The Many Forms and Flavors Of Ghee
Ghee is Indian in origin, however this same product is made in slightly different ways throughout the world- it truly is a product for the people! In studying ghee these last few years I have noticed that there are many forms of clarified butter products throughout the world that are made in similar fashions. Although we label all our products as “Ghee” the truth of the matter is that a few of our flavors of ghee would be known as something entirely different in many cultures.
When describing ghee I typically say, “It’s a form of clarified butter that originated in India.” This is completely accurate as it does originate from India, but also that there are many other ways of making a similar product and it goes by many other names. Let’s break it down and see if we can’t come up with a better understanding of what ‘ghee’ is and how it varies from culture to culture.
Dairy and pastoral based cultures have been around for thousands of years. Raising animals for their meat or milk has existed long before the current age, and was an important function in many societies throughout the world. In a modern sense, we tend to view these cultures as only being in temperate and cooler climates, but the fact is Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and South Asia (India) all have their own dairy based cultures. The products all these regions produce are highly varied; from milk, yogurts, cheese, butter, and clarified butters. Made in similar ways, but tailored to their specific culinary and regional needs, many of these regions produce their own clarified butters that are considered different forms of the same product.
For example, in the Middle East and Africa they produce a ghee-like product called Samneh and Niter Qibbeh. At its most basic level, these are clarified butters that utilize the addition of spices, herbs, and aromatics that are commonly used in their cooking. Used as the main oil and a source of additional flavor, these clarified butters contain all of the same benefits a ghee would have but with an enhanced flavor from the spices.
Our Curry Spice ghee is our representation of this method of production. We use freshly toasted spices and aromatics like ginger, garlic, and onions for flavor, not unlike these cultures. Some people may think the flavored clarified butters are not a ghee, but in reality those products have the same benefits as a ghee would have with the added bonus of an entirely different flavor. The Mediterranean Herb ghee is another form of this type of clarified butter but using the flavors and herbs associated with a different region of the world. We use herbs for a much less pungent flavor with roots in the Mediterranean region. Not all variations of a clarified butter have to include the use of additional flavoring agents.
In France, they make clarified butter for cooking, but also make a product called Beurre Noisette. This term translates to “Hazelnut Butter,” and comes from the flavor of the finished product. To make Beurre Noisette, butter is heated to caramelize and cook the milk solids almost to the point of burning, allowing the oil that is left to have a rich, toasted, and savory quality. This product is typically not filtered since it is made in small batches and the toasted milk solids do provide a slight texture to the dish. Our Browned Butter ghee is the representation of this same product, but has been filtered to remove the milk solids. We’ve basically married the properties of a ghee with the flavor of a Beurre Noisette into a product that has the best of both worlds.
Although we use the word ghee to describe all of our products, we have drawn inspiration from many different cultures across the world. We believe that sharing food cultures is an important aspect of a modern world. At the end of the day, food should be enjoyed by all people and the flavors in different culinary regions ought to be shared and experienced.