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ghee and schmaltz

A while back I bought a jar of ghee, Indian clarified butter. I've been less than stunned. Even when used for cooking eggs it leaves an odd taste I'm not thrilled with, and when I use it as a room temperature butter it tastes even worse. Clarification seems to have removed key butter flavor.

Hmm, WP says ghee may be cooked long enough to caramelize and pick up a somewhat nutty flavor. I suppose I could try again with a different attitude than "why isn't it butter?"

OTOH, I've started pouring off bacon fat, then also chicken and sausage fat. Old schmaltz, chicken fat, tastes grate. Eat-it-out-of-the-can great even, though the fact that it's loaded with fried chicken seasonings skews the curve on that one. I did get around to wondering why schmaltz is a Jewish thing, and Wikipedia quickly made it make sense.

CUlinary fats:
olive oil: traditional to Mediterranean people (cf. Channukah); hard to find in medieval Germany-Poland.
sesame oil: apparently used in Babylonia. Also hard to find.
lard: just no. very not kosher.
butter: probably usable for vegetables, but not for meat under Expanded Rabbinical kosher.
beef and lamb fat, aka suet, or tallow when processed for storage: mostly chelev, fats from sacrificial animals, and not for consumption

Speak to the Children of Israel, saying: You shall not eat any fat of an ox, sheep, or goat. The fat of carrion and the fat of an animal with a fatal disease or injury, may be used for any work, but you shall not eat it.
—Leviticus 7:23-24

Guess what's left? Chicken and geese.

WP says foie gras has Egyptian and Roman roots, but that medieval Jews may have re-invented it as a a by-product of fattening geese for general fat production. Others think they retained the secret all along. Either way, the rest of Europe got a taste for it from them.

'Gentile gastronomes began appreciating fattened goose liver, which they could buy in the local Jewish ghetto of their cities. In 1570, Bartolomeo Scappi, chef de cuisine to Pope Pius V, published his cookbook Opera, wherein he describes that "the liver of [a] domestic goose raised by the Jews is of extreme size and weighs [between] two and three pounds."'

I'm just amused that this classic French dish is, in a sense, Jewish. If you ever meet a French anti-semite, annoy them with it. Unless they care about animal welfare, in which case, don't.

See the comment count unavailable DW comments at http://mindstalk.dreamwidth.org/380410.html#comments



( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Nov. 15th, 2013 01:49 pm (UTC)
Yeah, clarified butter isn't really used the same way as butter, in general, and ghee is somewhat different from traditional clarified butter either way. One of Mel's cookie recipes calls for ghee, preferentially, but when we couldn't find any at the Asian store (they were out of stock, it turns out -- they had some on the shelf the next time we went in, although the price tag made wince a bit, at about $15/jar), she substituted something else for it (I forget exactly what), which she'd prepared for anyway (since we weren't sure we'd be able to get ghee).

I'm mostly familiar with traditional clarified butter being used in cooking applications where the heat would be high enough to cause regular butter to start smoking, and the smoke would be a serious problem, such as in restaurants that do a lot of sauteing (because otherwise the kitchen would fill up with smoke). Looking over the Wikipedia article, it seems that it's generally used more like a culinary oil than as a straight substitute for butter.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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