|Fresh jaggery straight from the molds.|
I use a lot of jaggery in my cooking. We use it as a sugar substitute wherever possible, use it in sweets in place of sugar and even eat it with jowar bhakri (flat bread made of sorghum flour). But I did not know how the jaggery that I eat every day is made or comes from, until yesterday.
|Stacks of sugarcane waiting to be crushed.|
We had been to a village called Phulgaon, near Pune, and as we were exiting the village, we spotted a small jaggery making unit. I had luckily carried my camera and could take pictures and also enquire with the person there about the whole process of making jaggery.
|The motorized crusher and the outlet for the juice.|
|The juice is filtered through a strainer.|
Jaggery making workshops are usually located next to sugarcane fields. The sugarcane is washed and put into a motorized crusher, and the juice is collected in a cauldron through a strainer to remove floating impurities.
|The juice is pumped through a pipe into a cauldron.|
In earlier days, crushers were driven by oxen. The juice is pumped into a giant cauldron with a capacity of 1000 litres.
|The capacity of the cauldron is 1000 litres.|
|I asked this man if I could stir the juice for sometime. He refused saying that the ladle would be too heavy for me. He does this for 2.5 hours at a stretch!!|
|The juice boiling away and the foam on top.|
A man with a long slotted ladle keeps stirring the juice for about 2 and half hours till the juice evaporates and becomes 1/3 of its original volume. He also keeps removing the scum and other impurities that gathers on top while the liquid is boiling. Some lime is also added to the liquid to separate impurities which gather and float on the top, which is removed.
The fibrous matter that remains after crushing the sugarcane (called bagasse) is used to fuel the furnace used for boiling the juice.
|Jaggery being set in molds.|
Once the juice evaporates and has thickened satisfactorily, it is poured into shallow vats where it is allowed to cool and solidify. After it solidifies into a soft substance, it is pressed into desired molds into various shapes and sizes.
|Jaggery ready to be sold.|
|The bagasse being fed into the furnace.|
I chatted up with the supervisor of this unit for a few minutes. He said they process around 1000 kgs of sugarcane per day and that 1000 kgs of sugarcane yields around 1000 litres of juice.
|Fresh sugarcane juice in a jaggery making unit.|
He generously offered us some fresh sugarcane juice and some fresh jaggery straight from the mold. We thanked him and returned to the city on a sugar high.