Sankranti, Pongal, Lohri … no harvest festival in the country is complete without the use of ‘god’ or jaggery. Fans know that the texture and taste of this traditional sweetener differs from region to region, giving a distinct flavor to festive dishes. Travel around India with us to try some beloved heirloom recipes
For over 20 years we have been buying jaggery from a farmer in a nearby village who is visiting the neighborhood under Sankranti. Good mouse uncle), as he is affectionately called by regular customers, travels 30 kilometers on his Luna with two earthen jars with God, each lined with a hessian cloth for cushioning. That God in each container is different. One is a little softer used to make marrow, while the other has hard God with longer shelf life. He marks the beginning of the festival as Sankranti is incomplete without a core.
As the festival approaches, neighborhoods are shrouded in the sweet scent of God and rice flour, which every home makes marrow. Some common pithas are arisey, monda and gheela.
Fake God of good quality can also be purchased at Tal Guda Bhavan, a state-owned business in Cuttack.
Rachit Keertiman is a professional freelance chef
If I do not know the source, I do not buy it God. In my growing years, we owned a few date palms. That thread (jaggery makers) used to come to our home in Midnapore, after collecting the nectar, to make it in our composition. Like the steam from the huge shaltis (the kadhai, in which God is made) rose, the area would be engulfed by a sweet aroma. After the jaggery was ready, it would be packed home and also for relatives. I live in a new city, close to the airport, and luckily I have discovered it thread coming to a place to prepare God and sell to customers. Before I discovered siulis in New Town, I wanted to source God from an NGO working with farmers. I love to make doodh pithey, pati shapta, choosi payesh, doulla pitha or maera pitha. I get my jhola god from Birbhum, Shantiniketan.
Sayantani Mahapatra is a Kolkata-based influencer
My grandfather would mix god with hot water to control its quality; if there was no residue in the bottom, it meant that the god was of good quality. We also follow the same method. To date, even though I live in Almora, I have always relied on my mother to find the right jaggery. We do not remember buying it in stores; it is either purchased directly from a farmer or a known source. Many jaggery-makers come to Tezpur, where my parents live to do jaggery. Sugar cane farmers sell the juice to these producers or bring the juice to be made to god. Our relatives based from Jamugurihat in Sonitpur district, Assam, have always ensured that we never have to look for good jaggery.
Under each Magh Bigu (Sankranti) we get to hear stories about sugar cane fields, which are a good hiding place for Joha Maal / bobcats, and how they, while doing jaggery, come face to face with people. My personal favorite snack with god is i laru (puffed rice jaggery laddoo).
Irin Kashyap is an Almora-based influencer who portrays traditional food from the Northeast and Almora
While the festival calls for pujas, family gatherings, I look forward to the food. Sankranthi to me means snacks like chegodi, janthikalu, bellam gavvalu, ariselu, paakuundalu, chakkilalu and more. Most of the Sankranthi specialties involve jaggery and we make sure the used jaggery is the best. I pick up my jaggery from our village in Saluru (a village on the border between Andhra and Orissa). It is treated locally and called jiguru / jigata / kundabellam and has a characteristic golden brown color, sharp sweet smell and taste. It is unadulterated brown jaggery, which is difficult to crack, you will probably need a hammer and chisel for that. It is also more viscous, unlike the regular store-bought ones, which are bright and yellow. Although these snacks are now available year-round, it is seasonal snacks prepared with jaggery in the winters that keep us warm from falling temperatures.
Bharath Suthapalli is a Hyderabad based blogger
As someone who has given Mumbai a taste of vegetarian Kerala cuisine for years, I find that my job involves not only cooking, but sometimes also educating my clientele about the names and meanings of certain dishes. Appam, for example, is not just that airy thing you eat with chicken curry.
Another significant part of my work involves purchasing authentic, local ingredients from farms throughout Kerala. This includes my favorite Marayur jaggery. The Marayur region is located in Kerala’s Idukki district. I pick up unrefined Marayur jaggery from small farmers based there. The jaggery comes in large lumps, and when grated and melted, it has a beautiful creamy texture. It has an itchy taste that is not too sweet and it mixes beautifully with coconut milk. So many of my dishes involve Marayur sarkara (as we call it in malayalam), not only payasam. I use it to make cute little onesuniyappams, an important right under Onam.
Currently, Mumbai is preparing for Sankranti with all its goodies. For people in Kerala, the next big party will be Vishu in April. Until then, I will continue to cook what I usually do, with lots of jaggery from Marayur.
Marina Balakrishnan is the chef and founder of the eventful food brand Oottupura.
Jaggery is associated with good news in Gujarat. When there is promising news, we sayGaud Dhana Kariye, dogaud dhannaritual, which is the distribution of a jaggery of coriander mixture among friends and family. One of my earliest memories related to jaggery is my mother’s repeated admonition when we as children had Khatiawada or Kutch thali, with its deliciousgaud na dephna(jaggery balls). My mother would say, “Eat something besidesgaud na dephna; this was her constant refrain throughout the meal. ”The jaggery balls looked like small pebbles and were broken from a freshly beaten five to ten kilogram jaggery ball. Freshly made balls were brought to our village home in Vallabhipur, near Bhavnagar in Kathiawad, in clay pots or oil cans.
Jaggery is used in almost all of our preparations from the iconic khati-meethi valley (sweet-sour lentils), which have go out (jaggery) and imli (tamarind), to bhakri roti (bread with short crust) sprinkled with ghee and sprinkled with jaggery shavings and eaten as cozy food. Sukhdi is the Gujarati version of an energy bar made with roasted wheat, ghee and grated jaggery. “Sukhi kare sukhdi”, Which means that sukhdi makes one happy, it is commonly said about this preparation, which is now part of dinner meals in schools.
Sheetal Bhatt is an Ahmedabad based social worker and has been documenting Gujarati food for two decades
I associate jaggery with Punjab’s largest harvest festival, Lohri. It marks uttarayan when the sun rises to the north and heralds warmer days. God or jaggery is one of the five foods on the Lohri plate, along with sesame seeds, peanuts, gajak (dry sweet) and corn.
Come winter and we have masala god or spicy jaggery in our home. I have restarted the making of masala god, a tradition that was interrupted. It is a mixture of melted jaggery, ginger powder, fennel, ajwain, chironji, almonds, melon and pumpkin seeds, to which ghee has been added. It is set and cut into a rectangular shape burfis. An interesting jaggery recipe I came across during my research for my TV show Lost recipes was in Puducherry at. Puducherry used to have a thriving French community. Some of the soldiers returned from Vietnam, a French colony, with Vietnamese wives there. These women would make a pork preparation using lots of jaggery. I met a Tamil Vietnamese woman in Puducherry who is still making it Tit – Koh, which uses fish sauce and jaggery.
Shubhra Chatterji aka Historywali, documents culinary traditions in India and hosts the TV show ‘Missing recipes’