So finally the harsh winter was ebbing, and it was time to harvest the sugarcane and process it into jaggery - something we had all been waiting for eagerly. We cut the sugarcane from near the bottom, stripped the stalks of their leaves and bundled them up together. This sugarcane plant will grow again and be able to give us another produce next year. So we do not need to replant it this spring.
All the sugarcane was loaded onto a rented trolley, and taken to the nearest jaggery processing outfit in the neighbouring village.
The sugarcane is fed into the Kohlu (the geared machine that squeezes out the juice), and juice is extracted from it. The residual pulp known as Bagasse is dried in the sun, and used as fuel to heat up the bhatti (the furnace).
The juice is strained through a cheese cloth and added to the large cauldrons under which there is a fire burning at about 150-200 degrees C. A person continuously stirs this juice and periodically skims out the impurities that rise up to the top.
After several hours of cooking, the juice gets reduced. A vegetable clarifier is added to remove further impurities. And soon one has a pasty lump of jaggery.
While still warm, this jaggery is moulded into different shapes and sizes. One can also add some spices and nuts to make it more like a sweetmeat.
Awesome isn't it? We got about 150 kg of jaggery powder from quarter of an acre of plantation. Jaggery has more complex sucrose than refined sugar, and is broken down more slowly by the body. It also has iron which it gets from the vessel its cooked in, and essential salts, and is a much healthier option to refined white sugar.