Valley Bounty: Ghee

Pastures across the Valley are covered in snow, but we can all find a taste of local summer grass in ghee—which is clarified butter. I recently spoke with ghee expert Hannah Jacobson-Hardy, owner of Full Moon Ghee in Ashfield. She explained that since ghee is completely shelf-stable, it’s a year-round way to enjoy local dairy produced by cows fed on the lush pastures of summer—no refrigeration necessary.

 Ghee was originally created in India and is referenced in ancient texts, including the Bhagavad Gita, dating back to 1500 BCE. In Hindu mythology, the clarified butter was first made when the God of Creatures, Prajapati, churned butter in his hands and then created his offspring by pouring the newly formed ghee into a fire. Over the thousands of years since its creation, ghee has been used as a healing ointment, a lamp fuel, and, of course, as a cooking oil that never spoils.

To make her ghee in modern-day Ashfield, Hannah begins by cooking unsalted butter on a medium heat until it melts. When the butter begins to bubble, she reduces the heat to a low simmer for four hours. She can tell that it’s done when the bottom of the pan looks golden brown, the milk solids have all risen to the top, and the concoction smells like sizzling popcorn. To finish, she strains out any remaining milk solids with a fine muslin cloth. The golden yellow fat that remains, now free of water and lactose, is Hannah’s ghee.

Ghee can add a tasty, nutty flavor to any dish—savory or sweet. It withstands heat remarkably well, which makes it great for browning, searing, or caramelizing as you cook. Experiment to find your favorite use for ghee—Hannah uses it for everything from frying eggs to caramelizing onions for her French onion soup to sautéing vegetables for a red lentil dahl. 

Valley Bounty is written by Noah Baustin of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)