Let’s be amused … making clarified butter

I was very amused by an ad on British TV (dating back to the mid 1980s I think) for Rawlings Indian Tonic Water … you know, for gin and tonic.  In it are featured a threesome made up of a very old Queen Victoria, a very stately Mr Rawlings and, in attendance,  a very handsome and younger turban-clad Indian manservant, Tandoori.

Picture the scene if you please: Queen Victoria telephones Mr Rawlings using the very first version of a telephone … and the conversation unfolds as follows:

 

Queen Victoria (rather pompously and condescendingly):  Mr Rawlings, We find your tonic water most refreshing and We have today ordered another bottle.

Mr Rawlings (very chuffed indeed by this compliment): Thank you very much Ma’am.

Queen Victoria: We are intrigued, Mr Rawlings, as to why it is called Indian tonic water?

 

Mr Rawlings, now visibly flustered by this question to which he obviously does not know the answer, turns to Tandoori, and, covering the telephone mouthpiece so that Queen Victoria won’t hear him, asks him:

 

Mr Rawlings:  Tandoori, why do we call it Indian Tonic water?

And the answer is:

Tandoori: Why not?

Mr Rawlings (hastily making up something credible):I regret, Ma’am, but that must remain of necessity a trade secret.

Queen Victoria hangs up in response.

Mr Rawlings (in a resigned voice): She was not amused.

 

Love it!

 

And that’s how I feel about making clarified butter.  About eight years ago, a friend popped round in the late afternoon for a quick cup of tea because she had to pick her children up from some activity or other (and yes, we do drink tea in Italy! Though nowhere nearly as much as in other countries and milk in one’s tea is unheard of).  And there we were, deep in conversation, sipping our tea when she turned to the stove top and asked me what I was cooking.  She was quite nonplussed when I answered that, actually, I was making clarified butter.  “I never heard of anyone making clarified butter just like that in the middle of the afternoon!“ she exclaimed, wondering what on earth would drive anyone to do such a thing.

Just like Tandoori in the above sketch, however, my answer was and is : Why not?

 

It’s not actually something that one “makes” as such… one lets it “happen”. And, once ready, the clarified butter keeps forever in the fridge.  It requires a fairly large amount of butter (at least 500g) otherwise it would not be worth the endeaver, and there is some wastage in the process. Unless you are willing to use a dropper (and even that might not work), there is no way that you can filter all of the melted butter.

This time I used a whole kilo of butter!  It needs a double boiler so that the butter can melt bain-marie style … a slotted spoon for removing the caseous cheesy part of the butter … a sieve … and a glass jar for storing the clarified butter in the fridge.

 

It requires quite a long time before the butter melts properly, so that any water contained therein evaporates and so that it separates into a liquid gold and into a white caseous sticky substance.  The butter should melt away for one hour, which is a fairly long stretch of time … but it doesn’t need any special attention at all.  You can read a book or watch a film while it’s “happening”.

 

I do not have a large enough double-boiler and I expect not many people do … So you might do worse than copy my necessity-mother-of-invention solution which was a pair of  kitchen tongs.

Pour in some water and switch on heat and pop in the  butter and …

1 kg of butter!

starting to  melt …

The “stuff” that rises to the service is we do NOT want … and that’s what the slotted spoon is for

every little bit has to be removed!

This is what gets thrown away …

And this is what we keep and treasure.  Do this gently and filter slowly … and if you are a purist (I aim to be merely pure of heart), you can use a muslin cloth inside the sieve.

This part is easy enough …

And this is when it gets tricky: careful — you only want the liquid gold, not the white stuff

Notice that some of the clarified butter gets left behind with the white stuff: that’s because there is no way I could sieve any more into the glass jar without the white stuff trailing in too.

Liquid gold … isn’t it an amazing colour!

P.S.  If you want to see the Rawlings ad in all its silly glory, click on

http://www.tellyads.com/show_movie_vintage.php?filename=VA0479

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About myhomefoodthatsamore

Community celebration via food, wine and all beautiful things.
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3 Responses to Let’s be amused … making clarified butter

  1. Libby Morris says:

    Hi Jo – Is clarified butter used much in Italian cooking?

    • jojo says:

      I don’t think that clarified butter is used in Italian cooking the way ghee (India’s version of clarified butter) is used in the Indian Subcontinent, no. I use it to make saltimbocca alla romana, for instance. I also used it to cook Cotolette alla Villeroy. It is just great, generally speaking, for flash in the pan searing of steaks and individual-portion sized meats, adds a fantastic extra flavour to stews and also delicious for sautéing vegetables.
      I live in the country where olive oil is king but butter is queen for me personally and I think that people who demonise its use are very silly and haven’t done enough research on how healthy it can be (raw butter is a good source of Vitamin A for instance). Most Italian kids my age (I was born mid-fifties) grew up eating bread-and-butter-and-jam for breakfast … many of us were served a slice of bread and butter with sugar sprinkled over it for “merenda” (tea-time snack). Another traditonal snack for all ages was bread and butter and anchovies or anchovy paste. “Fiocchi” or “flakes” of butter (about 1 teaspoonful, say) continue, thankfully, to be dotted over lasagne before they are put into the oven or over a potato cake known as “gattò di patate” and for “gnocchi alla romana”
      I would say, perhaps naively, that clarified butter is a tool for a more sophisticated recipe in the Italian kitchen … and none the less delicious for that!

      • Libby Morris says:

        Hmmm – love the idea to use it for steaks seared in the pan – great idea! Will try it very soon – maybe with you on Friday!!!

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