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How is Gur (Sugarcane Jaggery) made?

Gur is produced by extracting juice from sugarcanes boiling sugarcane juice

In 326 BC, Alexander's army noticed sugar canes in India during their conquest.  During the first millennium BC, Gur was produced in India by boiling the cane juice. (Purseglove 1979).


When I was living in Rupbas (Rajasthan) during 1950s, we had sugarcane fields in Khan Surjapur owned by Sikh families who harvested sugarcanes and made Gur. Over the years, the technology has changed. Here, I will give you a window in the past step by step.


Step 1: The sugar canes were hacked down by sickles as close to the ground as possible. The sugar density is the highest near the roots. The canes were carried to Kohlu Station.


Step 2: The Kohlu is a contraption where the sugarcanes are fed through a chute between two rollers to extract cane juice. The Kohlu was run by bullocks.

The fibrous residue left after the juice has been extracted is called Bagasse. The Bagasse is spread out in the open field to dry. Once dried, Bagasse is used as a fuel to fire up Bhatti. In the olden day unused Bagasse was turned in with manure. Nowadays, the excess Bagasse is sold  to factories that make paper and cardboard products.

The juice is filtered through cheese cloth and put in large cans. These cans with  juice are carried to Bhatti.

The sugarcane juice is also used to make Vinegar in India.


Step 3: Bhatti is made with mud and bricks. The mud and brick structure allows to contain and maintain fire.  Top of the Bhatti is equipped with a Karahi, a wok. This is a round bottom pan made out of iron. It was really huge, as I remember it, perhaps a 8 foot diameter on top. The cans are allowed to sit for a few hours so that the impurities are settled on the bottom. The juice is carefully poured in to Karahi leaving the sediments behind in the cans.

There are two hand-made tools used. Both of these tools are equipped with long bamboos as handle, about 4 feet long. One of the tools is fitted with a metal net to function as a skimmer. The other tool is fitted with flat paddle to function like a turner/spatula.


Step 4: The fire is lit in the Bhatti. It is kept low, and well controlled. Now, the process used is same as for reducing milk to make Khoya. You constantly stir to avoid crystallization. As the juice cooks, foam rises. The skimmer is used to to remove any impurities that float up.

My guess is that the temperature was kept between 190 and 200 F. It is little hotter than the temperature used to make Khoya.


Step 5: After the juice has heated up to about 200 F, vegetable clarifiers are added. If you cut Okra (Bhindi) you feel slippery mucilaginous material. When added to the near boiling juice, the mucilaginous materials lift up the impurities which can then be skimmed off.  The common vegetable mucilaginous materials are: Deola (Hibiscus ficulneus), Bhindi (Abelmoschus esculentus), Semal tree (Bombax ceiba), Phalsa (Grewia asiatica), Sukhlai (Kydia calycina), penuts seed (Arachis hypogaea), Guar seed (Cyamopsis tetragonoloba), Tamarind seed (Tamarindus indica), Ambadi (Hibiscus cannabinus), Chikani (Sida caroinitolia), Soyabean seed (Glycine max), and Tapioca (Manihot esculenta).


Selected vegetables are soaked in water for twenty four hours. Rub with bare hands to get the thick mucilaginous fluid. You need to add one cup of  mucilaginous fluid per 100 cups of sugarcane juice.


Step 6: Let the syrup cook till it gets pasty like loose bread dough. Now, you have Chikna Gur. Chickna means smooth.

In the olden days, part of this this paste was mixed with dried nuts, fruits, and herbs. Then it was formed in to Laddoo. Choices could be peanuts, coconuts, ginger, whole black peppercorn.

Chickna Gur is poured in to Buckets. The buckets serve as a mould.


Step 7: You can add Fitkari (Alum) to Chikna Gur. Spin it to crystallize and make granular Gur (Rawadar,or Daanedar) , or Shakkar.


The Gur is further refined to make Table sugar. In India, Sugarcane juice is fermented and distilled to make country liquor called Tharra.


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