There was once a time in the culinary history of India when we only used ghee for cooking—would you believe it? This liquid gold was painstakingly made in every household much before man learned how to press nuts and seeds to derive oil from them. The oil industry had enough muscle power to convince us that ghee and butter would cause irreparable damage to our cardiac health. With time, both these sources of fat became the evil ingredients we almost stopped using in our everyday lives.
Fast forward to the present day, when Ayurveda is making a grand comeback, and we discover with enough evidence that ghee made from cultured butter, derived from the cream of cow milk is not just safe, but is also recommended as a superfood. Ancient wisdom tells us that ghee should not be made just by melting raw cream; the cream should be cultured with yogurt and slowly churned to make butter and buttermilk. The butter thus derived is rich in Vitamin A and D, and E; and the buttermilk is tastier and contains a host of probiotics. When the butter is gradually melted and reduced, the fat and milk solids separate to give us pure ghee. This process is followed by very few manufacturers of ghee, and it is important that we read the product information carefully before purchase.
Ghee made from cultured butter also has a much longer shelf life—it does not go rancid for several months (even years!) if stored in a cool and dry place. It is also said that because the milk solids and almost all trace of lactose has been removed in the correct process of making ghee, this form of fat is better digested by those suffering from a lactose intolerance. If the milk used for making the ghee is procured from grass-fed cows, who have not been exposed to hormone medication or unnecessary antibiotics, the resultant ghee will also carry CLA (Conjugated Linoleic Acid), a rich antioxidant.
Contrary to popular perception, the medium chain fatty acids present in ghee actually aid weight loss. The butyric acid present in the ghee also cares for intestinal health, thereby resolving several digestive issues naturally, in turn benefiting immunity. Ayurveda has also prescribed ghee as an excellent remedy for inflammation and skin issues.
But, how does one identify the purity of ghee? Here are some tips:
- If the ghee has solidified, spoon a small amount on your palm. It should begin to melt immediately with exposure to your body temperature. If it doesn’t, it likely has some hydrogenated vegetable fats added to it.
- Heat the ghee in a pan. In just a few seconds, the ghee must reach smoking point and change color to brown. If it remains yellow, it is impure.
- Add a little melted ghee in a glass jar with a plastic lid. Add a little sugar (about ½ a teaspoon sugar to 2 teaspoons melted ghee) to the jar and shake well to mix. Let this stand for 5-10 minutes. If you notice a red sediment in the jar, it means that the ghee is adulterated.