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Clarified butter is milk fat rendered from butter to separate the milk solids and water from the butterfat. Typically, it is produced by melting butter and allowing the components to separate by density. The water evaporates, some solids float to the surface and are skimmed off, and the remainder of the milk solids sink to the bottom and are left behind when the butter fat (which would then be on top) is poured off.
Commercial methods of production also include direct evaporation, but may also be accomplished by decantation and centrifugation followed by vacuum drying; or direct from cream by breaking the emulsion followed by centrifugation.
Clarified butter has a higher smoke point (485 °F or 252 °C) than regular butter (325-375 °F or 163-190 °C), and is therefore preferred in some cooking applications, such as sautéing. Clarified butter also has a much longer shelf life than fresh butter. It has negligible amounts of lactose and casein and is, therefore, acceptable to most who have a lactose intolerance or milk allergy.
In the Middle East (samna) and South Asia (ghee), the butter may be cooked long enough to evaporate the water portion and caramelize the milk solids (which are then filtered out), resulting in a nutty flavor.
In Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, clarified butter, commonly known as ghee, is a common cooking oil. In Pakistan, it is used mainly for cooking, especially, chicken Karahi and lentils. It is also burned as a fuel in religious lamps. In northern India, the milk solids are a delicacy eaten with various unleavened breads. The milk solids are called mehran or ghee (घी) in Hindi, ney (நெய்) in Tamil, neyyi (నెయ్యి) in Telugu, neyy (നെയ്യ്) in Malayalam, तुप (tūp) in Marathi, thuppa (ತುಪ್ಪ) in Kannada. In Tamil househoulds, the separated milk solids are sauteed with jaggery (or brown sugar) and wheat flour to make a sweet delicacy. Ghee (Sanskrit: ghŗtam (घृतम्)) is also a major ingredient in Ayurveda, used as a base for several herbal potions or powders, for easier absorption.
In Turkey, it is known as "sade yağ".
In Iran, it is known as "yellow oil" or "sweet oil", and is used in place of other oils.
In Middle Eastern countries, it is known as samnah. It replaces oil in frying and sautéing because of its perceived superior flavor. In some Arab countries, such as Egypt, the separated milk solids that remain in the bottom is called morta (Egyptian Arabic: مورتة pronounced [ˈmoɾtæ]) and it is a rare delicacy, often eaten as a spread on bread.
Rural families in the Maghreb, particularly those of Amazigh descent (among whom ghee is referred to as smen or d'haan) sometimes bury a sealed vessel of it on the day of a daughter's birth, aging it until it is unearthed and used to season the food served at her wedding.
In Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisines (particularly in the highlands), clarified butter is infused with ginger, garlic, and several spices, and is known as niter kibbeh in Amharic and tesmi in Tigrinya. In traditional African cultures, clarified butter is used in an ointment worn in the hair or on the skin. For example, the women of the Hamer people wear a mixture of clarified butter and red ochre in their hair.
In Mongolia, it is known as "shar tos".
In Russia, it is called топлёное масло (toplenoe maslo, literally "melted butter").
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