Thursday, May 5, 2011

Clarified Butter

Clarified Butter
It only took me a year! Not to physically make it mind you... that takes like 15 minutes... but for whatever reason (laziness, cooking project ADD, etc.), even after being told time and time again that clarified butter (ghee) is incredible stuff... it's languished at the bottom of my "To Cook" list. Well, no longer! It's in my fridge now... and hopefully I'll figure out what to do with it in less than a year (since it's only supposed to last 3-6 months). I don't imagine that will be a problem.

David Lebovitz is your man here. He has the clearest and best illustrated instructions I could find. The general keys are: 1) low heat: it can go from golden to brown fairly quickly at higher heats, 2) a small diameter heavy bottomed saucepan: similar to the low heat, this will help keep you from browning your butter instead of clarifying, and 3) a fine mesh strainer, cheesecloth, and a funnel: the first two are key for clarification and the last keeps from making a mess. Two sticks of butter is enough to fill that cute little 8 ounce canning jar you see above.

A slightly different methodology was at O Chef:
Another method is to simmer the butter in a saucepan until the mixture separates. After the water has evaporated, the milk solids will begin to fry in the clear butterfat. When they begin to turn golden, remove the pan from the heat and pour the butter through a fine strainer lined with damp cheesecloth into a heatproof container. If the cheesecloth is damp, all the butterfat will pass through, otherwise some will be absorbed by the cloth. This method is a little fussier, but produces a clearer result.
This is actually what I did, since I had forgotten about the David Lebovitz post... though I got a little anxious at the end and didn't really let the milk solids get golden. So, since the water hadn't completely simmered off yet (i.e. stopped bubbling), I had a fine line of water at the bottom of jar... which you may be able to vaguely make out in the picture above. The damp cheesecloth seemed to work pretty well... though being that I've never made clarified butter, I can't comment on the yield... but I wonder if it led to a little more water getting into my finished product? Water isn't a problem from a spoilage standpoint, but it could lead to some splattering when the water boils off when the clarified butter hits the pan. Not the end of the world, but I'll have to consider heating it up again and simmering off and excess water (or decanting it) if it seems like a problem.