It was amazing! When you first start cooking, the solids will percolate to the top creating a white foam. That is usually when I turn off the pan. I don’t like being able to not see what is happening below the film of white. But if you just keep it on the stove past that point, the white film will slowly start to clump together and move to the sides of the pan. It will also get a little brown. I must admit as soon as I saw it browning, I turned off the stove, removed the clumped-together solids with a spoon and strained the ghee through a very fine cheesecloth (actually, mine is a dhoti cloth that my Mom gave me when I started this project and I love it).
I have bravely left the ghee in my unrefrigerated kitchen cabinet to see if indeed I made it correctly. I will let you know, but from the clear look of it, I think I will be able to use this for deep-frying. Stay tuned.
250 g unsalted butter
Chop up butter in small chunks. Put in a non-stick saucepan over low heat. Cook until white foam at top starts clumping together and moving to the sides of the pan, possibly turning brown. Scrape off foam with spoon and pour rest of the mixture through a fine cheesecloth. Bottle the remaining liquid into a jar. You can keep in the fridge but shouldn’t be necessary.