To ghee or not to ghee…

That’s been the question on my mind for the last two months or so.

Ghee is a clarified butter common to South Indian cuisine. The butter is slowly heated until you are able to strain the milk solids out which is supposed to result in a lactose and casein free product. As such, the product is supposedly rendered dairy-free.

I mulled over this for a quite a while. Could it really be dairy-free? But it’s butter…

But the process removes all lactose and casein.  Okay…

Finally, after a chat with a pastry chef at a gluten-free bakery where she too mentioned ghee (in addition to the tons of props it gets all across the web and blogosphere), I decided to give it a try and bought it this weekend.

I added a small amount to a delicious fish I pouch-steamed on the grill earlier this week (recipe forthcoming). Was the ghee yummy? For sure. Was it great to taste butter again? Yup. Is it dairy-free? Well according to my sinuses which promptly began to hurt and my nose which promptly began to stuff up and my throat which promptly began to itch, I’d have to give that a big ol’ NO. This is dairy. My body says it’s dairy, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s dairy.

Then I started thinking, well, how can you be sure you are removing all the solids? Are you sure you’re getting every last bit? Is there a litmus test before the ghee goes out the door? Seriously. Maybe there is. In some of my research, I came across an interesting thread here: http://www.isitvegan.com/2011/12/18/is-ghee-vegan/ and I found this comment particularly interesting:

Properly made ghee IS vegan—it goes thru a complete transformation when cooked CORRECTLY & loses all link to its dairy origins..this is why ghee candles burn in the greatest temples in India. Properly made ghee has lost all link with ‘liquid butter, or ‘clarified butter’; biochemically it is absolutely different. I had the privilege of studying ~30 yrs with a Master of Ayurvedic Medicine.
Thanks for considering an alternative answer which will stir comment!

C S Khalsa
Ayurvedic Practitioner

So was it the ghee I bought? According to the quote above, clarified butter is not truly ghee. Is there another brand that does a better job? Should I make it myself? These are options potentially worth exploring, but for now I’ll leave it alone. At the end of the day with any eating plan, eating rules, and philosophies like clean-eating, paleo, veganism, and everything in between, it’s really YOUR body that will tell you what works for YOU. There is no cookie cutter approach. I research to find guidelines that give me some direction, but beyond that, I have to listen to my own body because it knows. I was so hoping ghee was going to be that great golden hope. From the second I put it in my cart at the market, my mind was already spinning with a number of wonderful recipes. Alas, it’s not for me. So that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not for you, but here’s just another bit of info you can weigh in your own journey.

I find when you research these buzz items that are on trend, it’s so easy to find pages and pages of why it’s so good, but finding the stories from folks who had a different experience (even if they are few and far between) are just as important, if not more so. So, here’s just another part of that story.

What are your thoughts on ghee?  And if anyone with dairy intolerance or sensitivity has had success with a particular brand, I’d love to hear about it.

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