Clarifying Butter


My grandmother never went anywhere without her ghee (samna/clarified butter).

I didn’t even realize it until I started to clarify this incredible grass-fed buffalo butter she sent me. The smell completely took me back to when we were kids vacationing by the sea. Every morning the scent of nutty, warmed milk wafted through the house as I wiped the sleep from my eyes  to watch my grandmother dip a long spoon into her gigantic glass jar of ghee to make eggs.

Clarified Butter

In a heavy-bottomed pot, slowly warm butter.

Despite the title, this isn’t a post about clarifying butter. I mean, it is, but really it’s about how after so many years of yelling at our families for cooking and eating so “unhealthily,” we realize they were right all along. There’s a reason food traditions exist, that’s what paleo is all about.

Clarified Butter 2

Let it melt undisturbed until there’s no solid left.

Traditionally, samna or ghee is made of buffalo butter that, just like clarified regular butter, is heated slowly to extract the milk solids and leave behind a high-fat, dairy-free, nutty, delicious concoction. Removing the milk solids ensures it’s safe if you’re dairy intolerant and for all the paleolings out there. The lack of milk solids let ghee and clarified butter reach much higher temperatures before burning. I use it to panfry steak. It’s Steak and Sass for a reason, y’all.

Clarified Butter 3

Continuously skim off milk solids from the surface. Egyptians call this morta and it is fan-freaking-tastic on bread. Don’t look at me like that, I gave it away…HONEST.

Do not fear the butter. It turns out clarified butter is better for you than man-made vegetable oil due to the saturated fat content. It boggles the mind how we cast aside pure butter from a naturally fed cow on a small farm, churned by hand and brought to you almost still warm for bottles of putrid-smelling oil sitting on a shelf in a supermarket indefinitely and made from…corn. How does one extract an oil from a corn cob?

Clarified Butter 4

Eventually the milk solids will stop coming to the surface and bubbles will replace them. Skim those off too. You’re not done yet.

My mother would tell me how her father ate straight-up ghee every day. My father would tell me how his father ate two eggs cooked in manteca (lard) and two slices of bacon every morning. They both lived to almost 90.

Clarified Butter 5

When the butter turns a light nutty brown and there are brown milk solids stuck to the bottom, you’re done.

How completely wrong we were. All of us. One day we were picking fruit off branches and the next we’re plucking pizza pockets off supermarket shelves.

Stop it. Eat real food. Make some ghee. Fry a steak. Thank your grandmother. 


Liquid gold.

Clarifying Butter 

500g unsalted butter, buffalo, grass fed or otherwise

1. In a heavy-bottomed pot, very slowly heat the butter on low heat until it melts completely.
2. Continuously skim off the white foam that comes to the surface. Skim. Skim some more. Just keep skimming.
3. The foam will eventually stop forming and will be replaced with bubbles. It may start to splutter now as this is water evaporating from the fat.
4. When the foam subsides and you see brown particles at the bottom of your pan, you should be done.
5. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and/or cheesecloth into a heat-proof container. You will lose up to 40% in volume if you used buffalo butter and around 20-25% if you used regular butter.
6. Decant into an air-tight glass jar and store, at room temperature if it’s cool, in the fridge if it’s warm. You should have a clear liquid that, over the span of a few hours, will begin to harden into semi-solid crumbly ghee.
7. Use it to fry eggs, steak, chicken, to make bernaise, to roast vegetables…I have yet to find an application where ghee is not suitable. Maybe don’t use it to oil door hinges or something, I dunno.

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