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The liquid gold of Bengal ‘GUR’- A winter delicacy for all

Introduction:


Winter is well all it’s way out now. It’s quite a happy phase for all the food lovers . ’Coz it also means a start to warm woolens clothes, peas kachori , telebhajas, hours under the sun and yes, the nolen gurer mishtis — that sinful korapaaker sandesh, kanchagollas, gurer rosogolla. Remember how the aroma of nolen gur wafted through the house when our mom made nolen gurer payesh? Apart from its heavenly taste, the gooey yet slippery, finger-licking consistency of the gur elevates the experience of consuming it to a sinful level. From sweets made on Makar Sankranti to the thick, creamy payesh and the everyday comfort food of doodh-bhaat (milk and rice), khejurer gur nudged and pushed white sugar out of business and elevated the mundane. A small piece of the soft, deep caramel gur and put it on the tongue and savour the complex sweetness slowly spreading in the mouth. It was like a small piece of sweet warmth. This is the best way to eat it.

In ancient time


The human race is born with a natural taste-bud for sweetness. In ancient times- before some fifteen thousand years, it’s mentioned of sugarcane and honey as sweetening agents. Probably, the Mesopotamians were the inventors of jaggery. And during the ancient trade, the skill set was transferred to us, Indians. It might be interesting to know that once, the entire Birbhum, Burdwan, Malda, and Murshidabad area was the hub of ancient jiggery (Gur) making and probably, it was the reason that the name “Gour-banga” was given to that particular territory.


Preparation :

Image credit :YouTube

Date palm jiggery can be eaten as nolen gur- the soften, golden coloured gur, named after the nol or the pipe that is used to collect the sap and from nolen meaning new. Where as the jhola/ lequid gur- the viscous one made by reducing the sap but stopping short of crystallization. Well, the challenge for making jaggery is checking the consistency. The way, chefs check the consistency of sugar syrup, it’s almost the same here. It takes years to master the skill. If the heating is slightly less, it’ll not be a gur- rather a condensed juice and if it’s heated extra, the jaggery will have a burnt flavor and is unusable. If somebody has got the resources, tasting the fresh date juice, or Khejur Ras is pure heaven in a misty(Sweet) winter morning. But as soon as it gets the kiss of harsh sunlight, fermentation starts- converting it into the cheap spirit. But nothing can beat a sip at the liquid gold of Bengal- the liquid first cut khejur gur.


Variation:


Image source : the organic mandi


Jaggery from the dates tree or Khejur gur, can be classified into two varieties- Nolen and Jiren. Everyday evening, the containers or handis are tied to the tree with the insertion and the juice gets accumulated inside that, for the whole night. In the early morning, they are taken down and gur is processed. Gur made from the first fetch of juice is named as Nolen Gur.

The tree is left for some rest for some time and jaggery made from the second fetch is named as the Jiren Gur.



Here also, Nolen gur is considered to be the superior variety. The royal varieties, like Sandesh or Rasogolla are made with the Khejur Gur and mostly, with the Nolen Gur.

Jhola gur- The word ‘JHOLA’ comes from the Bengali word, means ‘HANGING’- the way a pots are are hung in the tree. It has low shelf life and high aroma. It’s used tom make the world famous ‘JOYNAGARER MOYA’. Jhola gur made from the first sap is called JIREN JHOLA GUR. It is almost translucent .

Image credit : Amazon.in

Patali- The sap is reduced further on low heat and poured into a terracotta moulds to yield the solidified PATALI, which has the highest shelf life of about eight months but it is most compromised on flavor.


Poyra Gur- The word ‘POILA’or FIRST- the gur made from the first sap of the season. This is the best variety because of the elongated period of rest that the tree gets.


Health Benefits :


It is best consumed during the winter months because winter is the season of fresh jaggery. Since it is rich in many vital vitamins and minerals, jaggery boosts immunity, keeps the body warm, helps treat cold and cough and controls the temperature of the body. This natural sweetener has been a great go-to ingredient in India since time immemorial.


Prevents constipation: It improves digestion, which makes it a good option as a post-meal sweet. Jaggery activates the digestive enzymes in the body, stimulates bowel movements and thus helps prevent and relieve constipation. It also acts as a diuretic that can help stimulate bowel movement. A small piece of jaggery after lunch could kick-start digestion, which is key to good overall health. In North India , Uttrakhand side, they are having this practice in regular basis. Detoxification: Jaggery is a natural body cleanser, further reducing the workload of the liver. It helps cleanse the liver by flushing out harmful toxins from the body. So it works effectively to detoxify body, bite into a piece of jiggery, hence it is advised to eat jaggery to remove unwanted particles from the body and highly recommended for people working in heavily polluted areas such as factories or coal mines. It efficiently cleans the respiratory tract, lungs, intestines, stomach and food pipe.


Immunity : Gur is loaded with antioxidants and minerals such as zinc and selenium potassium and sodium, which play an important role in the maintenance of acid levels in the body, which in turn help prevent free-radical damage and also boost resistance against infections , fight symptoms of a cold and cough. Mix it with warm water and drink up, or even add it in tea instead of sugar to reap the benefits. Jaggery is rich in iron and folate which help prevent anaemia by ensuring that a normal level of red blood cells is maintained. This is especially beneficial for pregnant women. It ensures that a normal level of red blood cells is maintained. Jaggery produces heat in the body, which is why generally people consume it in winters. The warming effect in jaggery makes it an amazing sweet that can treat cold and flu. Eases menstrual pain: Jaggery, due to its richness in many essential nutrients, is an effective natural treatment for menstrual problems, especially providing relief from cramps. In case of sudden mood swings just before the period date, eat a small piece of jaggery daily to combat symptoms of PMS since it leads the release of endorphins. These endorphins relax our body, thereby preventing premenstrual syndrome (PMS).


Weight loss: Jaggery is surprisingly effective as an aid for weight loss. This is because jaggery is a rich source of potassium, which is a mineral that helps in the balance of electrolytes and maintained the blood pressure as well as building muscles and boosting metabolism. Potassium also helps in the reduction of water retention, which helps in managing weight. These factors play an important role in effective weight loss. Good source of energy: While sugar is a simple carbohydrate that gets absorbed in the bloodstream instantly and gives instant energy, jaggery is a complex carbohydrate that gives energy to the body gradually and for a longer time. This means that the levels of blood sugar do not get raised immediately. It also helps prevent fatigue and weakness of the body. Drink a glass of milk with jaggery every day to help strengthen the bones, thus preventing joint and bone problems such as arthritis.


Availability :


Nolen gur is now available throughout the year! Restaurants and sweet shops are serving mouthwatering delicacies made of Bangali’s favourite jaggery all through the year. But if the gur is a winter specialty, how are these food joints managing to dish out all that nolen gurer ice creams and more?

People are crazy about nolen gurer sandesh.


Image Credit : homemaker's dairy

The desserts taste so authentic despite the preservation techniques that even gur-connoisseurs can’t tell the difference. The sweet shop that offers kada paaker nolen gurer sandesh, bhapa sandesh, nolen gurer soufflé, echoes a similar view and jolbhora, nolen gurer icecream even when the temperature is a scorching 40 degrees Celsius because they preserve nolen gur in it’s solidified form or as patali gur at minus 25 degrees. This process takes place in March and the gur usually lasts till November. If 300-400 kg gur is consumed per day during winters, 30-40 kgs is consumed during summer. Though the original flavour is lost when the gur is caramelized.


Conclusion:

Khejurer gur has now become a part of fine dinning and has inspired several refined sweets, but the first jhola gur each season still evokes memories of a winter special Bengali breakfast of luchi and jhola gur. As the famous poet Sukumar Ray recalled in his ‘Bhalo reh Bhalo’ poem,



Kintu Sobar Chaite Bhalo- Pnauruti aar jhola gur’

-- The best of all is Bread with Jhola Gur.





References:

2. "Kolhapur: Second Largest market of gur" (PDF). IRJET. Retrieved 2018-05-14.

3. "Jaggery and Confectionary". APEDA, Agricultural & Processed Food Products Export Development Authority. Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India.

4. Kalra, J.I.S. Das Gupta, P. (1986). Prashad Cooking with Indian Masters. Allied Publishers Private Limited. 10. ISBN 9788170230069.


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