Among the Banyankole people, handling milk is a task reserved for women. All processes take place inside a house where no men are allowed. This special building is called an Orugyegye, which is painted in black and white colors.
The milk is processed into either ghee (clarified butter) or yoghurt (Amakano or Bongo in banyankole). The products are stored in “kyanzi”, which are carved vases made of smoked black wood from the Mugawu tree, or in dried kalabash gourds. Both kyanzi and kalabash are closed with beautiful, handmade caps made from plant fibers with printed geometric decorations on top. They are stored on a kind of raised platform in the Orugyegye.
Amakano, a daily food for banyankole people, is made by sieving the fresh, raw milk in the morning. Then, in the evening, the pan full of milk is tilted as to only pour out the milk at the top, which is set aside to produce the ghee. The skimmed milk is boiled, warmed, sieved again and poured into the big Kishabo kalabash to rest during the night. The next morning, the milk is slightly solidified: it can either be eaten like this (called Bongo) or be gently shaken to liquefy, and poured into Kyanzi.
The Banyankole women produce three kinds of ghee, often used to season the roasted Ankole Longhorned Cattle meat, and potatoes. The first kind of ghee is preserved the longest, more than 6 months. It is made with the cream removed from the sieved milk. The next morning the cream is shaken for 90 minutes, a process called Kuchunda, and is then put in a saucepan with clear water, in order to remove the extra milk: this washing process is repeated 4 times. Then, the ghee is put in the Kishabo kalabash to mature for a month.
The second kind, “omwitsi”, which means raw, is the ghee made by small producers who have a maximum of six cows. Therefore, the cream is collected and put in the Kishabo kalabash each day for about a week. When enough cream is collected, it is processed the same way, but this kind of ghee doesn’t keep as long as the first one.
The final type of ghee is “Ntsimbo”, in accordance with the name of the small smoked container used to hold it. This makes the best quality ghee. It is allowed to mature for at least a month.
Ntsimbo is mainly produced for home consumption, whereas the other types are usually sold. Ntsimbo is used to make Eshabwe, a ghee sauce with rock salt from the Katwe lake in Western Uganda. Traditionally, blood from the cattle is mixed with the ghee and eaten on special occasions as well as during droughts and hot weather. It is said that eating this mixture, called “giugulare”, can help lower the internal temperature of the animals and at the same time provide the herders with an essential food, rich in water and minerals.