Monthly Archives: September 2013

Clarified Butter or Ghee

In India, clarified butter is the most eminent of all foods. It is mentioned in the Vedas as one of the most important ingredients along with honey for holy rituals. Aryans who entered into Punjab from the West were village dwellers and reared the cattle. This was in contrast to the stable city life the people of the Indus valley civilization lived before them. As the cattle herds required pastures for grazing, these people were always on the move and spread into whole of Punjab and then towards Ganges valley. Many stories and epics revolve around the possession of more cattle which were symbols of wealth. Many groups fought for the possession and even took away the cattle by force or other means.

In addition to being used as an ingredient and frying oil, the fuel of holy lamps and funeral pyres, it is an emblem of purity, an ancient offering to the gods. Ghee (from the Sanskrit for “bright”) was born of necessity. Due to the hot weather, ordinary butter spoils in only ten days in much of the country, while the clarified fat keeps six to eight months. Traditionally, ghee has been made from whole cow or buffalo milk that is soured by lactic acid bacteria into yogurt-like dahi then churned to obtain butter, cream. Today, industrial manufacturers usually start with cream.

The preliminary souring improves both the quantity of butter obtained and its flavor; ghee made from sweet cream is said to taste flat. The butter is heated to 190ºF/90ºC to evaporate its water then the temperature is raised to 250ºF/120ºC to brown the milk solids, which flavors the ghee and generates antioxidant compounds that delay the onset of rancidity. The brown residue is then filtered off (and mixed with sugar to make sweets) leaving the clear liquid ghee.

White Clouds aglow in the evening sunlight

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It was one of those rare days during the monsoon season here in North India. After rains since morning, suddenly winds sweeps the dark clouds away but white beautiful huge clouds of bizarre shapes hang in the azure skies. Everything is washed clean in the skies. It is evening time. The sun light sparkles the clouds. Took this picture with my HTC Desire HD camera. The trees and building are not focused upon because focus is the clouds.

Bacteria and Plants: Master Chemists

Bacteria and Plants are master chemists. They synthesize mind boggling variety of chemical compounds like macro molecules like sugars, proteins, lipids and enzymes using simple chemicals present in the medium and soil. Some of them take mineral carbon (CO2) and water and partition it into products of great use e.g. proteins, sugars, lipids and hydrocarbons. As opposed to the their counterparts in the laboratory which can create optimum conditions like high temperature and pressure required for the reactions, they do the same synthesis under the prevailing conditions using enzymes which they synthesize in the first place. Then there are others which like humans do the reverse. They take organic carbon-which was synthesized by their brethren- and mineralize it into CO2 to liberate the stored solar energy for their living.

Big molecules are generally have stereo-isomerism due to which they possess handedness labeled as L-levo and D-Dextro and deviate the light passing through solutions from its path towards left or right in equal amounts. When the chemists synthesize such molecules in the lab, they always end up with 50:50 mixtures with no effect on the light. They have to do time consuming and costly separations to get pure D or L forms. But in nature, those micro scientists always make only one pure isomer form either L or D!
There are ants which take up only L form isomers present in the sugar. How they come to know about D and L, only they or the God knows. These days stereo-selective medicine is being manufactured because sometimes back the mixture medicine caused great problems in USA.

Were the bacteria and plants eligible for the Nobel prize in Chemistry, they could have wrapped up all of them.

Energy required for creating different types of food

Energy is required to make food. Whether we feed cows to produce milk or apples from the trees, energy is required in different forms from the beginning to end. The apple might be an emblem of simplicity, but accounting for all the energy needed to produce one is another matter. You have to factor in pesticide production, fertilizer manufacturing, irrigation, harvesting, sorting, and transportation. Electricity and diesel fuel are needed to drive all these steps, and coal mining and oil extraction come with their own energy costs. And that’s just the apple. Here is a list of some items of foods in Sweden.

Eggs

Even specially bred hens for this purpose convert food to eggs with only 15-20% efficiency

Mega joules required per 1 Kg=18

Shelled shrimp, wild

High energy cost comes from fuel required to run a shrimp boat.

Mega joules required per 1 Kg=220

Apples

Fuel required in importing adds to the energy cost. But lower perishing rate means that they can be transported by cheaper means like ship.

Mega joules required per 1 Kg=8.6

Milk

Requirement of food for dairy cows is far less than cows reared for meat. Milk energy requirement makes it most efficient.

Mega joules required per 1 Kg=5