I’m a from-scratch kind of person. There’s something about doing something — doing all things — the hard way that has always appealed to me. I like to labor over things, like to roll up my sleeves, and put in the work. Because what’s more magical than holding in your hands something that you have created — something that did not exist in the universe until you came along?
I guess that’s part of why writing has always appealed to me, and also why I choose to work in publishing — there’s a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t appeal, a sleight of hand, a sorcery. There’s some beautiful power in creating something somewhere where there was once nothing — and it’s a power (and an authenticity) that I never grow tired of.
I suppose it goes without saying that that’s part of why cooking has long appealed to me as well. And by cooking I don’t just mean putting a few things together for the sake of getting some food on the table. I mean cooking projects, recipe development — big things and ideas that I can work through for hours and hours, meddling and mending and dreaming big about.
Carl Sagan once famously said, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” Sagan was an astronomer, and so his quotation has many possible applications, both profound and literal. But my take-away is that there is a project in every undertaking, and that there is a always a step further that we can take that project — that no undertaking is boundless in its scope or in its potential, that it is our job to make the things that we do as vast and as brilliant as we wish for them to be.
I believe in this. And I believe in vastness and in brilliance. And I think that doing a better job of working towards these things is something that could bring me a great deal of happiness. So it starts here, with this Slow Cooker Ghee. It’s a small step for mankind, but it’s a start.
You might be wondering what on earth this ghee thing is, so I’ll explain briefly. Ghee is very similar to clarified butter, except that it’s cooked a bit longer, giving it a sweet and nutty taste. Butter is actually an emulsion of milk solids, water, and butterfat. When you heat and clarify butter, the emulsion separates — the water evaporates, and you can skim off the milk solids to yield a pure, honey-yellow butterfat. Continuing to cook the separating butter emulsion until the milk solids have browned is what helps to give ghee its brown butter-like sweetness. Ghee has negligible amounts of lactose and casein, making it safe for those who are typically dairy intolerant. It is also the only dairy product that is Whole30 approved!
Make no mistake, though — this stuff is not just for Whole30. Like regular butter, it’s crazy delicious, but, unlike regular butter, it’s also crazy versatile. Regular butter has a very low smoke point, which makes it difficult to use in certain cooking applications, like sauteing or roasting, because it burns too quickly. Because their milk fat is removed, clarified butter and ghee have much higher smoke points, which means that you can use them any which way you’d like. Ghee is safe to keep unrefrigerated for several months; but, of course, you can always store it in the fridge (and even in the freezer) to make it last even longer. I keep mine cool, just to be on the safe side. This How To is a sure thing because it prepares the ghee in the slow cooker, where there’s no muss and no fuss. You can also make ghee on the stove top, and though it’s much faster, it also takes a bit more precision.
So grab your slow cooker, roll up your sleeves, and let’s get a start on creating that universe.
How To: Slow Cooker Ghee — Whole30 compliant.
Ingredients and materials:
- Unsalted, grass-fed butter
- Slow cooker
- Glass jars
- Cheesecloth + rubber band, a nut milk strainer, or a reusable mesh coffee filter
Purchase as much butter as you would like. I would suggest purchasing quite a bit, since you’re going to like this stuff a lot and it freezes well. For my first batch, I used 2 pounds of good quality Kerrygold, but next time I probably double that.
Unwrap your butter and put in in your slow cooker. Cover and set on high. The process will take about 3 hours, but you should start checking its progress around 2 or 2-1/2 hours. The butter will start bubbling and will become bright and golden. A crust will develop at the top (this is the milk fat) and, if you push it aside, you’ll see that the melted butter below is very clear. Continue to cook the butter until the crust at the top turns brown. You will notice that the butter will take on a nutty aroma at this point — that’s exactly what you want!
Once the milk fat has browned, turn off the slow cooker and remove the cover, allowing the cooked butter to cool, but not all of the way. Now you’ll need to strain the butter to remove the milk fat. Grab a large swatch of cheesecloth and fold it in half twice (doubling it up and then doubling it up again). Lay the cheesecloth over the mouth of a glass jar, allowing it to dip about an inch into the jar, but making sure that the swatch is large enough such that the edges still all hang on the outside of the mouth. Secure the cheese cloth in place using a rubber band. (Alternatively, you can use a nut milk bag or a reusable mesh coffee filter.)
Pour the cooked butter over the cheese cloth. The cloth will collect the brown, crunchy bits, leaving you with pure, honey-golden ghee. Fill the jar to the top, repeat with additional jars as needed, and then dispose of the cheese cloth and cooked milk fat. Skim and dispose of any bubbles or rebel bits of milk fat that have made it to the jar — they will be floating on the top. Allow the ghee to come to room temperature before covering. If you do not, condensation will pool inside the jar, which will turn the ghee rancid if stored at room temperature and will decrease its fridge shelf life. Once it is solid, it can be covered and then stored in the pantry, with no refrigeration necessary. Alternatively, it will stay good in the fridge for at least 3 months, and it can be frozen for 6 months or longer.