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I saw Jaggery being made for the first time. The weather was cold and foggy and smoke billowed up from the boilng jaggery and carried on it the aroma of molasses. (delicious) My husband goes into rapture over descriptions of times when he and his companions have stopped along the way and been handed jugs of hot molasses to sample. I have not had a chance to actually try that out but I intend to someday.

I also recently sampled some jaggery like the one Vikram refers to in an earlier post, except that it had a whole lot of spices in it. Though Fresh Jaggery in itself is delicious, (we eat it in the winter in Dehra Dun as it is considered warming), this was even better. The same sweet hot flavour vikram describe but with some spice thrown in. I am not sure if it is available all over the hill areas of India but I know this lot came from Mandi in Himachal.

Lifting this into a separate thread since jaggery deserves one of its own. I love jaggery, its like the much more interesting, bad-boy cousin of sugar. Even with the ordinary stuff and not the spiced version I described, you still get that raw, slightly wild minerally tang that contrasts with the basic sweetness.

Unfortunately, jaggery seems to be little talked about or known outside India (are their equivelents in other sugar producing countries?). One of the disappointments of Sidney Mintz' otherwise classic book Sweetness & Power, is that he's so focussed on the role that sugar has played in the West and the Americas in particular that he leaves out much of its history and usage in Asia and I think makes next to mention of jaggery.

Tim Richardson's book Sweets was very welcome for not disdaining Indian sweets the way other food writers do, but he was mainly talking of milk sweets. Anil Kishore Sinha's Anthropology of Sweetmeats doesn't talk about it much (and is generally quite a disappointing book). Achaya covers it, of course, though its not something he devotes much attention to.

What are the different types that people are aware of? There are the standard yellowish brown blocks sold in kirana shops. There are more refined versions being sold by sugar companies like Dhampur, nicely packed and purified to the extent that its soft and fudgelike. And there's palm jaggery which I'm only just discovering and its fantastic! I've had very hard hemispherical (set in coconut shells) palm jaggery from Sri Lanka ages back.

A health food shop in Bombay sells chocolates made from palm jaggery cores dipped in good quality chocolate. I thought it sounded weird, but when I tried it, it was great - the jaggery gave it an almost alcoholic taste. I'm currently drinking coffee in the mornings made by boiling up the powder Turkish style with cardamoms and palm jaggery and its pretty good.

I get the impression though that the use of jaggery is declining in Indian cooking as people move over to tamer, less unpredictable sugar. Perhaps its because of children who are used to the sugar taste from sweets and chocolates who can't handle the different taste of jaggery. And adults are told not to eat sweets, so they just don't experience the flavour again.

Its certainly rarer to find Indian sweets made with jaggery. I was eating at Sindhudurg in Dadar recently and saw they had a shelf where they sold Malvani products including these sweets, I forget what they're called, they look like twigs and they're dipped in syrup that dries hard. These were made with a jaggery syrup and they tasted so surprising I realised I'd just forgotten what sweets made with jaggery and not sugar were like.

In recipes too, I increasingly find instructions to use sugar where a generation or two back it would have been jaggery, and I wonder what loss in taste has taken place? Which are the recipes where you'd say that jaggery, not sugar, is essential? How do people abroad handle, especially in restaurants? Is it easy to get? What's the quality like? Do you just find it more convenient to use sugar?

Vikram

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Which are the recipes where you'd say that jaggery, not sugar, is essential? How do people abroad handle, especially in restaurants? Is it easy to get? What's the quality like? Do you just find it more convenient to use sugar?

Vikram

Jaggery is available quite easily in Brussels in the Indian groceries (both block and powdered varieties). I would never use sugar to make my chikkies and my murmura & til ladoos. A lot of manglorean sweets use jaggery too.

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if you're referring to the gur form it is still widely used in bengali sweet making. there are types of shondesh that have molten cores of gur. there's a type of payesh (rice pudding) that is made with patali gur.

not to mention the pleasures of a hot paratha with a chunk of gur.

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Gur was a big part of my child hood. I detested Bhindi (Okra) and every time there was something we did not like to eat we were given chunks of gur. I'd smash it up and then roll it into little snakes that i would roll into a chapati. It was a sticky yummy business and we gobbled up endless chapatis.

Another great way to eat it was to spread hot ghee over a khakhra and then spread the gur over. Yummulicious!

Rushina

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Yes, in the U.S., it is usually easier to find Mexican piloncillo / panela / panocha than it is to find jaggery from India. Both are unrefined sugar products usually sold in a cone shape wrapped in paper (the way, incidentally, sugar used to be sold in Europe and North America as well).

Vikram, while the use of jaggery may be declining in India, there is reason to be optimistic in the long run. Like many unprocessed agricultural products, demand for it ought to follow a historical U-shaped curve - first declining as people embrace the uniformity and "cleanness" of refined products, then increasing again as further economic development causes individuals to look for a distinct taste and regional identity in their foods.

In the U.S. the demand for raw / turbinado sugar has increasing at a steady rate for several years, though IMHO the potential has not been tapped to the extent possible. In Hawai`i the refined sugar industry is pretty much dead due to high labor costs, but in its place there is the beginning of a raw sugar industry exemplified by companies like Sugar in the Raw, owned by the local conglomerate Alexander and Baldwin.

However, even with these changes, there is little appreciation in Hawai`i or the West for the ways in which variety of cane, climate, and processing can generate raw sugars with very distinct taste characteristics. In this respect, it seems that India has perhaps the most sophisticated culture of sugar appreciation in the world. And to see how this "jaggery culture" is to be perpetuated and enhanced, one should look past the household management manuals and to the emerging codification of regional and community-based cuisines that people like Appadurai have analyzed.

By the way, are there specific terms in Hindi to distinguish between sugars made from cane, palm, date, etc? Does jaggery only apply to cane sugar or to any of them? The same for gur?

Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host

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Khejur Gur (liquid date palm jaggery -- made from boiling the sap from date palms) is very popular in Bengal during the winter months. It is commongly called "Notun Gur" ( literally, "new jaggery") or "Nolin Gur".

Date palm juice ferments very easily -- hence winter is the only time when there is enough time in the early morning to boil this juice and make it into Gur. I had come across an interesting online article a while back:

Article on the making of Khejur Gur.

In winter, you also get all kinds of sweets which are made from Khejur Gur instead of the normal cane sugar. Shondesh made from this gur is especially valued in winter. You can also have this liquid gur with luchis or porothas.

Other times of the year, the Gur you get in Bengal is usually made from Cane sugar I believe.

This time, from my trip in Kolkata, I carried back some liquid Khejur Gur -- it seems to taste great poured on pancakes.

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In winter, you also get all kinds of sweets which are made from Khejur Gur instead of the normal cane sugar. Shondesh made from this gur is especially valued in winter. You can also have this liquid gur with luchis or porothas.

yes, i consumed dangerous quantities of nolen gurer shondesh on my trip. mmmmm....

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a lot of the recipes in "rasachandrika" use jaggery - just a little - and coconut, of course. my favorite (and this does use a lot of jaggery) is suranoli, a pancake made from poha, rice and jaggery, with a little dahi. we don't use turmeric, though i have had them with it, and it's not bad... otherwise, the recipe from rasachandrika works pretty well.

if i were to recommend one "showcase" recipe that would be it... eaten just warm (not hot, they need to rest a little after cooking) with freshly churned butter.

palm jaggery in your coffee, eh? i heard that was one of my great grandfather's favorites. with a little palm oil, i believe, it was responsible for keeping him regular... ;)

i envy you them both... the palm jaggery and the coffee, which i'm sure is a phillips fine ground...

Dinner Diaries - It's what's for dinner!

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We use jaggery for making a sort of a dosa. Add the white part of the watermelon too. Its eaten steaming hot with a dollop of butter (quite a large dollop).

Or even add it to kokumkadhi

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I assume it is the dosa recipe you were asking for. I asked my mom.... and her first reply proved that it was a recipe handed down over generations..... 'andaaz se daalna'

Here it is.

Soak 4 cups of rice and 1 1/2 tds methi seeds overnight in buttermilk. Next morning, grind alongwith gur (sweeten to taste) and turmeric (enough to add colour)

Set aside for 24 hours. The next morning, with the fermentation.... voila, dosa batter is ready

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The Taj is running a great chefs of the world series where every quarter they're bringing down top chefs from around the world to interact with their own chefs and cook special meals which will include cooking demos along with the meals. They're promising heavyweights - Jean-George Vongerichten in September and Hemant Oberoi, the exec chef confessed that he's also aiming for Alain Ducasse next year.

Starting the series though is a chef I hadn't heard of - Michel Nischan who started and ran the Heartbeat restaurant in NYC and whose big thing is healthy food. I went for a demo for the media yesterday and he seemed like a nice guy and did the cookery demo part with aplomb and then retired to the kitchen to cook lunch for us all.

It was pretty good to OK. A starter or pea and pear juice soup with braised paneer was somewhere in between nice and 'interesting'. A shrimp and scallop starter, and grilled lamb chops as main course were OK (but the veg option for the main course, whatever it was described as, was just a paneer pakoda).

But what was really outstanding was the dessert and the reason this mail is attached to this thread is because jaggery played an important role in it. Nischan was enthusiastic about most Indian ingredients he had encountered, but he repeatedly went into raptures over jaggery. It was the sweetness of sugar, he said, but much more interesting and healthier too.

So the dessert he made was ripe figs quartered and quartered again, but not right through so they were just opened up. The figs were roasted by blowtorching them (I forget if before or after quartering) just slightly then a small dollop of sitaphal (custard apple) ice cream was placed in the centre and then the whole was bathed in jaggery syrup and placed on cardamom butter biscuits.

Bliss! I was almost tempted to run out and buy a blowtorch for myself!

Vikram

PS: the chefs for the other two quarters this year - apart from J-G V - are Mark Miller of Red Sage in DC and Mori Moto of the eponymous restaurant in Philadelphia - I quote from the Taj's press literature, does anyone have other knowledge/opinions about these guys?

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PS: the chefs for the other two quarters this year - apart from J-G V - are Mark Miller of Red Sage in DC and Mori Moto of the eponymous restaurant in Philadelphia - I quote from the Taj's press literature, does anyone have other knowledge/opinions about these guys?

morimoto was the final iron chef japanese on the cult japanese food show (iron chef). he was also the head chef at nobu matsuhisa's nobu in new york for a while. morimoto in philadelphia is his first big restaurant of his own (and fueled i think partly by his fame on iron chef, which airs also on the food network in the u.s). friends of mine have eaten there and they rave about it. on the show he was notorious for his global interpretations of traditional japanese cuisine. he has the reputation of being both a maverick and true to his roots: on the one hand the real hardcore traditional japanese chefs who went up against him on iron chef couldn't abide him and his experiments--on the other he yelled at bobby flay (on the iron chef in the u.s special) for not respecting his cutting board. there were episodes in which he made japanese dishes with indian accents. would be interesting to know how it goes if he does make it to the taj's series. keep us posted.

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