Step into the heart of my kitchen, where I’m thrilled to share the treasured flavors of my Jordanian heritage with you. Join me on a personal journey as I reveal the time-honored secrets behind homemade ghee and butter. Passed down through generations, these recipes hold a special place in my family’s kitchen traditions. I’ll guide you through every step, sharing the tips and techniques I’ve learned. Together, we’ll infuse your kitchen with the unmistakable taste of Jordanian tradition, creating a feast that nourishes the body and celebrates the joy of sharing flavorsome delights with loved ones.
Growing up in Jordan, there is a particular food or kitchen pantry essential that can’t be replaced anywhere in the world. You must get it directly from Jordan, just like olive oil. The ingredient is Samna Baladi, which translates to pure butter or ghee.
This ghee is unique because it is made from sheep, not cows. It is also only made in the springtime when sheep start giving birth to their babies and breastfeeding them. During this time, some of the milk was used to make butter.
Some parts of Jordan still go through the process of making ghee all by hand. For as long as I can remember, my parents would place a yearly order for butter. It was part of the annual budget, alongside olive oil and olives.
Since the butter was so pure, it came in bright white. This butter was meant to be eaten raw, not cooked, and smelled heavenly. You can eat it with a piece of bread with some sugar or tahini and molasses! I still have the incredible taste in my mouth as I write this, even though I haven’t eaten it for over 30 years. This white pure uncooked butter is also used to make pure ghee. It gets melted on the stove over low heat and then cooked with some specie called Hewaja to give it a golden yellow color. A delightful smell will fill the air when you start cooking with it!
Sheep Milk vs. Cow Milk:
While cow milk is more widely available and commonly used, sheep milk offers its own set of distinct qualities. Nutritionally, sheep milk is known for its rich composition of fats, proteins, and vitamins. It contains higher levels of beneficial fatty acids and protein than cow milk, making it a nutrient-dense choice. Sheep milk’s unique composition lends itself well to making ghee and butter, resulting in a rich and flavorful end product. The creamy texture and slightly sweet taste of sheep milk ghee and butter add a delightful twist to culinary creations. Although sheep milk may be less common, exploring its unique properties is a culinary adventure worth embarking upon.
Making Hewaja (Spices)
On one of my visits to Jordan a few years back, I asked my aunt Dunia, the master of all masters in making this spice mix, to show me how to make it! It was a labor of love started by visiting al attar, a spice shop. She knew what she needed. There were more than 15 different spices and herbs in raw form. She knew precisely the proper amounts of each spice and quickly ordered them. When we got back, we started the process in the kitchen, and it took 7 hours nonstop to produce about 5 kilos of hewaja. I then got to bring the spices back with me from Jordan! Now I use it to spice up my homemade butter and ghee. I will write about the process of making Hewaja in another blog!
How to Make Butter and Ghee With Hewaja?
Since sheep milk is not available much in the United States, I used heavy cream and an electric mixer with a whisker attachment. Then I whisked the cream on high speed to separate the fat from the buttermilk, which can be used in recipes that call for buttermilk. You can also drink the buttermilk cold with some added salt!
To make the ghee or clarified butter with hewaja, I melt the pure unsalted butter on the stove on low heat. This will separate the milk solids from its fat. Ultimately, the milk solids sink to the bottom while the pure fat rises to the top. Some people like to add either a piece of bread or cracked wheat to absorb the milk solid, but I don’t do that. I just let it simmer since it will separate on its own. You will know when it has separated when the top part becomes pure see-through and the bottom part is cloudy and muddy. At this point, you have pure fat, which is ghee! Pour the ghee into a glass jar or use a ladle to scoop out the fat part and remove the milk solids.
Notes For Making Ghee
- Hewaja can be bought from any middle eastern shop. If you don’t have hewaja, make the ghee without any flavoring. Mix your spice with turmeric, curry, rosemary, and garlic. Some people also make ghee that is flavored with chocolate; go figure. Not me?
- The standing mixer fits one-half gallon of heavy. It will spell over and make a mess! Each 64 oz of heavy cream will give you 28 oz of butter. Cream, so don’t try to add more.
- Ghee can be kept in a glass jar at room temperature but will be preserved longer in the fridge.
- You could keep the whole butter in a glass jar or ceramic platter. But I like to separate them into 4 oz logs wrapped in wax paper. I keep the logs in the fridge until I need them.
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