Jaggery holds a very special place in Indian cuisines. The distinctive salty-sweet taste of Jaggery has made it suitable for preparing many sweets that have formed the cultural identity of many festivals in India. ‘Tilgud’ a special delicacy prepared from Jaggery, and is generally consumed in the winter, is one such popular preparation made in certain parts of India. Considered healthier than the popularly used white sugar, Jaggery is also used in many Ayurvedic medicines. But Jaggery is best when consumed organic. Organic Jaggery retains not only all the sucrose but all the other natural nutrients like calcium, phosphorous, magnesium and potassium. The commercially available Jaggery is made by adding certain chemicals to regulate the hardness and color of Jaggery, but it is very harmful for the health. The chemical contamination in Jaggery comes not only in its preparation stage, but right from the beginning when the sugarcane is grown. Being a very profitable cash crop, sugarcane plantations are often grown with lots of chemical fertilizers to ensure quality harvest. So good quality organic Jaggery essentially requires not only chemical free manufacturing but also chemical free sugarcane produce.
The land is first tilled with oxen and then natural organic fertilizers like cow dung is applied. Cow dung manure contains different types of microbes that enrich the soil with essential nutrients. Usually 5 Tons of cow dung manure is used in 1 acre of land. The land is again tilled and then the sugar cane is planted. While planting the sugarcane cuttings care should be taken to ensure that the entire cutting is under the soil. Sugarcane requires good amount of water and it is supplied once in every 15 days. To protect the sugarcane from pests Cow urine diluted to 5% can be sprayed if required. Usually it takes about 9-11 months for the sugarcane to be ready for harvesting.
Now it’s time for harvest. Sugarcane is harvested manually using a large chopping tool, which is sharp on one side and blunt on the other. While the sharp end serves to cut the cane, the blunt end is used to clear the leaves off the cane
Then the sugarcane juice is extracted from the cane and is collected in a huge cauldron. Then a small portion of lime (200 gms in 200 lt of juice) is added to the sugarcane juice and set to boil. As the liquid begins to boil the molasses is separated out. The removed molasses can be used as cattle feed. As the temperature of the liquid raises it begins to foam and gradually the foam vanishes. At a certain stage the juice begins to boil, which is identified by formation of bubbles. By raising the stirring spoon one will observe that the consistency of the juice is still liquid-like. Upon further boiling the juice condenses into a thick viscous liquid, which is called Kakvi. Popularly used as a sweetening agent, this liquid Jaggery is very popular in this part of India. For making Kakvi, the boiling process is stopped at this stage and the liquid is allowed to cool, after which it is bottled.
For making Jaggery, the Kakvi is further boiled until the liquid becomes even thicker. While stirring a small portion of the boiling liquid is poured in a mug of water and cooled. While cooling it is made into a ball of Jaggery. This ball is hit against the inner surface of the cauldron and the sound is heard. If the sound is loud and clear, it is understood that the Jaggery is ready. However instead of making a loud clang, if the ball makes a damped sound, it is understood that the liquid needs further boiling. Using this simple traditional technique, Jaggery makers since ages have found the perfect temperature at which the sugarcane juice turns to Jaggery.
Once the right temperature is reached the boiling is stopped and the liquid is then transferred into a flat pan, to facilitate faster cooling. The liquid is stirred in the pan and when it cools down sufficiently, it is transferred into various moulds of different shapes and sizes. The Jaggery is than left aside to solidify and after a day it is extracted out of the mould and is ready for use