November 07, 2003

Allow me to Clairify

Some folks at work were asking me about clairified butter a few weeks back after I admitted that I usually keep between one and two pounds of the stuff on my stove.

Last night with Bravo re-runs of The West Wing playing, I figured I might as well make some more and write up how I go about it. At least it goes with the name of the blog.

Clairified butter is butter which has had all of the water and milk solids removed. As a result, you can use it for high heat cooking without fear of burning. You traditionally also use it for emulsion sauces, although melted butter also works fine there and has a bit more flavor. Because it has had the water removed, it keeps well without refridgeration for several weeks (at least in my experience -- web searches turn up no solid information on this).

I keep mine in a small 1 qt covered saucepan that has seen better days such that I don't care to cook much in it. I leave it on the back of the stove unless I need the room. I use the same pot for doing the actual clairifying. It's just big enough for about a pound and a half of butter without having a foam-over problem.

To do this, melt 1 pound of butter. It can be either salted or unsalted -- salt is water soluble and thus you are going to remove it anyway. Since this butter is going to be a cooking medium rather than a main ingredient, I tend to use cheaper butter for this. Costco sells butter in 4 pound packs that I usually pick up for this purpose, freezing the unused blocks until again needed.

After the butter is melted, turn the heat down to low or medium low. You want the water to actually boil off, so exact heat isn't important. You don't want it to be really high for two reasons: 1) the pot can foam over 2) the solids will eventually settle to the bottom of the pot where they can burn. I usually use a large soup laddle to stir the butter every once in a while in order to encourage the water to boil off.

Once the water has fairly well cooked off, reduce the heat and allow the liquid to obviously settle into solids at the bottom and oil at the top. If there are bit of foam at the top, spoon these off. Pour off the oil into another container and remove the solids, any remaining water, and what's left of the oil from the pot. Wash the pot with water and dry. Pour the oil back into the pot, taking care not to catch any stray solids you may have missed in the first pour-off. Done.

You can either discard the milk solids, or if you have been careful not to allow them to brown and are thrify, can make use of them. They make a nice addition to bread recipies that already call for oil, butter, or milk. Two weekends ago I added them to a Rosemary/Olive loaf that I'd put about 1/2 C of whole wheat flour into. The butter solids helped to soften and tone down the whole wheat just enough.

Posted by dowdy at November 7, 2003 08:55 AM