In a small farm located in al-Khalil’s southern town of Tel Zeif, 67-year-old Palestinian farmer Hasan al-Atrash watches over his livestock, particularly milk-producing sheep.
Out of the milk produced by the female sheep local Palestinian farmers make traditional ghee, a rare type of butter that is constantly used at local restaurants and confectionery shops, especially konafa makers. It is also used in cooking special meals. It is neither imported nor produced in factories. It is the pure by-product of local expertise and a handmade creation prepared at homes and farms.
A kilogram of ghee often reaches up to $30. Palestinian farmers compete to produce good-quality ghee so as to sell it in local markets in light of the economic crises rocking the occupied Palestinian territories.
“Ghee is typically manufactured in a special and popular way that we inherited from our ancestors,” Haj Hasan al-Atrash tells the Palestinian Information Center (PIC). “It all begins with the art of choosing the best ingredients. We end up having white pure butter from the ewes’ milk, which is the best type of milk, and we cook it in a large pot.”
According to al-Atrash, the production of ghee includes simmering clarified butter with crushed bulghur wheat, special spices, and yellow turmeric. The broth is constantly stirred so that the wheat does not stick in the pot. The ghee is kept boiling until the wheat dissolves. The entire process takes about two hours. The ghee is then filtered and poured in containers.
Youssef Mutawa’, the owner of the Quds restaurant, one of al-Khalil’s largest restaurants, said traditional Palestinian dishes typically involve a spoon of ghee, which makes them distinctive and mouth-watering.
Majed Ziada, the owner of a konafa-making restaurant in Nablus, said the tastiest types of konafa are always made of ghee. The trays are typically painted with ghee before the dough gets dipped, also using ghee. The tray is then placed in the oven until the konafa becomes brownish.
Speaking with PIC, specialist of alternative medicine, 76-year-old Wadaha Abu Sabha, from al-Khalil’s southern town of Yatta, said: “Ghee benefits the body both inside and out, and it's used to treat burns, rashes and to moisturize the skin. Wounds and bruises are healed in such a short span of time when rubbed in with ghee.