Along with a number of spices jaggery is also an important ingredient in our cooking. We add a little of it in everything we make. Maybe it is all in the mind, but when I forget to add jaggery my husband feels something is missing. 😊
We get cube shaped , bucket shaped or square shaped blocks of jaggery. I make jaggery syrup at home by adding water to the some pieces and boiling it into one thread consistency. Jaggery is also available in liquid form. We recently bought a bottle of it and it and tastes delicious with dosas.
My father-in-law remembers that jaggery was prepared in his home till 1944. Sugarcane was planted in June and harvested in March. Every year it was planted in different fields. A wooden mill was used to extract its juice. An ox was tied to the handle and as it moved round and round the mill, the juice was squeezed out into a vessel. We saw this many years ago by the side of sugarcane fields in Aurangabad. The liquid was boiled for many hours in a huge vessel and when it reached a certain consistency, it was poured into moulds. When it was cool and solidified , the product was stored in air tight containers.
Writing this I remember a disturbing story we read in the papers. The southern parts of our state are famous for sugar factories. We read chemicals were added to whiten the jaggery. Unfortunately many believe the white jaggery is better than the dark one,
The memory of sugarcane factories is tied to Hospet, where my father lived his childhood. There was a sugar factory outside the town and farmers grew cane to feed the factory. But they prepared jaggery for their daily use in their own fields. The boiled liquid was poured into the moulds. When it started drying cream formed on the surface. My father and his friends knew when this happened and presented themselves in the fields. The farmers took a sugarcane and rolled it on the surface of the drying jaggery. It was like a lollipop and was called ‘kene- bella’ in Kannada. Kene ( pronounced like the name Rene) is cream and Bella is jaggery. Read what my father writes, ” Taste it. If you have not done it so far you have missed the greatest event of your life. It is not just pleasure but something far greater than that.” 😊