When we grew up, we were very used to watching our elders churning butter out of home set curds and making ghee with that. Having a meal without ghee to enhance the taste, was rare. If at some given time the ghee on hand would not suffice, the Moarkari - the curd vendor would drop by and sell ghee.
During our summer holidays, when we visited our grand parents in Gobichettipalayam, it was assigned to any two of the young boys and girls to walk to the vegetable market with an adult, mostly an uncle, to assist him carry back the day's purchases. Many a times I would carry an aliminuim thooku (container fitted with a lid and a long handle that enabled it to be lifted and carried along) to buy nei, which is Tamil for ghee/ clarified butter.
Being part of Kongu nadu cuisine, that had a unique taste enhanced by the addition of drum stick leaves while boiling the butter down to ghee. The vendor would dip her finger into her container and bring out a drop of her produce to rub in on the back of your palm. You are encouraged to smell the flavour to decide the taste. The flavour will linger on your palm for long.
Nowadays, as we have all shifted to low fat or skimmed milk for our daily intake, the churning does not yield butter. Even in India, my mother purchases butter from Aavin and melts it down to ghee.
I make ghee at home too. It is one of the basic recipes and I share with you here. I borrow some drumstick leaves from my Ghanaian neighbour to drop them in. Interestingly, in a particular dialect of the Ga language drumstick is referred to as morangai, similar to many South Indian languages.
A good brand of unsalted butter weighing 200 grams will yield 175 grams ghee.
200 grams butter.
A small sprig of drumstick leaves.
Keep butter in room tempearture prior to making ghee.
Take the butter in a heavy bottomed pan. Switch the heat on and as soon as the butter starts melting, bring the heat down to medium.
Use a spatula and stir once in a while.
The butter will melt and start to boil foaming initially.
The foam reduces to bubbles and finally the bubbles gradually start dying out. Drop the leaves in.
This process will take just 6 to 7 minutes.
At this point, if you sprinkle a few drops of water in the boiling liquid it will sizzle.
Allow just about another minute and switch the fire off.
Let the pan sit on the warm stove for some more time.
The clear liquid will surface on top and some residue of the burnt milk solids will precipitate to the bottom of the pan.
Store in clean containers. Ensure that spoons that are inserted every time, are dry and clean.
The ghee will be very flavoursome and when it cools down the texture will be like sand grains.
This basic ghee can be used in cooking most dishes or added to hot steamed rice with some kuzhambu or rasam and eaten. You may use ghee to temper some foods, roast garnishes and so on.