Monday, August 9, 2010

How to Make Clarified Butter & Shelf Life for Food Storage

Butter in Long Term Food Storage: It Can be Done!

I have often thought if I were to ever need my food storage for a long length of time, such as weeks without electric, I would truly miss butter.

Recently I figured out I do not have to miss it and perhaps I should be using it on a daily basis. Butter has been around long before refrigeration. How is that? The key is “clarified” butter. Julia Child’s is a huge fan of clarified butter. Clarified butter enjoys a good shelf life and does not require refrigeration. It withstands higher heats when cooking and does not turn brown. Simply separating the milk solids from the healthy “fat” does the trick. The more certain you are the milk fat is out, and no water has entered the scheme of things -the more you will enjoy a long shelf life. Adding sea salt also helps extend longevity but is not required. Clarified butter shelf life is 6 months if stored in a stable vessel such as glass. It has a year life in refrigeration. So, ideally, you have up to six months if you experience loss of electric.

Making clarified butter is so neat I determined to make it with only organic butter or butter from Ireland which I think is totally cool and relatively hormone free. Cultured butter is best so try to find that. Cultured butter means that the cream sat in a cool place for a day prior to being churned into butter. I pour my clarified butter into a sterile glass for storage or easy pouring. Dishwashers usually can be set at a high enough temp to help make things sterile. For everything else there is 190 proof Everclear which is my germ killer of choice. Naturally you must wait for all alcohol to evaporate before something can be figured as sterile.

Method to Clarify Butter

The best way to clarify butter is simmer it in a pan. Allow the water to evaporate and the milk solids to coagulate together. (Butter does have some water content.) Skim any “foam” off the top first. Strain through a fine sieve. Strain a second time if in doubt. I use coffee filters because I have them from my laboratory where we make flavors. You could also use a turkey baster to just siphon the clear butter off. Experienced chefs simply pour it off-but I find milk solids float up into the pour. You cannot allow that to happen. Water content is about 18% so you should capture 80% of the butter you bought into a final clarified product.

Clarified Butter: A Global View

The word actually comes from the French “clarifier” meaning to clear something up. The English use clarified butter to store their shrimp in a process known as “potting.” Indian Ayurvedic cooking calls it “Ghee” and is a pivotal part of their diet. Africa adds really neat spices such as ginger and nutmeg. South Asia and the Middle East cook it a little longer to actually caramelize the milk solids which lends it a nutty flavor. The Scandinavian cheese “Ski Queen” is from this process in part. Ski Queen is my absolute favorite cheese and I go cross eyed just thinking about it! It is as addictive as a fine dark chocolate.