Thursday, March 01, 2007
'nolen gur'(new jaggery)
undoubtedly, the most important and biggest religious cum social festival for the bengalis is durga puja. but for the food buffs there is a lot of excitement and anticipation in the nolen gur (new jaggery) festival held in late winter during february which is also celebrated with a lot of bonhomie and fervour.
i was very lucky to be in kolkata during this month.rosogollas and sandeshes made out of the new jaggery are absolutely heavenly . and i had them for breakfast,lunch and dinner. admittedly,i have a great weakness for bengali sweets but this time i just went overboard.
in the winter season,earthen pots are tied to date trees and cuts are made in the tree through the night through which the liquid drops and fills the pots.these are then carefully brought down in the early hours of the morning.the liquid is then set on a fire in a 'karai' and allowed to boil. after the top layer or slag is removed what is left is voila!,new jaggery.the slag is converted into solid pieces of date palm jaggery.
as the shelf life of the liquid form is very short, a variety of sweets are made out of this. you have the 'jhol bara','patisapta','nolen gurer rosogolla' and 'nolen gurer sandesh'. these are all made with cow's milk.
one can even directly drink the 'khejur ras' staight on tap i.e. from the tree. in fact,in villages that is what many younsters do.they climb up the tree and merrily drink the 'ras' and tie the pot back. the date palm is a shorter version of the tall coconut tree. it however produces its best sap during winter.interestingly, though the trunk when tapped provides a deliciously sweet syrup,the actual dates are not that tasty at all.
the 'nalen gur' sandesh has a brownish pink colour. the liquid syrup (jhola gur) sells like hot cakes and when had with with hot 'luchis'(puris made out of maida), it is delightful. the poor in the rural areas even use the fermented gur to make cheap liquor. the solid cakes which can be preserved are called 'patali gur' and can be kept for a few months though the taste of sandesh or rosogolla with older cakes is not the same as with the new one .It is used mainly for payesh in bengali homes.
i brought back home a dozen of each-rosogollas and sandesh.little did i realise then that it would not receive that much of welcome as the normal rosogollas and sandesh do. one man's meat need not be the same for another person.