Baladi Ghee (Al-Samn)

Ark of taste
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السمن البلدي

Baladi ghee (Al-Samn) is a clarified butter made from either cow’s milk or sheep’s milk. After cooking and exposure to heat, the ghee from cow’s milk has a dark yellow color with a reddish hue, while the ghee from sheep’s milk has a light-yellow color with a whitish hue. The color, taste, and production process may vary for each product, but they all originate from milk and undergo several important steps before reaching the stage of ghee.
It is consumed throughout the year and is used in most popular dishes in the Najran region. It is typically used as a sauce to dip bread in. Some people also use it for medicinal purposes, as a laxative and for the treatment of certain ailments.
Al-Samn Al-Baladi (translation: local ghee) is produced through a series of long processes that require high craftsmanship. Some of these processes are specific to the Najran region, such as steaming the ghee and using a specific container to give it a very pleasant aroma. The production of this ghee requires certain tools and equipment, including pots, strainers, cooking vessels, other utensils and of course heating sources.

Here is a detailed description of the traditional method of producing the Baladi ghee:
1. Fresh milk, either from cows or sheep, is poured into a large container and filtered to remove impurities using a strainer or a tool called mishneh.
2. The milk is heated on the stove until it boils, and then it is set aside to cool. After cooling, around two cups of yogurt or sour milk are added to the container. It is then covered and left overnight for approximately six to seven hours. By the morning, the milk mixture will have coagulated like yogurt.
3. The coagulated mixture is left to cool for about three to four hours.
4. Afterward, the mixture is placed in a blender and mixed for at least half an hour. As a result, the raw butter thickens, while the remaining liquid expelled (buttermilk) separates.
5. The butter is carefully removed from the surface using a scraper and placed in a separate container. It is then rinsed with cold water several times.
6. The butter is then placed in a container called Al-Tablah or Al-Matbouqah. The preparation with the Al-Tablah involves heating a stone on the fire until it turns red. Then, a quantity of raw butter dough is placed inside the container, and the heated stone is placed inside it. The container is shaken multiple times until its interior turns red and develops a distinct aroma. After that, the extracted butter is placed on top of the container.
7. The container with the butter is placed back on the fire in a large pot, while the remaining milk solids (known as Al-Mahanath) are also heated until they turn brown. They are then placed back inside the container with a quantity of raw butter dough and vigorously beaten. The resulting mixture is removed from the container and placed on top of the butter. It is vigorously stirred for at least half an hour until the butter separates and settles at the bottom of the container, while the remaining liquid (known as Al-Radeefah or Al-Qashid) floats on top.
8. Finally, a strainer, locally known as Al-Mishneh, is used to strain the ghee into a container until it cools completely. The remaining liquid in the pot can be used for other purposes: some prefer consuming it as is, while others use as an ingredient to prepare desserts. This process ensures clarification of the butter using the traditional techniques and methods.

This locally made ghee is one of the most important animal products in the Najran region because it is used in essential dishes such as Al-Bur, Al-Samn, Al-Mardoufah, Al-Tabraqah, Al-Qurss, and others. It is also often served with brown rice or in a popular dish called Al-Qurs Al-Najrani, made by kneading a dough made of local brown wheat (Al-Samraa, also in the Ark of Taste) which is firm and tough. A flat, smooth iron plate called sala is prepared and heated in the oven until it becomes hot. Then the dough is placed evenly on top of it in a circular shape, allowing it to brown from the bottom and the top. It is then cut into quarters and placed in a small copper dish along with the local ghee.
It is predominantly prepared and cooked by women, with few men involved in the process. It is still widely consumed today. However, the artisan version has become endangered due to the scarcity small producers and the availability of commercially manufactured alternatives in the market, albeit of inferior quality. Although similar products and preparation methods exist in other regions of the Kingdom, the Najran product stands out due to its distinct color and taste resulting from the unique preparation and steaming methods employed there.
Supporting family projects and artisan producers is part of the strategy to help preserve this important local culinary tradition.

The selection of the products is supported by the Culinary Arts Commission of the Ministry of Culture of Saudi Arabia.
In collaboration with Azka Farms, Saudi Arabia.

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StateSaudi Arabia

Al Bahah


Northern Border

Production area:Al-Baha, Northern Borders, Makkah, Najran, Al-Madinah

Other info


Milk and milk products

Nominated by:Mohamed Hadi Al Hatila