Tuesday, December 4, 2012

On making Ghee

There are certain smells that always take you back to your childhood. Similarly there are certain things that one does to keep those very childhood memories as fresh as ever.

One of these is making ghee. My mother always made her own ghee at home. In fact, I had never tasted store bought ghee when I was a child. There was a cupboard in the kitchen in which my mother lined up her large bottles of ghee.

In those days fancy kitchen items were not available the way they are today. There was  no supermarket one could walk into to pick up a set of 20 matching pretty bottles if one fancied doing that. One had to painstaking collect the bottles that were the favoured packaging solution in those days. She had large glass bottles collected in phases. We went through Horlicks, Ovaltine, Bournvita and my mother's favourite - Nescafe. The largest size was purchased because of the beautiful bottle that the coffee came in. A squat rounded bottle with a bright orange tall plastic lid.

The kitchen cupboard invariably had an average of 4 to 6 of these beautiful big bottles brimming with home made ghee. Not only did we swim in the stuff, she generously shared the goodness with the neighbours and even sent it to Kolkata to her mother's house every time there was someone who was travelling there.

The milkman came to our house regularly to deliver full fat buffalo milk. 2 litres daily. My brother and I had to drink a glassful every morning and every evening. I think she poured it down our gullets in such copious quantities only so she could make those endless amounts of ghee!

The fresh milk would be boiled and then left to cool. You never covered the vessel or the malai wouldn't form. The fat would rise as the milk cooled and once cool enough the boiled milk was tucked away to chill in the fridge. A fat layer of cream would appear slowly and my mother would skilfully skim it off the next day and store it in an aluminium vessel. When the vessel was filled to the brim it was time to make ghee.

A large vessel would be pressed into service. She had a hand whisking gadget that had two whisking blades and a wheel with a handle on one side. I was usually made to sit and churn the malai/cream into butter. For a few times it was great fun but this soon turned into a chore and I eventually rebelled and refused to help.. as most kids are wont to do.

Once the churning was done the butter was put into a thick bottomed vessel and the ghee making began in earnest. The butter would dissolve releasing loads of water and eventually after much stirring and supervising  the golden liquid, the ghee, would begin to emerge. The whole house would be swathed in the smell of ghee.

My father got sick and he died when I was 14. As mum struggled to keep home and hearth together the ghee making process was cut short and all she did was dump the cream straight onto the heat and stir till the ghee emerged. Eventually I took over this chore. We still made ghee at home but it didn't spell security any more. The magic was gone.

After I got married I started making ghee myself in my own kitchen. Sometimes I do it the long way and sometimes I don't. But I won't buy it. I cling on to the smells, to the memories and to the wisps of that child's secure world that never will be again.

Day 3 - Marathon Bloggers


Bombay-Bruxelles said...

What a beautiful story, said behind a story that's dear to all of us Indians, that of ghee-making! Thanks for sharing your memories with us :-)

Isingcakes said...

Such a lovely chotobela golpo:) yes, homemade ghee is a bliss indeed! I explored loads here with unsalted butter first then sorts of creams and now fresh double cream works best for me. Thanks for sharing your story:)

Simran said...

I love ghee, something that the husband and son do not like, AT ALL! I enjoy mine ;) But yes making it at home is something I don't think I will ever do, coz of sheer laziness. Kudos to you!!!

Prats said...

1. I love love that glass bottle with square bottom. And I know how the collection process happened. It was the same in our houses.

I agree on this still clinging onto the aromas of childhood. I still go back to certain activities of my childhood just to relive those moments. This was a lovely post. And its so lovely that you still try to retain those small moments

Aparna said...

Kick in the pants for going and taking out that stored cream in my fridge, and making my ghee today :)

What a lovely anecdote! Thanks for sharing.

Swati Raman Garg said...

i hope i never ever have to make it myself.. i wait to go to mansa to get it... :) and i remeber these pics.. they r sooo beautiful...

Anonymous said...

Liquid gold as its rightly called, my mum still sends me ghee on a regular basis... one of the things I have never made at home but one day I will :)

AJ said...

Love the way you've put it across Rhea..and that picture speaks for itself.

Sangeeta said...

Such a touching tale...really moved. Reminded of my own childhood when maa used to make ghee. And now I have started following her, too. Hope my children remembers me!