For over 20 years we have been buying jaggery from a farmer at a nearby village who visits the neighbourhood during Sankranti. Guda mausa (gud uncle) as he is fondly called by regular customers, travels 30 kilometres on his Luna carrying two earthen pots of gud , each covered with a hessian cloth for cushioning. The gud in each container is different. One is slightly softer used for pithe making, while the other has hard gud with a longer shelf life. He marks the beginning of the festival as Sankranti is incomplete without pithe.
As the festival draws closer, neighbourhoods are enveloped in the sweet aroma of gud and rice flour as every home makes pithe. Some common pithas are arisey, monda and gheela.
Unadulterated gud of good quality can also be sourced in the Tal Guda Bhavan, a State-owned outlet in Cuttack.
Rachit Keertiman is a professional freelance chef
If I don’t know the source, I won’t buy the gud . In my growing years, we owned a few date palm trees. The siulis (jaggery makers) used to come to our home in Midnapore, after collecting the nectar, to make it in our compound. As the steam from the huge shaltis (the kadhais in which gud is made) rose, the area would be engulfed in a sweet aroma. After the jaggery was ready, it would be packed for home and also for relatives. I live in a new town, near the airport and thankfully I have discovered siulis who come to a spot to prepare gud and sell to customers.Before I discovered the siulis in New Town, I would source gud from an NGO that works with farmers. I love making doodh pithey, pati shapta, choosi payesh, doulla pitha or maera pitha . I source my jhola gud from Birbhum, Shantiniketan.
Sayantani Mahapatra is a Kolkata-based influencer
My grandfather would mix gud with hot water to check for its quality; if there was no residual content at the bottom, it meant the gud is of good quality. We too follow the same method. To date even though I live in Almora, I have always depended on my mother to source the right jaggery. We don’t remember buying it from shops; it is either bought directly from a farmer or a known source. A lot of jaggery makers come to Tezpur where my parents live to make jaggery. Sugarcane farmers sell the juice to these makers or bring the juice to be made into gud. Our relatives based out of Jamugurihat in Sonitpur district, Assam have always ensured we never have to search for good jaggery.
During every Magh Bigu (Sankranti) we get to hear stories of sugarcane fields being a good hideout for Joha Maal/ bobcats and how while making jaggery they come face to face with humans. My personal favourite snack with gud is the muri laru (puffed rice jaggery laddoo).
Irin Kashyap is an Almora-based influencer who chronicles traditional food of the Northeast and Almora
While the festival calls for pujas, family get-togethers, 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 specials involve jaggery and we make sure the jaggery used is the best. I source my jaggery from our village in Saluru (a village on the Andhra-Orissa border). It is processed locally and called jiguru/jigata/kundabellam and has a distinctive golden brown colour, sharp sweet smell and taste. It is unadulterated brown jaggery which is hard to break, you probably needs a hammer and chisel for that. It is also more viscous, unlike the regular store-bought ones that are light and yellow-coloured. Though these snacks are now available around the year, it is seasonal snacks prepared with jaggery during winters that keep us warm from dipping temperatures.
Bharath Suthapalli a Hyderabad-based blogger
As someone who has been giving Mumbai a taste of vegetarian Kerala cuisine for years, I find that my work involves not only cooking, but also sometimes educating my clientele about the names and significance of certain dishes. Appam, for example, is not just that fluffy thing you eat with chicken curry.
Another significant part of my work involves sourcing authentic, local ingredients from farms across Kerala. This includes my favourite Marayur jaggery. The Marayur region is in Kerala’s Idukki district. I source unrefined Marayur jaggery from small-scale farmers who are based there. The jaggery comes in big clumps, and once grated and melted has a beautifully creamy texture. It has a cloying flavour that is not overly sweet, and it blends beautifully with coconut milk. So many of my dishes involve Marayur sarkara (as we call it in Malayalam), not just the payasam . I use it to make sweet little uniyappam s, an important dish during Onam.
At the moment, Mumbai is preparing for Sankranti with all its treats. For people in Kerala, however, the next big celebration will be Vishu, in April. Till then, I will go on cooking what I usually cook, with plenty of jaggery from Marayur.
Marina Balakrishnan is chef and founder of the experiential dining brand Oottupura .
Jaggery is associated with good tidings in Gujarat.Whenever there is auspicious news, we say gaud dhana kariye , do the gaud dhanna ritual, which is the distribution of a jaggery coriander mix among friends and family. One of my earliest memories related to jaggery is my mother’s repeated admonishment when as kids we had the Khatiawada or Kutch thali, with its delicious gaud na dephna (jaggery balls).My mother would say, “Eat something besides the gaud na dephna ; this was her constant refrain through the meal.”The jaggery balls resembled little pebbles and were broken from a freshly pounded 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 tins.
Jaggery is used in almost all our preparations from the iconic khati-meethi dal (sweet-sour lentils), which has gaud (jaggery) and imli (tamarind), to bhakri roti (short-crust bread) slathered with ghee and sprinkled with jaggery shavings and is eaten as comfort food. Sukhdi is the Gujarati version of an energy bar made with roasted wheat, ghee and grated jaggery. “ Sukhi kare sukhdi ” meaning sukhdi makes one happy is commonly said about this preparation, which is now part of mid-day meals at schools.
S heetal Bhatt is an Ahmedabad-based social worker and has been documenting Gujarati food for two decades
I associate jaggery with Punjab’s biggest harvest festival, Lohri. It marks uttarayan when the sun travels North and ushers in warmer days. Gud 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 the masala gud or spiced jaggery in our homes. I have restarted the making of masala gud, a tradition that was discontinued. It is a mix of melted jaggery, ginger powder, fennel, ajwain, chironji, almonds, melon and pumpkin seeds to which is added ghee. It is set and cut into rectangular shaped burfis . An interesting jaggery recipe I came across during my research for my TV show Lost Recipes was in Puducherry that . Puducherry used to have a thriving French community. Some of the soldiers came back from Vietnam, a French colony, with Vietnamese wives who . These women would make a pork preparation using lots of jaggery. I met a Tamil Vietnamese woman in Puducherry who still makes the Tit -Koh, which uses fish sauce and jaggery.
S hubhra Chatterji aka Historywali, documents culinary traditions of India and hosts the TV Show ‘ Lost Recipes’