Bilona in Hindi means to churn. The traditional Bilona ghee has got a rich heritage associated with Subcontinental history. Its roots go beyond the Vedas and Puranas. Even in modern history, much before the usage of regular cooking oil, bilona ghee was one of the staple dietary ingredients in Indian cuisine.
Bilona ghee is produced by initially churning the indigenous cow (which is either soured by the addition of curd or naturally, overnight) milk into makkhan (butter). It is then heated and melted to obtain the bilona ghee. It is rich with a nutty flavour and golden yellow colour.
Today, ghee alone is a half-a-billion-dollar industry in India. It witnessed a growth of 11.1% between 2011-18. This obviously means that there is a substantial need for ghee in the country. But many people claim that the industrially produced ghee is no way near the dietary and nutritional quality of traditional bilona.
Details of Production
The traditional production of bilona ghee is quite a lengthy process.
- Cow milk is initially boiled and cooled.
- Then an adequate amount of curd is added as a starter culture into this milk.
- It is then kept at room temperature overnight for curdling.
- The curd is then churned to extract butter from it.
- This butter is then boiled so that the water evaporates leaving behind pure ghee.
As you can see, the process is quite slow and traditionally, all of this was made at homes without any use of machines. Bilona ghee is exclusively produced from traditional cow milk, which is rich in a2 proteins. a2 protein is said to be healthier than a1 protein.
In recent years this has been one of the most debated topics in the Food Industry. It all started with the onset of a2 milk company. The difference between both lies in genetic proteins.
Milk is rich in casein proteins, which is the characteristic protein of milk. The casein contains alpha, beta, and kappa casein. The difference is that if the 67th position amino acid in beta-casein in the milk is proline, the milk is a2 and if it is histidine, the milk is a1. The protein a1 when digested breaks down into smaller proteins(peptides) which are assumed to be toxic.
According to the literature, more than 10,000 years ago, and before they were domesticated, cows produced only the a2 beta-casein protein and not the a1 beta-casein protein. However, some 8,000 years ago a natural single-gene mutation occurred in Holsteins, resulting in the production of the a1 beta-casein protein in this breed. This mutation in the beta-casein gene led to 12 genetic variants, of which a1 and a2 are most common.
The mutation was passed on to many other breeds, principally because Holsteins are used to genetically improve the production of other breeds. Slowly, the a1 beta-casein variant became dominant in milk. While dairy herds in much of Asia, Africa, and part of Southern Europe remain naturally high in cows producing a2 milk, the a1 version of the protein is common among cattle in the Western world.
Almost all the traditional Indian milch like Gir and Sahiwal produce a2 milk. The awareness about the a1 and a2 milk among the consumers is also a reason for the quick increase in demand for bilona ghee recently.
Overview on the cost of Bilona ghee
The cost of bilona ghee when compared to the commercially produced ghee. Just one litre of traditional hand-churned bilona ghee requires 25 to 35 litres of milk. On the other hand, commercial production can produce the same quantity of ghee with just 15 to 20 litres of milk.
It requires a higher raw material cost, labour cost, and production cost which will obviously push up the final cost of the product.
Features of Bilona Ghee
Desi Ghee not only adds flavor to your food, but it makes your food balanced. The rich nutty flavour of bilona ghee is one of the most important parameters that it should have. The reason for this flavour is the production of diacetyl and other flavonoid compounds which generates while heating. These compounds are exclusive to the traditional ghee because of their exclusive curdling process.
Ghee is also rich in Vitamin A and E and Vitamin K2. Traditional bilona ghee has a rich golden yellow colour. This is due to fact that it is exclusively prepared from the milk of traditional milch breeds, which is rich in beta-carotenoid pigments.
Health benefits of adding Bilona Ghee to diet
- Boosts the immune system.
- It is rich in antioxidants and vitamins.
- Has monounsaturated fatty acids of MUFA.
- Since it has a high boiling point, it is good for cooking.
- It is good for the heart since it lowers bad cholesterol and increases good cholesterol.
Bilona ghee has been with our culture since time immemorial. Its rich flavour and colour are an exclusive feature of our subcontinent. It is prepared by churning out butter using traditional wooden or earthen churns and then it is then heated and melted to obtain bilona ghee. The indigenous milk is rich a2 beta-casein proteins. The manufacturers of bilona ghee claim that the presence of a2 proteins makes the bilona ghee superior to any other commercially produced ghee.