Some may wonder about the types of ghee out there and how to choose the brands with the highest amount of quality. There are a lot of options in the American grocery store of ghee companies that are competing to be “the best.” With anything, “the best,” is often a designation given on a personal level and not solely on facts. Fortunately for ghee, there are some simple ways of determining which brands are worthy of this distinction. For this article, I have used information available from the Journal of Dairy Science that is the official journal for the American Dairy Science Association. This article can be found here.
In India, where ghee originated and comprises a lot of the cooking oil market, there are several ways of making ghee and each one has its merits, but some are touted more than others. As we know ghee is, simply put, the fat or oil that comes from a milk or cream source. The varied methods of producing ghee originate from which component you start from: milk or cream. These methods, in turn, will also affect quality on three main levels: shelf stability, flavor and texture, and vitamin content. Certain methods are more economical for making ghee at home, or in larger commercial settings.
One of the most revered forms is called desi ghee, and is typically used in homes throughout India, as it requires nothing more than a few pots, pans, and a heat source. This is ghee made from a slightly longer process of fermenting freshly heated milk into a yogurt-like product and then heating that cultured yogurt to effectively remove the water and milk solids. Part of the reason this method is so widely honored is that it is easy to do in the home, as a majority of India is rural and access to larger methods of production is sparse. Many believe this is the highest quality of ghee available as the flavor is the most pleasing. I believe this is to do with the freshness of the milk and subsequently the finished product as it is consumed rather quickly and used frequently in a lot of cooking. The downside to this method is the poor shelf stability and lower vitamin content.
Another method of making ghee is called a direct cream method, as the name suggests, is ghee made by directly heating cream to separate and remove the milk solids and water. This is one of the methods primarily used by larger commercial operations that have a great source of cream directly from cows and requires the use of a lot of commercial equipment in its production. Ghee from this method has a higher shelf-stability and vitamin content. However, the flavor of the ghee isn’t as great as the homemade ghee. I believe this is to do with the cream not being put through a culturing process as it lacks the depth and desirable flavor as the desi ghee.
The last method, and most popular in the US, is called a creamery butter method. This method involves processing cream into butter and then taking the whole butter and heating it to remove the milk solids and the water. The ghee made from this method is about the same as the direct cream method in that it has more longevity for storage, higher vitamin content, and needs more equipment for production. The flavor of this ghee is directly related to the culturing of the cream before making the butter. In essence, using a cultured cream or butter will allow you to achieve the best flavor as well as capturing a high shelf stability and vitamin content.
Here at Full Circle Ghee, we use a lactic cultured butter as the starting point for our ghee. The butter we start from is the highest quality Cultured European butter around that has the richest and most depth of flavor. When we turn that butter into the ghee we are extracting all the best qualities from it: vitamin content, flavor, and maximum shelf stability in our finished product. We believe that those three factors contribute to what is considered; “the best” and we hope you do to!