What is clarified butter? It is simply butter, minus the water and milk solids. Some people call clarified butter, “ghee” (as do I, since it’s easier to say than “clarified butter”), but ghee, traditionally used in Indian cooking, is a clarified fermented milk product.
When ordinary butter is clarified, the resulting product has higher smoke point than butter, 485 °F, vs. 325-375 °F, making it superior to butter when frying and sautéing. Since milk sugar (lactose) and protein (casein) are almost completely removed, clarified butter, should not cause any problems in those individuals with sensitivities to those substances. Without the milk solids, clarified butter also has a longer shelf-life than butter. Just how long a shelf life is debatable. Some sources say months, some say years. But, it should keep months (and months) at room temperature. When I clarify butter, I usually end up with a little bit less than four pints from 4 lbs of butter. I keep one pint in a kitchen cabinet to use, and the rest go in the freezer (or are given as gifts).
Making clarified butter is very easy. The water will evaporate, the solids will fall to the bottom of the pot, and because the mixture is being “cooked,” caramelization will occur, giving the clarified butter an delightful, nutty scent.
You’ll find many tutorials on the internet, but as is my nature, I’ve taken the slow-cooker method a step further…I make “Overnight Clarified Butter” in a slow-cooker! It eliminates a couple of tasks I dislike…skimming the “foam” during the cooking process, and the need to have to stand there and watch butter melt and cook! Up to a several hours before I go to bed, I put my butter in the pot, set it to cook on “high” for 6 hours. When the six hours are up, my slow-cooker automatically switches to “warm.” Then, when I get up in the morning, I am ready to strain and “jar” the product. If my slow-cooker did not have that feature, I would probably set my alarm for 6 hours, then manually switch the pot to “warm,” and go back to bed! If it lacked the “warm” feature, I would just turn it off after six hours, and then reheat the mixture after I get up in the morning.
NOTE: This does NOT have to be made “overnight,” especially if you have a strict “supervise the slow-cooker” rule. For me, though, I have thought about what it would take for the pot to go up in flames, and I find the risk acceptable. If you do not, then don’t do it! As with anything on the internet, proceed at your own risk!
Materials and Supplies:
- Butter (I use unsalted, sweet cream butter, or butter from grass-fed cows)
- Pot or Saucepan (that can easily hold the quantity of butter you are clarifying)
- Fine-Mesh Strainer
- Permanent Coffee Filter
- Containers (I use canning jars that I have just run through the dishwasher)
- Slow-cooker liners (optional)
Insert the liner in the slow-cooker and turn on high. I like to use liners not only for easy clean-up, but also because it provides a good surface onto which the milk solids can stick.
Unwrap the butter and place in the slow-cooker and put the lid on such that there are is a gap of about about 1/4-1/2″ (two gaps–one on either side, if using an oval pot) so that the water evaporates.
After the 6 hours (plus any additional time kept warm) are up, you will end up with a deliciously fragrant, amber liquid that has some dark particles floating on the surface, and a layer of sediment on the bottom.
In the morning, I first pour off the liquid into another pot using the fine-mesh strainer, to remove the bulk of the solids. Wash and dry the ladle, if you used it.
Then, I do one of two things…
–I place a multi-layer square of cheesecloth over the top of a canning jar, insert the funnel, pushing down, which secures the cheesecloth in place. Then, I set the coffee filter inside the funnel, or
–I put the funnel in the far, then the cheesecloth, then the filter (as pictured below). I usually start out this way first, when there are few solids being ladled into the jar, then later switch to the other way, above, because I think it allows more space between the coffee filter and accumulating solids on the cheesecloth surface, assisting in drainage.
The “permanent” coffee filter will act as a first-stage strainer, helping to keep my cheesecloth from clogging too quickly, which will save on the quantity I will have to use.
Ladle the liquid into the filter, clean the filter as necessary (not often in the beginning, but more as you get closer to the bottom). Also, change the cheese cloth, as necessary.
IMPORTANT: You may notice some “precipitate” at the bottom of your jars after straining. Unless your straining equipment is totally useless, those light colored “pieces” or globules are actually water (remember, water is heavier than fat) that has probably come from the condensation on the slow-cooker lid, and/or washing your equipment during the process. These globules really will not affect the quality of your product, and you will not see them once the clarified butter has cooled-down to room temperature.
Cap and label jars.