Wednesday 25 November 2015

Jaggery Jaggery

After having heard umpteen stories from old-timers about a long gone era, when they used to walk all the way to our farm to spend an afternoon watching jaggery being made.

Jaggery being made on this farm.....?

The original owner used to grow  a patch of sugar cane exclusively for making jaggery.   This must have been some 40 years ago, the sugar cane juice would be extracted by bull-power  - two bullocks pulling the contraption in a circular path, the juice then being condensed on a wood fire to prepare jaggery.  No chemicals, no bleaching agents, no solidifiers, no preservatives – just pure sugarcane juice.  An astounding process!  I was very curious and wish I could go back in time to see this.  Was this method still followed anywhere?  – but all my queries met with the same answer – “No one does it any more here in this village.  If you are lucky you might find some one in the smaller remote villages who does it...but no idea where...”.

And as luck would have it, our farmer friend Sonnu, turned up the other day with a small gift for us. It was a ball of hand-made jaggery – yes the same kind that used to be made years ago on our farm!  He patiently answered our questions and offered to take us to the village if we wished. So a date was fixed and we met him at his farm which is about  7 kms away. The village was quite remote and had no motorable access to it so we would have to walk.  The route took us through a path quite similar to our Hudil trip although not as long. 

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen.......

A part of the route through an areca plantation

 We soon came upon a clearing under a huge tree where a group of villagers seemed to be having a picnic of sorts.  Laughter and merry chatter and a sweet smell wafted over the air as we made our way to the clearing. 
The Juice extraction press was placed on a wooden slab next to a small pit with a drum in it. Two placid looking bull-buffaloes were going around in circles pulling the shaft of the juicer while one young boy was expertly pushing the cane into the juicer. 

The juice flowed swiftly into the drum.  On the other side was a massive ‘choolah’ on which a giant copper vessel contained a bubbling liquid.

  Two young men wielded giant copper spatulas with which they swirled the frothy liquid, continuously, not giving it a chance to stick to the pan. This batch of jaggery was almost near completion and we were lucky, we could see the last and the trickiest part of the process. When   the precise consistency was reached, the men put a stout bamboo through the two handles of the huge pan and hoisted it over their shoulders like a palanquin, carefully making their way around the choolah, placed the pan with its still bubbling contents on the ground.


The copper spatula cleaned and kept up on this natural shelf

The copper spatulas were kept aside and a wooden device -  a long handle attached to a  flat bar of wood was used to stir the fast thickening contents. The movements of the two men who were stirring the contents were so brisk and swift, the jaggery which would start crystallising around the edges was whisked into the middle in a flash.  I tried my hand at it – don’t we do a very similar thing when making mysore-pak at home?  But the sheer volume and size dwarfed my efforts and I found the jaggery crystallising on the edges faster than I could handle. I quickly handed over the wooden device back, lest the texture of the jaggery get ruined.  Finally the mixture started lumping in the centre and the gleaming copper vessel shone through.

 By now one group had gathered around the copper vessel with containers of cold water. Two huge coconuts with husk intact were used to smoothen out the hardened lumps.

 This hot, fast hardening lump needed to be shaped into even sized balls.  Everyone got busy, dipping their hands into the cold water and taking a lump of the smoothened mixture  expertly shaping  it into balls

 Another group had assembled around a clean sheet at the head of which one man was sitting with a small weighing scale. Each ball was weighed, adjusted and reshaped to make   it the perfect size and then placed neatly on the cloth.

   Soon all the balls were made ready and it was time to re-ignite the choolah and place the giant vessel back on to it. 

By now a sizable quantity of cane had been pressed and the drum was full of freshly extracted juice. Some of it was poured out into glasses and passed around for us to drink, and then the rest was emptied into the copper vessel. Approximately a whopping hundred and forty litres of juice was poured into it.

The fire was blazing away and the mixture soon started bubbling.  It would not need so much attention now, so most of them wended their way down to the sugarcane field to cut down enough cane for yet another batch of jaggery.

Yet another batch of sugarcane waiting to be harvested

It was also time for us to get back to the farm, so we left the little clearing and retraced our way back to return home, carrying with us a load of freshly made pure organic jaggery.

And yes, it is a new addition to our online store as well


  1. This was a fascinating read! I always wondered how jaggery was made and now I know!

  2. What a description!! Tanuja, you should publish all your blogs in a book form. It will be a bestseller. Specially those in the western world will be interested.

  3. Nicely written article about a little known subject.

  4. Beautiful and so interesting to read your articles dear Tanuja....Hats Off!!

  5. Dear Tanuja tai - your blog posts are fascinating. You write beautifully. This particular post took me back to my childhood years when we used to visit my mama in Kolhapur and he used to take us to see a "gulache gurhal" (jaggery making place). Such sweet memories. And such a sweet post :) Keep writing...

  6. Are you sure the large cauldron is made of copper? All the ones I have seen over decades are made of Mild Steel.

  7. Tanuja, you writing is so lucid and pictures so eloquent- it feels like having lived the experience myself. I am reminded the balls of "Mudde Gaud" (?) that I had purchased at Bhatkal (?) on my return journey from Huli Dev Vana.
    Is this the same Sonu whose areca farm we visited with my friend VK ?
    Incidentally, very recently in Goa I discovered a family who manufactures jaggery in a similar fashion though, apparently, not from sugarcane. I am yet to explore the details of the process but one thing that fascinated me was their use of wooden molds carved in thick wood planks that give birth to little pyramids of deep brown chunks of jaggery when the molasses had dried.

  8. This post is really nice and informative. The explanation given is really comprehensive and informative..
    pure jaggery online

  9. Fascinating read Tanuja. So simply explained. Thanks so much. Looking forward to many more like this


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