A Brief History of Ghee
Ghee (clarified butter) has a long, illustrious history. Also known as "liquid gold" or "sacred fat", ghee originated in ancient India when the domestication of cattle and the consumption of butter first began (1500 - 500 BCE). Due to the hot climate in India, butter would often go rancid before it was consumed. So people began clarifying butter as a way to extend its shelf life.
Ghee has been used for thousands of years in traditional Indian cooking, Ayurvedic rituals and Hindu religious ceremonies. Ghee is also used in Pakistan, Bangladesh, parts of Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Variations of ghee are used in parts of East Africa.
In Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine), ghee is revered for its anti-inflammatory, digestive and mental health benefits. According to Ayurveda, ghee nourishes the nervous system, which translates into calm energy throughout the day. Ayurveda believes that people who are primarily vata dosha (a mind body constitution that represents air, ether and dryness) benefit greatly from consuming ghee due to its grounding, nourishing and lubricating qualities.
In Hinduism, cows are considered sacred, as well as the dairy products produced from their milk. Ghee, in particular, is held in very high regard, both for its taste and for its nourishing properties. Ghee has long since been used as an offering on altars and as food for the gods. It is sometimes used to light candles in Hindu temples.
Ghee is cooked longer than the typical clarified butter you would find in French kitchens. This long, slow-cooking process results in a rich, nutty, caramelized flavour and removes the lactose and casein. Without those perishable milk solids, ghee is completely shelf-stable and can last for a very long time without refrigeration.
Nowadays, ghee has been widely embraced as a nourishing butter alternative. Ghee is lactose-free, easy to digest, and contains a higher smoke point than butter or oil - meaning that it is safer for high heat cooking! We hope you enjoyed reading this brief history of ghee, and that it encourages you to learn more about the rich history of ghee and try it in an authentic Indian dish.
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