Ghee: The sauce and spice in Ankole

A lady preparing Eshabwe.

A lady preparing Eshabwe.


Eshabwe is a popular sauce among Banyankole. At parties in Ankole it is reserved for the high profile guests. Eshabwe is hunted by both aliens and natives in hotels and restaurants that prepare organic and traditional foods.

This thick milky sauce with fantastic taste and aroma is made from traditional ghee prepared from cow’s milk.

A part from eating it as eshabwe, ghee; boiled or not, can be eaten directly by mixing it in ready food like Katogo or by preparing another type of sauce from it called enuniira (light white-milky sauce).

“Ghee is eaten in different ways, you can make Eshabwe, enuniira, and you can put it in ready foods or use it frying other sauces like beans and green vegetables, instead of using cooking oil,” says Ms Flora Kambarara.

She says that ghee making is as old as the culture of cattle keeping which dates several centuries back. It was the major sauce for the cattle keepers. Ghee was introduced to non cattle keeping communities where Bahima migrated to.

“Ghee making was only done in cattle keeping communities. Our great grandparents were making ghee and it has lived on,” Ms Kambarara adds.

Making ghee starts with milking a cow which should have been being milked for at least a month. Milk is then put in calabash locally known as Ekirere. The calabash has to be of medium size, accommodating five -10 litres.

Like milk ports the calabash also to be clean smoked using a certain type of local grass or tree to add a scent to the milk and subsequently the ghee.

When milk has been put in the calabash it is left to stay there for at least 12 hours before it becomes ready for extracting out ghee by a process locally known as okucunda (shaking and rotating milk in a calabash).

The milk becomes ready for okucunda after it has changed form to become thick-yoghurt. Naturally milk will not become thick with in just 12 hours. So to quicken the process a doze of dead milk locally known as enkamyo is added.

Ekamyo is always a small amount of residual milk (milk where ghee has already been extracted). At times it is got by putting sugar in fresh milk- to ‘kill’ it then use this ‘dead’ milk as enkamyo.

Okucunda is done mostly by women and girls. Someone sits down shakes and rotates diligently the calabash from soft materials or her laps. In the first 10 minutes of the process one keeps removing the lid on the calabash to let the pressure forming inside get out.

The process takes between 30-minutes to an hour. One keeps checking the stage of ghee formation so as to accelerate or reduce the rate of shaking. Ghee forms in the process and covers the surface and finally it collects together.

The remaining milk becomes residual commonly known as amacunda. Residual milk is poured out of the calabash through a filter, leaving the ghee in calabash. Ghee is then scooped and placed in a container. Residual milk can be fed on dogs and other domestic animals, poured but it used to be given to children to drink.

Ghee is then washed to remove any dirt and any elements of residual milk. It is kept for at least two weeks before it is suitable enough to be eaten either as eshabwe, enuniira, or applied in ready food or used in frying other sauces (except meat and Gnuts).

In the past ghee used to be kept in small calabashes called Entsimbo. They were prepared to add some scent to the ghee. But majority people today keep it buckets and jerrycans. Ghee can be boiled so as to clean it further, remove the scent some people don’t like and above all to give it a long life shelf.

“Un boiled ghee can last for about five months before it goes bad while the boiled one can go for a year,” says Mary Kyamweru a dealer in ghee in Mbarara Central market.

Some of those who buy it row from farmers and traders go and boil it but it has to be more than two weeks after it was made. However the boiled ghee does not make good enuniira and for eshabwe it is best when un boiled ghee is used.

Although it is expensive the demand for ghee remains insatiable. “Everyone wants to buy ghee, it is nutritious. Its market price has gone from Shs 2000 a kilogram in 2006 to Shs 13000 today,” says Kyamweru who has been dealing in ghee for the last 23 years.

She says people prefer it to cooking oil in frying sauce because it is not associated with any disease unlike the former.

Traditionally the cattle keepers used it as lotion. And whenever a girl would be going to marry, her aunties would prepare her some stocks to go with.

Today ghee making is threatened by lucrative dairy sector which offers better prices for milk unlike in the past. Farmers therefore find it profitable and convenient to sell milk than going through the rigorous process of making and preserving ghee.

Some milk dealers also make ghee from the milk that goes bad. Today ghee is mostly made in cattle keeping communities in Mbarara, Kiruhura, Ntungamo, Isingiro, Lyantonde, Rakai, Sembabule, Gomba, Luwero, Kiboga and Apac districts.

How to make ghee

  • Milk from a cow that has been lactating for at least a month is put in a calabash and enkamyo is added
  • After 12 hours when milk has become thick, it is shaken for 30 minutes to an hour
  • Ghee forms and it is filtered from the residual milk
  • Ghee is washed and kept in a small calabash, bucket or container
  • After two weeks it is ready for eating by making eshabwe, enuniira, applying it in ready food or used for frying sauce(instead of cooking oil).
  • It is also ready for boiling to remove dirt and give it a longer life shelf of six months to one year.

How to boil ghee

  • Put it in a saucepan
  • Boil for it 5-7 minutes
  • Put it off to cool down
  • Filter and put it in a container

How to make enuniira

  • Warm the water to be used (half a litre or litre)
  • Put a small piece of salt (one eaten by cows)
  • Put un boiled ghee (two tea spoonfuls for half a litre
  • Steer until ghee dissolves
  • Put  cooking salt

How to make eshabwe

  • Prepare boiled cool water
  • Put ghee (say a kilo or half )
  • Put salt (one eaten by cows, later cooking salt)
  • Steer using a small mingling stick for about 10 minutes

 

 

 

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26 thoughts on “Ghee: The sauce and spice in Ankole

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