How pure is packaged ghee

Clarified butter - the gourmet butter

Clarified butter is a natural product that spans continents and cultures from Asia to Europe and has been valued as a frying fat for more than 8,000 years.

Even in ancient times, people celebrated not only its excellent natural taste, but also its healing properties. Mixed with herbs, it was used as a medicine by the Romans and Greeks. In India and Arabia, clarified butter has been valued as what is known as ghee for thousands of years. Here, too, tradition knows the two areas of application as food and medicine.

With the advent of cattle breeding in the Middle Ages, people recognized the versatility of milk. They found that the cream of milk could be used to make excellent fat - butter. On the European continent, it was above all the monastery communities known as secret gourmets who dealt with the production of the so-called "pure gold" and recognized its many possibilities for cuisine and medicine.

Without sufficient cooling, butter cannot be preserved for long. To make them more durable, people got inventive. In the coastal regions from the Mediterranean to the North Sea, for example, butter was heavily salted and could therefore be transported over long distances without any loss of quality. In the age of the Hanseatic League, butter was a sought-after and exquisite commodity, which was not infrequently the prey of smugglers. The salted butter is still popular in northern Europe today.

In the Alpine regions, on the other hand, the dairyman melted the butter on the edge of a coal stove. Clarified butter got its name from this peculiar and characteristic melting process. When heated, the liquid butter produced a foam made of milk protein, which was skimmed off with a skimmer. This process - the so-called clarification - was repeated until no more foam formed on the liquid butter and the water in the butter had completely evaporated. Parts of the milk protein settle on the bottom of the pot. The filtrate was the clear, golden yellow, pure gourmet frying fat - also known under the popular name of pure butter or "clarified" or "refined" butter. "The filtered clarified butter was poured off and stored in sealable earthenware vessels for months.

… and today

In the course of the mechanization and industrialization of our everyday life, the production method of clarified butter was also refined at the beginning of the last century. Today the butter is slowly melted at 50 ° C. The melted butter is then centrifuged in separators at very high speed. The remaining water is evaporated by reheating to 100 ° C in a vacuum kettle. What remains is the aromatic and pure butter fat. Immediately after filtering, the clarified butter is cooled down to 15 ° C and whipped with air to facilitate subsequent processing and to give it its softer and smoother consistency.

Clarified butter is a natural product that is made without the addition of preservatives. However, even in an opened, sealed pack, it can be kept fresh in the refrigerator for several months. To make 250 g clarified butter, about 300 g butter are necessary.

From clarified butter back to butter?

In order to prevent the conversion of clarified butter into butter, and thus the possibility of subsidy fraud, the food control institute introduced Stigmasterin as a natural marking agent. It is required by law to add it to clarified butter as an indicator. Stigmasterin is a natural ingredient in vegetable fats such as cocoa butter or olive oil. It is a sterol derivative like vitamin D and belongs to the phytosterols. The indicator is added to the clarified butter immediately after production and can thus reveal butter made from clarified butter as "fake".

Composition and labeling

Clarified butter consists of 99.8% pure milk fat. The main fatty acids are long-chain (89%), 12% are short- and medium-chain fatty acids. Clarified butter has over 30% monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids and contains approx. 340 mg cholesterol per 100 g. The rest of 0.2% is left for protein, water and vitamins. Because of its low water content, clarified butter can be stored for a very long time. It can be kept for nine months without refrigeration and 15 months in the refrigerator.

As with all packaged foods, the following must be noted on the packaging of clarified butter: sales description, name and address of the manufacturer or packer, list of ingredients, best-before date (best before date) and filling quantity.

Clarified butter in the kitchen

Thanks to its extremely high smoke point of 205 ° C, the low-moisture and low-protein clarified butter is the ideal frying fat. It does not burn and does not splash, even at high searing temperatures. For example, it is possible to sear meat while hot, which immediately closes the pores. The meat stays juicy on the inside and is nice and crispy on the outside. At the same time, the clarified butter gives the meat a particularly fine taste.

Clarified butter is also very suitable for deep-frying due to its high heatability. Due to the high temperatures, the surface of the fried food closes quickly and hardly any fat can penetrate. Clarified butter can be used several times as deep-frying fat. However, so that the aromas of the fried food do not change, the clarified butter should be filtered before each use - only "related" products should be fried in the same fat.

Clarified butter is also particularly suitable for making all kinds of baked goods. In addition to the fine taste, it is also characterized by its productivity. Because compared to other dietary fats, an amount reduced by 20 percent is sufficient. The amount saved should be replaced by milk or water, and you also get the specific buttery aroma. Room-warm clarified butter is best for baking; it should only be well chilled for making shortcrust pastry.

Steaming is a gentle cooking method that is mainly used for vegetables in Mediterranean and Asian cuisine. Vegetables keep their crispness and color. The addition of clarified butter underlines the natural flavor aromas of the vegetables and gives them a delicate buttery aroma.

Dr. Eva-Maria Schröder