R. Thulasegawre (left) and A. Kumaresan (right) showing the pure ghee they produce.

Nourishing the Generation to Come with Ghee

R. Thulasegawre and A. Kumaresan are helping to sustain the healthy culinary practices that have been nourishing many generations by holding passionately to the tradition of making ghee that was inherited from their forefathers.

Yoghurt being prepared with cow’s milk.

Ghee, or clarified butter, has been part of Indian cuisine for millennia. It is added to meals and sweets due to its abundance of nutrients, as a flavouring agent and to enhance the taste of the food. Due to ghee’s healing properties, ghee is also traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine preparation.

According to Ayurveda, ghee helps to detoxify and can improve your skin, memory and strength.

Churning the yoghurt with an electric ladle.

Kumaresan and his wife had been making ghee for the past 35 years and did not let go of their grip on this healthy food tradition, even when the large-scale ghee processing industry took over the market a long time ago. The demand for pure ghee is always there owing to its health benefits and its high use in religious offerings.

Scooping out the floating white butter to be transferred to the pan.

Kumaresan says they rear cows, which means there is a sufficient supply of cow’s milk. To make ghee the traditional method, one first needs to make yoghurt.

“To prepare the yoghurt, cow’s milk is boiled and allowed to cool. When the milk’s temperature is slightly above room temperature, sour yoghurt is added to the milk as a starter. Then the milk is well stirred to ensure the yoghurt is equally mixed with all parts of the milk.

Stirring the white butter under the fire.

“This mixture is then covered with a lid and left to ferment overnight. The fermented milk is called yoghurt” explained Kumaresan’s wife, Thulasegawre.

Kumaresan then transfers the yoghurt to a container and churns it continuously until the white butter surfaces and the milky water remains below. “During their time, my parents, churned the yoghurt manually with a wooden churning stick. That way, it took longer for the white butter to separate from the milk.

The butter turns into ghee.

“Now, with the availability of electric churning sticks, work is much easier. All I have to do is place the electric churning stick on the yoghurt, turn on the switch and let it stir until the white dollops of butter float on the top,” explains Kumaresan.

Thulasegawre then scoops out this white butter and puts it in a different pan. She then stirs the white butter continuously with a spatula over low heat. The heating process turns the white butter into a golden-hued liquid, which is called ghee, or clarified butter.

Adding moringa leaves to enhance the aroma and taste.

When the bubbling sounds end, which means the moisture has completely evaporated, Thulasegawre adds a pinch of rock salt and a handful of moringa leaves to the ghee. (Curry leaves can also be used in place of moringa leaves.) The leaves, when they come into contact with ghee, splutter, and release a pleasant aroma that fills the whole room, which inevitably kindles your appetite. The nutrients from the leaves had infused into the ghee, making it even more nutritious.

Ghee is let to cool and sifted.

Once the spluttering ends, Thulasegawre stops the fire and removes the leaves from the ghee. (The fried moringa is nutritious, hence it is not discarded, but eaten with rice.) After letting it cool, the ghee, is bottled and supplied to the customer.

Ghee being bottled.

“I have been making ghee for the past 35 years. One needs around 50 litres of milk to make 1 litre of ghee, which makes the price of pure ghee slightly higher. As of now, the demand is higher than the supply. Many realise the benefits of consuming pure ghee and are searching for one.

“My nephew, R. Ragupathy, will soon take over my work as he has all the interest in preserving and carrying forward this traditional industry. I will guide him to the details to ensure the tradition of making ghee continuously flourishes,” said Kumaresan.

Agroecology Fund