Middletown’s Farm to Gold is spreading the gospel on ghee, a type of clarified butter long prized in Indian cuisine and natural healing.
If you think butter is good, try ghee.
Slightly nutty in taste, ghee is a type of clarified butter used in Indian cooking and in the country’s ancient natural healing system, Ayurveda.
But there’s no need to travel abroad to get it.
Kim Welch and Lynn Goodwin sell their Farm to Gold ghee at local shops and farmers’ markets, including Coastal Growers Market in North Kingstown and Aquidneck Growers Market in Middletown.
They make it in a commercial kitchen in Middletown using high-quality butter from grass-fed cows from Kriemhild Dairy Farms in Hamilton, New York.
The process is relatively simple, but time-consuming. Goodwin and Welch cook butter for several hours over low heat until the dairy separates from the fat.
“A lot of people confuse it with clarified butter, but clarified butter is not quite ghee,” says Goodwin, of Newport. “With traditional ghee you’re cooking it until you removed all the milk solids. Ghee is when the impurities … cook off and it’s completely clear.”
The remaining product — liquid while hot and solid at room temperature — is free of lactose, gluten and the milk protein casein. It tastes similar to regular butter, but in addition to being a little nutty in flavor, it has a richer and denser mouthfeel.
Since ghee is not widely known in this country, education is built into their sales pitch.
“If we’re at a three- or four-hour-long farmers’ market, we’re talking the whole time because people are constantly asking, ‘What is this?’ Goodwin says.
The friends and business partners, who met a few years ago at an Ayurveda course, take turns explaining its benefits.
“Not only is it extremely delicious, it’s one of the healthiest fats one can consume,” says Welch, who lives in North Stonington, Connecticut.
Ghee is known for supporting digestion, as it contains high levels of butyric acid, which can suppress inflammation in the gut. It is also rich in vitamins A, E and K. Goodwin goes on to explain that ghee is grounding, from an Ayurvedic perspective, and can therefore help with anxiety.
Welch and her family started regularly using ghee a few years ago when her daughter developed anxiety after a traumatic medical illness.
“We realized quickly that we needed more of a natural approach to helping her, and Ayurveda provided answers,” Welch says.
Unhappy with the taste of ghees available at supermarkets, the friends started making it for themselves, and then offered it to the clients they advised as Ayurvedic health consultants. As demand for it grew, creating a business seemed like the next logical step.
Goodwin and Welch, who envision Farm to Gold becoming an Ayurvedic lifestyle brand, recently debuted two non-food products: an oil-pulling mouthwash and a nasya, an herbal nasal oil.
Back on the food side of the business, they’re currently testing ghee-infused nut butters. “Nut butters can be dry, but a little bit of ghee can make it spreadable,” Welch says. “But they’re so good that we’re afraid to roll them out until we get our own kitchen or a bigger production space.”
They have learned that people buy their ghee for various reasons. Indian-Americans tell Goodwin and Welch that it reminds them of home. Elderly people are often attracted to its moisturizing properties, as the fat can help lubricate joints. Home cooks often pick it up for the excitement of experimenting with a new ingredient.
Unlike regular butter and olive oil, ghee has a high flashpoint — up to 485 degrees — so it can cook at high heat without oxidizing.
It can be used in cooking as a replacement for most oils. Welch and Goodwin recommend using it to sear scallops, roast vegetables and pan-fry eggs.
Welch’s kids eat it on pasta, and she also uses it in place of oil while making zucchini bread and popcorn.
Goodwin adds that it’s also traditional to eat a little ghee on its own, right out of the jar.
Details: Farm to Gold ghee costs $12-$30 per jar, depending on size. For more information, go to farmtogold.com
WINTER VEGETABLE CHOWDER
For roasted vegetables:
2 cups diced winter squash (butternut or kabocha)
1 cup sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 small sweet onion, cut in 1-inch chunks
½ bulb fennel, cut in larger 1-inch chunks
1 red pepper, quartered
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 cup mushrooms (optional)
1 tablespoon ghee, melted
½ teaspoon salt
For soup base:
2 tablespoons ghee
2 leeks, washed and sliced
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 large carrots, diced
4-6 stalks of celery, diced
4-6 cups low sodium vegetable broth
2 cups fingerling or russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1-2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
2 cups milk or dairy-free milk substitute
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Prepare roasted vegetables. Toss all vegetables in a large bowl with melted ghee. Spread them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and roast for 20-25 minutes, turning once, being careful not to burn.
While vegetables are roasting, make the soup base. In a large Dutch oven or soup pot, melt 2 tablespoons of ghee. Sauté the leeks for 2 minutes until translucent. Add the thyme, rosemary, salt, carrots and celery. Sauté an additional 5 minutes.
Add the broth and white potatoes. Bring to a boil over medium heat and reduce heat to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are soft.
Remove roasted vegetables from oven.
Place the roasted vegetables in another pot or bowl. Remove 3 cups of broth liquid from the soup pot and add to it the roasted vegetables. Either with a blender or immersion blender, carefully blend the roasted vegetables and broth, leaving some texture. Add the purée back to the soup pot. Add desired amount of milk.
Add pepper and any additional salt to taste.
Note: For a thicker chowder, sauté 2 tablespoons of flour with the ghee and leeks before adding the carrots, celery and potatoes.
— Recipe by Farm to Gold Ghee
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