Ingredients used in preparing a meal directly affect the resulting taste. And, in Ottoman Cuisine, the main contributor is the fat.
We are talking about clarified butter. Known as Ghee in eastern cultures and used extensively in India and Pakistan. Even further, Ghee is also used in some rituals.
Clarified butter is the most frequently used fat in Ottoman kitchen. Mahmud Nedim bin Tosun writes about it in his book “Aşçıbaşı” (The Chef, 1898). He describes it as follows: “Clarified butter is a kind of fat which is made by melting butter and skimming the foam forming on top. It is a long lasting butter, high in fats.”
Back in the old days, our grandmothers used this technique. They sometimes added salt in it to extend its life and kept them in cool spaces of their houses in sealed earthenware jars. It could last for 3 months in dry and cool conditions. I remember this technique from my childhood. We used it to preserve the butter we received from villages. We had a refrigerator, but a big jar of butter is not something you can finish in a short while, so it was clarified to prevent it going bad. Butter, clarified with this method can last for a year in the fridge.
Nowadays, we almost never make clarified butter in our homes. Yet, clarified butter is definitely a superior butter. Since it does not contain milk solids and water, its smoking point is much higher than regular butter. So, you can use it as a frying fat.
Once you melt the butter to clarify it, you lose some volume. The water in it, which is around 10% to 20%, evaporates. Milk solids sink to the bottom. You hear yourself thinking, “I hope the preservatives are also gone, so that I will not need to eat the unnecessary chemicals in them.” There is no evidence that clarified butter is healthier than regular butter, but it tastes far better.
In modern times, clarified butter is served as an aperitif, with some bread. Nowadays, it is a trend to add flavours in it, such as garlic. Sometimes, it is served with the food, on the side, as a sauce to add to the dish.
How To Make Clarified Butter
Slowly melt the butter in a pan or saucepan on very low heat.
Once the butter is completely melted, increase the heat to medium carefully.
The butter will produce foam on top. Regularly remove this foam with a spoon or a strainer as the butter continues to bubble on medium heat.
Once you remove all the foam and the butter no longer produces more, turn off the heat and let the solidified particles sink to the bottom.
After letting it rest some time, carefully strain the butter into the cup you will keep it in.
- Be careful when you increase the heat after the butter is completely melted. If you turn it on too high you will burn your butter.
- If you want your clarified butter to last longer, you can add some salt in it. For every 500gr of butter add 1/8 teaspoon of salt. This is the minimum you should add, you can add more to your taste.
- Some people claim that adding salt to the butter, and not directly to the food will enhance its taste. Yet, however I tried it, I could not feel anything different in the taste.
- I prefer to pour the clarified butter in thin long glasses to solidify and I remove them from the glasses and wrap them in grease-proof paper.