Those of us who are sensitive to casein, the protein in dairy products (including, alas, butter), must either accept an entirely butter-free existence, buy expensive casein-free certified ghee, or learn to clarify butter ourselves. Granted, for many the idea of home-clarified butter is a scary thought. It’s probably not entirely casein free … you can see from the pictures that there are little remnants of milk solids left floating around. But given that butter is already very low in casein, and I’m removing say 90% of it, I’m okay with that.
To clarify butter, one must simply heat it slowly until a foam has gathered at the top and the rest has liquified and separated. The resulting clarified butter is butter in which the milk solids (containing the casein) and whey have been removed, resulting in pure butter fat. This rendered fat has a higher smoke point that butter, making for better frying. Perfectly clarified butter (as in the aforementioned ghee) can be stored at room temperature for many months without going rancid. As my butter is likely not perfectly clarified, I like to store it in the refrigerator and soften it as needed.
Of course, a Little Dipper Slow Cooker is not necessary to clarify butter. It’s just that I recently received one, and found that most of the recipes I’ve found for it are really not very friendly to us non-dairy folks. So I’ve been experimenting with other uses for the thing – including making my own yogurt. (Okay, that’s a dairy product, I know … but husbands and infants like yogurt. What can I say?) Moreover, I find that it’s the perfect size for 4 sticks (1 lb) of butter. Let’s proceed:
First, place four sticks (1lb) of butter in the Little Dipper. Plug in the Little Dipper, and walk away. Check your email, make your son a peanut butter sandwich, get out the vacuum to clean up after said sandwich eating. You don’t want to stir or otherwise upset the butter while it’s doing its thing.
When you finally remember that you’re melting butter, and that you should probably check on it, return to the kitchen to find this:
Oopsies. It appears that the butter bubbled over just a tad, but then that’s the foam that we don’t want anyway. Good thing you remembered to put that towel under there. Moving on:
Skim off the icky foamy bits. We don’t want those. I use a little mesh strainer, but before I bought one of those I used a flat spoon. Either way works, but this way you waste less of the yummy butterfat.
Next, we want to get the butter fat separated from the white milk solids at the bottom. To accomplish this, I’ve poured the whole thing into this handy dandy fat separator … but in the past I’ve also just ladled the butterfat, taking care to avoid the solids. You can easily tell if they’re getting into the ladle; if they do, simply drop the contents of your ladle, allow everything to settle again, and try once more.
(Incidentally, this fat separator comes with a top portion that is intended to keep out bits of meats and whatnot. If it had a finer meshy/sievvy quality to it, I could have saved myself that previous step. Perhaps in the future I’ll try this with some cheesecloth draped across the top of the strainer so catch the foam?)
Ahem. It seems that I forgot that the last time I did this, I only used two sticks of butter. That little glass jar did NOT hold all the butter I had clarified today, though this helps me to make my point. That jar had originally held 6 oz of commercially prepared ghee, bought for the exorbitant price of just under $6. Meanwhile, the four sticks of butter cost somewhere in the vicinity of $1.50 -$2.50 depending on where I buy it and whether it’s on sale.
So there you have it – delicious and nutritious (yes! it’s true! Butter is good for you.) butterfat, at a fraction of the cost.