Looking through all my recipes on my glutenfreehelp website, you must have noticed how I like to incorporate ghee into my cooking. I choose ghee instead of butter, for multiple reasons, one of the biggest reasons being that ghee is dairy-free, and therefore is a better alternative when cooking to avoid encountering food allergies. Ghee is also gluten-free and is a safe choice to use if you have celiac disease like myself. Nick Van Nordheim, who is the owner of the company Full Circle Ghee, agreed to talk with me about his fabulous creations! He was so generous to give his time to elaborate on what his ghees are all about and shed some light on what makes his production different. I honestly have never tasted such unique and clean ghee, which is why I continuously purchase from his company. His cows, how he raises them and his method to making the ghee is truly different, and this is evident in the flavor. After taking a read through, you will have a greater understanding about why his ghee is fantastic!
Nick takes a lot of pride in his work. The butter that he uses comes strictly from one small family farm in Petaluma, CA. This farm specializes in raising only ONE breed of cow- -the Jersey Cow, which comes from the island of Jersey located off the coast of Normandy in France, but it is considered part of the United Kingdom. Jersey’s are considered a “heritage” breed and were not typically used in commercial production of milk. This cow was not just picked at random, as they were typically reserved for a family milking cow due to the extremely high quality of the milk specifically related to the fat content it produces- 12%! In comparison, the Holstein cow, the black and white one typically associated with cows, produces around 3-4% fat content, yet produces twice the volume of milk that you would get from the Jersey. As you can imagine, this high fat content produces wonderfully rich, creamy, and decadent milk and lends itself to butter production.
Springhill Valley in Petaluma and Tomales, CA are the locations of the two properties where Nick raises cows. The cows are Certified Organic meaning they have a pure diet consisting of grass that is grown on their own properties. They do not feed them any corn, grain, or soy and these cows are never slaughtered for meat. The herd is a ‘closed’ herd, meaning there is no inclusion of other breeds and the milk only comes from the Jersey cow. Oftentimes you will have “mixed” herds which include breeds like the Jersey with mostly Holstein cows; this allows for a slightly higher fat content while maintaining a high yield of milk. On Nick’s farms, they have always raised the pure, single-herd Jersey cows and have no intention of doing it any other way!
Brown Butter is yet another fabulous creation of Nick’s. You may be a bit confused with this one, as the name can be misleading for those not familiar with the product. It is NOT butter but is actually ghee as well. People who are lactose intolerant, who have severe allergies to dairy and even many on the paleo diet will not touch it until I explain to them it is actually ghee. After talking to Nick, he has recently assured me they are changing the labeling soon to mitigate the confusion. So, we do promise you that this is a dairy-free product, don’t let the addition of the word “butter” trick you!
The 8 oz jars are sold for $15 and can be shipped to anywhere in the US for a small fee. Unfortunately, the site is still being built- but once that is up and running, they will be able to reach more people. Website orders can be made at www.fullcircleghee.com This product is also sold at numerous farmer’s markets throughout California in cities such as San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside County, as well as a few in the Tahoe area.
The conversation with Nick was chalk full of really interesting and important information. Like I have said, the care and precision of his work holds true to the end result. You can’t just snap your fingers and expect to get the flavor and consistency of this ghee. It takes a well thought out process, and Nick surely has that! More of our conversation is below, and I have summarized his key points to share with you how he does what he does best ☺
The Butter Making Process
The butter is made from the cream of the Jersey cows that has been vat- pasteurized, allowing for the cleanliness of the milk. Creamy is the consistency that I aim for. Although the butter is not raw, we do culture the butter before it is churned. The culturing process adds enzymatic activity back into cream that is lost during the pasteurization. Doing so really adds some depth and character to the butter so it doesn’t taste like a single flat cream flavor.
To make the ghee, we start with organic, cultured butter and in stainless steel pots we cook the ghee down. This process is done in order to remove the impurities: moisture and milk. The way I choose to make the ghee is at a low temperature for several hours. I do this to ensure that the nutrient value of the ghee is intact, avoiding the scalding/burning of the milk, and producing the wonderful caramel and nutty notes that make my product stand out.
Often, ghee is made too quickly which contributes acrid and plastic like flavors that are undesirable for the palate. I’ve found this is one of the factors that turn people away from ghee when they try it for the first time. This is why I find the need to go slow, as I would much rather sacrifice time than quality. The low and slow cooking process will also ensure that the water has been completely evaporated in addition to all of the milk being broken down to levels that don’t affect people with milk sensitivities. That is why my ghee is shelf-stable at room temperature for up to a year, with a smoking point of 485 degrees.
When making infused ghee, I start with the plain ghee that has been fully clarified through the process above. This ghee is then added to a mixture of aromatics (onions, garlic, and ginger) with the addition of herbs and spices. These contribute to the flavors that are found in the flavored ghee I’ve made. These are all my own recipes that are blended by hand and are never from pre-made mixes. Also, none of the ghee is made using machines- every jar is started and finished by hand. I do believe that care, compassion, and gratitude are essential for making the best quality of ghee. I want to be able to stand by a product that I know was made with all those qualities!
Thank you all for following along with part 1 of a 2-part interview series! Also, a huge thank you to Nick for taking time out of his day to share about your ghee! I hope you all give it a try, and you will see just how great it is! Try using it in a delicious gluten-free recipe!
From our home to yours, Tina Turbin
If you have any questions or suggestions just email me at info (at) GlutenFreeHelp.info.