Yesterday afternoon, I decided to make clarified butter, just to have it on hand. I'd never done it before and it was an interesting process.
Clarified butter is useful for sautéing at high temperatures. Because butter is a dairy product, it contains solids that can burn, creating a bitter taste (these same solids, when cooked but not burned, create the nutty taste of browned butter). Clarified butter removes those solids, leaving only the oily component of butter. Thus, it is less flavorful than actual butter, but still butter-flavored.
Let's clarify something first (that won't get old), ghee and clarified butter are not the same thing. Ghee is a type of clarified butter common in India. It has a more concentrated flavor, since it is cooked longer, and is sometimes even herbed.
Since it keeps well for months, I decided to use a whole pound of butter. I put four cubes in a shallow saucepan over medium-low heat.
Gradually the butter melted and then began to bubble, with foam rising to the top, which I skimmed off. You can see in the picture above how even as the butter begins to clear you can see the layer of dairy solids and water as a layer on the bottom of the pan. Eventually, much of the moisture bubbles to the surface, but the solids remain on the bottom to be strained out.
Eventually, the foaming subsided, with some of the dairy solids clinging to the bottom of the pan. By filtering the butter with several layers of cheesecloth over a strainer, I separated the solids from the golden oily product that was the goal of exercise.
The clarified butter solidified in the refrigerator, waiting for me to use it. Now I just need to find some dishes to use it in.