Wednesday, 25 June 2008
JACKFRUIT JAM - A LABOUR OF LOVE
Last week our music group had gathered at Vatsala’s place for a practice session. With guru Ganga on holiday, we have been taking turns to practice at one another’s place.
After practice (and an extremely refreshing mango milkshake for our parched throats) Vatsala remarked that they had received some jackfruits from Mayavaram and would any of us like to take some home. None of us showed any eagerness – the work entailed in removing the tough green prickly skin, and retrieving the sweet and yellow segments from its sticky bed was mind-boggling. So there were no takers for that offer.
My acquaintanceship with the jackfruit is distant. I have seen jackfruits (or chakkai as we call it at home; its Thamizh name is palaa) growing in my grandparents’ backyard in Trivandrum. It is remarkable how these heavy fruits (weight ranges from 10 to 60 lbs or even as much as 110 lbs, according to Wikipedia ) are suspended from the short stems, defying gravity.
However, there is a closer relationship with the final products made from them – chakka upperi (chips) and chakka varatti ( the incredibly sweet jam). How we relished these delicacies made by my grandmother, willingly slaving over the firewood stove for the family.
So I do know just how much time-consuming labour is involved. Still, when Vatsala repeated the offer, I was tempted and succumbed. After all, I thought, my mother was here with me, and she had seen her mother do it, though she had herself spent most of her life in New Delhi, where there aren’t any jackfruit trees. I carried one home. It was heavy, as heavy as a young child!
Ma took a look at it and wondered how I had managed to carry it. She wasn’t sure if it was still green enough for making curries, or ready for ripening – and she couldn’t tell if it was ‘koozhan’ for chips, or ‘varikkan’ for the ripened fleshy segments. We decided to wait it out. After all it was beginning to smell ripe. There is a saying that you can’t hide a chakka – its presence is revealed by the smell pervading the house.
In a couple of days the smell of the fruit filled the house, arousing elusive memories in me.Our helper Saroja was roped in to help with the procedure of separating the fleshy segments/bulbs enclosing the seeds (chakka kottai). The first one was taken out for tasting – and it was just too sweet – unbelievable. Ma and Saroja managed to separate all the sweet pieces. I hung around ornamentally, taking pictures, happy to be an also ran. We put some aside to eat, and to share with my friends at the next music practice. The rest Ma decided to make into chakka varatti. Her enthusiasm was greater than her discomfort from a painful shoulder, and she made it in no time. It was as good as what my grandmother used to make.
And the seeds are now waiting to be cooked into another delicacy – the mezhukku varatti.
A happy coincidence was seeing Mr. Abraham Tharakan’s post about jackfruit on the day I brought this one home.