How Indian states revel in the goodness of jaggery


Sankranti, Pongal, Lohri … no harvest festival in the country is complete without the use of ‘gud’ or jaggery. Fans know that the texture and taste of this traditional sweetener differs from region to region, imparting a distinct flavor to festive dishes. Travel across India with us to taste some beloved heirloom recipes

Odisha

For over 20 years, we have been buying jaggery from a farmer from a nearby village who visits the area during Sankranti. Guda mausa (gud uncle) as his regular customers affectionately call him, travels 30 kilometers on his Luna carrying two pots of gud, each covered with a jute fabric for padding. the gud in each container is different. One is slightly softer used for making pith, while the other is hard gud with a longer shelf life. It marks the beginning of the festival because Sankranti is incomplete without marrow.

As the festival approaches, the neighborhoods are enveloped in the sweet scent of gud and rice flour like every house makes marrow. Some common pithas are the Assey, the Monda and the Gheela.

Guda Mausa

Pure gud Good quality can also be purchased at Tal Guda Bhavan, a state-owned outlet in Cuttack.

Rachit Keertiman is a professional independent chef

Bengal

If I don’t know the source, I won’t buy the gud. During my growing years we owned a few date palms. the siulis (jaggery makers) would come to our house in Midnapore, after collecting the nectar, to make it in our compound. Like the vapor of the enormous shaltis (the kadhais in which gud is made) pink, the area would be engulfed in a sweet aroma. Once the jaggery was ready, it would be packaged for the home and also for the parents. I live in a new city, near the airport and luckily I discovered siulis who come to a place to prepare gud and sell to customers. Before discovering the siulis in New Town, I used to buy gud an NGO that works with farmers. I love to do doodh pithey, pati shapta, choosi payesh, doulla pitha Where maera pitha. I get my jhola gud in Birbhum, Shantiniketan.

Sayantani Mahapatra is a Kolkata-based influencer

Patisapta made by Sayanati Mahapatra

Assam

My grandfather mixed gud with hot water to check its quality; if there was no residual content at the bottom, it meant that the gud is of good quality. We also follow the same method. To this day, even though I live in Almora, I have always relied on my mom to find the right jaggery. We don’t remember buying it in stores; it is either purchased directly from a farmer or from a known source. Lots of jaggery makers come to Tezpur where my parents live to make jaggery. The sugar cane growers sell the juice to these manufacturers or bring the juice to make gud. Our loved ones based in Jamugurihat in Sonitpur District, Assam have always made sure that we never have to look for a good jaggery.

During each Magh Bigu (Sankranti) we hear tales of sugar cane fields being a good hiding place for Joha Maal / bobcat and how while jaggery they come face to face with humans. My favorite snack with gud is the muri laru (jaggery laddoo puffed rice).

Irin Kashyap is an Almora-based influencer who narrates the traditional cuisine of the Northeast and Almora

Hyderabad

As the festival calls for pujas, family reunions, I look forward to the food. Sankranthi means to me snacks like chegodi, janthikalu, bellam gavvalu, riselu, paakuundalu, chakkilalu and more. Most of Sankranthi’s promotions involve jaggery and we make sure that the jaggery used is the best. I get my jaggery in our village of Saluru (a village on the Andhra-Orissa border). It is processed locally and called jiguru / jigata / kundabellam and has a distinctive golden brown color, pronounced sweet smell and taste. It’s a pure brown jaggery that’s hard to break, you probably need a hammer and chisel for that. It is also more viscous, unlike commercial ones which are clear and yellow in color. While these snacks are now available year round, it’s the seasonal snacks made with jaggery during the winters that keep us warm from the sinking temperatures.

Bharath Suthapalli, a blogger based in Hyderabad

Kerala

As someone who has been giving Mumbai a taste of Kerala vegetarian cuisine for years, I find that my job is not only to cook but also sometimes to educate my clientele on the names and meanings of certain dishes. Appam, for example, isn’t just that chewy stuff you eat with chicken curry.

Another important part of my job is researching authentic local ingredients from farms in Kerala. This includes my favorite Marayur jaggery. The Marayur region is located in the Idukki district of Kerala. I source my unrefined Marayur jaggery from small farmers based there. The jaggery comes in large chunks, and when grated and melted, it has a beautifully creamy texture. It has a cloying flavor that isn’t too sweet and pairs beautifully with coconut milk. So many of my dishes involve Marayur sarkara (as we call it in Malayalam), not just the payasam. I use it to make sweet treatsunyappams, an important dish during Onam.

Right now, Mumbai is preparing for Sankranti with all its goodies. For the people of Kerala, however, the next big celebration will be Vishu, in April. Until then, I will continue to cook what I usually cook, with lots of Marayur jaggery.

How Indian states revel in the goodness of jaggery

Marina Balakrishnan is chef and founder of the experiential restaurant brand Oottupura.

Gujarat

Jaggery is associated with good news in Gujarat. Whenever there is good news we saygaud dhana kariye, do itgaud dhannaritual, which is the distribution of a mixture of cilantro jaggery among friends and family. One of my earliest memories of jaggery is my mother’s repeated warning when we were kids when we had Khatiawada or Kutch thali, with its deliciousGaud na dephna(jaggery balls). My mother used to say, “Eat something other thanGaud na dephna; it was his constant refrain throughout the meal. “The jaggery balls looked like small pebbles and were broken from a freshly crushed five to ten kilogram jaggery ball. Freshly made balls were brought to our village house in Vallabhipur, near Bhavnagar in Kathiawad, made of clay pots or cans of oil.

Traditional jaggery ball

Jaggery is used in almost all of our preparations from the iconic khati-meethi dal (sweet and sour lentils), which has gaud (jaggery) and imli (tamarind), to bhakri roti (shortbread) brushed with ghee and sprinkled with jaggery shavings and is eaten as a comfort food. Sukhdi is the Gujarati version of an energy bar made with toasted wheat, ghee and grated jaggery. “Sukhi kare sukhdiThe sukhdi meaning makes you happy is commonly said about this preparation, which is now part of midday meals in schools.

Sheetal Bhatt is a social worker based in Ahmedabad and has been documenting Gujarati food for two decades

Punjab

I associate jaggery with the biggest harvest festival in Punjab, Lohri. It marks the uttarayan when the sun moves north and ushers in warmer days. Gud or jaggery is one of the five foods on the Lohri plate, along with sesame seeds, peanuts, gajak (sweet dry) and corn.

Come winter and we have the masala gud or the spicy jaggery in our homes. I restarted the production of masala gud, a tradition that was interrupted. It is a blend of melted jaggery, ginger powder, fennel, ajwain, chironji, almonds, melon and pumpkin seeds to which ghee is added. It is crimped and cut in a rectangular shape burfis. An interesting jaggery recipe that I came across while researching for my TV show Lost Recipes was in Pondicherry that. Pondicherry had a thriving French community. Some of the soldiers returned from Vietnam, a French colony, with Vietnamese women there. These women made a pork preparation using a lot of jaggery. I met a Tamil Vietnamese in Pondicherry who still does the Tit-Koh, which uses fish sauce and jaggery.

Shubhra Chatterji aka Historywali, documents the culinary traditions of India and hosts the TV show ‘Lost Recipes ”

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