Make way for these innovative fruit jams

From Himalayan apples to the mandarins of Khasi, meet the entrepreneurs who are making the most of India’s rich bounty of mountain fruit

January 03, 2019 04:41 pm | Updated January 04, 2019 02:49 pm IST

Mixed fruit, mango jam, orange marmalade and pineapple jam… the four varieties have been the highlight of all of our growing-up years. They were not bad — quite tasty, in fact — but with store-bought jams, the choice stopped there. India is the second-largest producer of fruits in the world, but Indians have never been spoilt for choice in jams, jellies, preserves and conserves made from these. It is consumed indigenously: bottling and selling was never a focal point.

With the discovery of traditional food picking up pace, several fruits and their abilities to be made into jams are now in the limelight.

Suddenly, a plethora of fruits are being processed, bottled and sold. Cinnamon, pepper, cardamom and chillies are being added to spice them up. But it is in the list of fruits being processed that the excitement lies.

Jamrul or chamabakkai , rosella fruits, cape gooseberry, local varieties of oranges (malta, mandarin) galgal or pahadi lemon, blackberry, mulberry, figs, cherries, plums, strawberries, guava, kiwi, bananas, sohiong... the list is long. Fruits are also being combined to produce some innovative offerings, like three fruit marmalades, pineapple and apple, or cape gooseberry with apple.

The brains behind it

Making the most of these delicious combinations and innovations are some entrepreneurs who sell jams. Not far behind are the Government agro departments who have some terrific offerings as well.

Linnet Mushran, an Englishwoman who has made Himachal Pradesh her home, is the lady behind the famed Bhuira Jams.

“I am a jam-maker by accident. I started making apple jams as there was an abundance of fruit from my apple trees. This then spread to include other fruits from neighbouring areas.

“Today, we make a grapefruit marmalade, the three fruit marmalade which includes kinnows , oranges and galgal . The galgal in the mountains is a rather interesting fruit to work with. We have made jams using wild blackberry and raspberry. However, now because of changing lifestyles, it is difficult to get these fruits,” adds Linnet. What makes her products different is the personalised twist she adds. It could be cinnamon sticks or cloves; sometimes, the hard nut inside the apricot is added in as well. Peaches, plums, apricots, guavas, strawberries, apples, — they all make it into Bhuira’s products.

It is the only brand that makes lemon marmalade, cherry jams and delicious cape gooseberry preserve. The latter comes with chunks of the fruit.

The Directorate of Horticulture, Department of Agriculture, Government of Meghalaya has its own brand called MEG, under which a host of processed agro products are retailed.

Hannah Lyngdoh, Assistant Director of Horticulture (FP), Fruit Preservation Centre, Shillong, says, “We process jams, jellies, pickles, squashes, ready-to-serve drinks and canned fruits as well. The fruits that we use for making jams are from both the major and indigenous fruit crops grown in Meghalaya.”

Their list of fruit jams includes the locally famous but otherwise little-known sohiong ( Prunus nepalensis ), plums, peaches, strawberries and pineapple.

She adds, “The mixed jam is made by mixing up all these fruits. Marmalade is made from the famous Khasi mandarin, and guava is made into jelly.” The centre has also done trial runs on making jams using jackfruit which is available in abundance.

It is in a similar vein that Talat Waheed Banday, Assistant Manager (Marketing), Jammu and Kashmir State Agro Industries Development Corporation talks about Snow Kist, their brand of jams and murabbas .

He says, “We use 100% fruit pulp, which is processed from the fruits that we procure from the farmers. Many manufacturers use essence and flavouring for jams. Ours are 100% fruit-based.” They have some very innovative offerings: mulberry, figs, apricot blackberry, quince apples...

Banday says, “The base for all the jams is apple. Various proportions of mulberry, figs and blackberry are then mixed in.”

Bheimurabba is a traditional speciality from Kashmir. “The popular quince apple, also called bhei , is used for cooking with meat and vegetables. We make a traditional murabba out of it.” They are experimenting with adding walnuts to jams.

Sikkim has taken to processing kiwi fruits in a big way. What differentiates this State’s kiwi from that of the Northeast is that it is incredibly sweet. Several entrepreneurs are dabbling in it, to offer consumers a ready-to-eat avatar.

Moshes makes a tasty array of combination jams — the orange and saffron jam, sweet chilli jam, watermelon and rose jam. The smaller set-ups are what enables these innovators to offer jams which are more personalised and exclusive.

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