Smen (Aged Butter)

Smen, an aged butter similar to Asian ghee, is a prized flavouring ingredient in Moroccan dishes. Smen is made from clarified butter, dried herbs, and salt. It is aged in small earthenware pots in a cool, dry place until it acquires an aroma and consistency similar to Roquefort cheese. Berber farmers in southern Morocco bury a tightly sealed pot of smen on the day of a daughter's birth, unearthing it years later to flavour the couscous served on her wedding day. Berber tradition notwithstanding, I suggest you use the smen within six months. You will need to make the smen well in advance as it requires a couple of weeks to develop its flavour. A teaspoon or two is usually all that is required to impart the characteristic taste to a dish of couscous or to the sauce of a tagine. You can substitute equal parts butter and olive oil in place of smen in a recipe, if you prefer.
Preparation time 20 minutes
Cooking time 30 minutes
makes 1 cup
Cuisine Middle Eastern



In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.
Wrap the oregano leaves in a square of cheesecloth and tie it closed with kitchen twine.
Set the sachet in the butter. Simmer until the butter turns into a clear golden liquid and the white sediment settles on the bottom, about 25 to 30 minutes.
Skim off the foam and discard the oregano sachet.
Strain the butter through a clean fine muslin dish cloth once or twice until clear.
Transfer to a hot, sterilized wide-mouthed glass jar. Add the salt and mix well.
Let stand in a cool place until the butter becomes pungent, which will take about 1 to 2 weeks. Refrigerate after opening. Use within 6 months.