Letter Re: The Butter Storage Dilemma

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Dear JWR:
I've been reading your site for some time and thought that some of your readers may find our Butter Storage Solution helpful in their plans.

I've been a prepper for decades and I've spent a lot of time thinking about butter. Our stored food reflects our caloric needs as well as having some things to eat that we really like -- things that make us feel better. My wife likes butter very much and I began looking for solutions around the turn of the century.

Living in New Orleans (or anywhere with a sub-tropical climate) just makes the butter problem that much more difficult. In the 1970s while homesteading in the Alaskan interior I tried canned butter but I rejected it for three reasons: it's expensive, it's hard to get and worst of all, once you open the can you are still faced with all of the storage issues you were trying to get away from.

I explored a few possibilities but when Katrina blew through I still had no solution. We were provisioned pretty well and sheltered in place for the storm and throughout the entire six week forced mandatory evacuation. More for psychological reasons than dietary I got more serious in my search as the city began to get back on it's feet.

In short, I revisited Ghee and decided to give it a try. All ghee is clarified butter but all clarified butter is not ghee. Ghee is anhydrous butter that has also had the milk solids removed. It is a way to preserve butter without refrigeration that has been in use for over 4,000 years. If made properly it may be stored for years at room temperature in the tropics.

A great deal of information about ghee is available online but I will hit a few high points. If you decide to try it there are many recipes out there that detail each step.

After making it in increasingly larger batches on the stove top for five years I had a forehead slapping moment where it occurred to me that I could use our crock pot instead. This not only makes for a much better product, it also greatly decreases the chances of burning a batch. Our five quart crock pot will make a six pound batch.

Since my goal was a product that would store well at room temperature I would cook it for about 2.5 hours in an attempt to cook off as much water as possible. Now I make it overnight on a cold night and let it cook in the crock pot for over 14 hours. This is by far the easiest way to make high quality ghee. I use coffee filters to remove the fine solids. I put up enough ghee in pints during the cooler months that I never have to make it during the air conditioning season anymore.

There is one handy, low tech test for ghee quality that is not mentioned much online: Cut a strip of paper two inches by one quarter inch wide. Dip just the end of the strip into the ghee. Light the dipped end with a lighter. If the flame pops and sputters there is still quite a bit of water present.

When you use ghee it is very important to never introduce any water into the jar while you are taking some out. Later, if you decide that you need just a bit more ghee in the pan be sure to use a clean knife or spatula. I have yet to have any ghee go bad on me.

Even with a crock pot, making ghee is probably not for everyone. It is available for purchase online but I would advise buying some unsalted butter and making a small batch yourself. There is also a product out there for high end movie theaters that is an anhydrous butter product which is made by running butter through a centrifuge. You may have tasted this product if you frequent theaters where they are very proud of their popcorn. Personally I prefer to retain control of the entire process myself.

Once you start using ghee you may be surprised how handy it is. Since ghee has a very high 'smoke point' it is truly a joy to sauté with. It is like butter on steroids.

Please read up on it a bit and give it a try. It has been very easy to weave into our food storage program and it has been the solution to our butter storage dilemma.

Thanks for the great blog site! - L.C. in New Orleans


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