On a roll

The box of jam rolls is tempting, unwrapping the butter-paper package inside is like unravelling a mystery. Each box holds a plump, deliciously roll of golden jam and sponge. Boxes such as this travel across the country, overseas too, often travelling on a ticket called nostalgia. The rolls, once called Kanjirapally home; and for those who grew up there it still is a slice of home.

The story of Kunju’s Jam Rolls harks back to more than 80 years when destiny led a young man K.K. Kunju, from Thrissur, to the El Dorado of the time, Ceylon as Sri Lanka was known then. Family legend has it that there, at Kandy, he learnt to bake. He returned to India, joining a bakery in Chennai until the lure of home brought him back to Thrissur which, at the time, had no place for his new skill. Friendly advice suggested Kottayam, its considerable Christian population well-versed in the ways of the British, of cake and bakes, recounts Kunju’s son K.K. Jayan.

Kottayam did not have much to offer, eventually settling in Kanjirapally and starting his business, which came to be known as SAC Bakery there. Among the many bakes at his bakery was the jam roll. Every country has its take on the confection, the most popular being the deep pink and yellow, strawberry jam roll.

It being unlikely, in the day, that he’d locally find strawberry for his jam, he looked at the abundant pineapple. Guided by pragmatism, he designed the pineapple jam roll. Not the only thing on the menu, “It became very popular and over time it is one of the things people came to SAC Bakery for,” says Jayan.

Those days they were just jam rolls; it is Jayan who branded them as Kunju’s Jam Rolls, “This is his recipe, so we branded it thus.” The packaging, in keeping with the times, too is his idea.

Jayan remembers the baker’s oven or the ‘borma’, which was in one part of his house. “One half of our house served as the production unit, where my mother would keep an eye on the production. A few processes have been mechanised but the ‘borma’ is wood fired, using coconut shells.” One of nine siblings, and the only son, despite an interest in food he didn’t want to get involved initially.

But when he got involved he went the whole hog. He researched various types of jam rolls, which has made him something of a minor expert on the subject, and now wants to extend the menu to include other flavours as well.” A baking unit in the city caters to the city’s requirements while the unit at Kanjirapally handles its production. “My octogenarian mother still keeps an eye on the work.”

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2021 4:59:41 PM |

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