Update: Here’s a video we’ve recently done. Do check it out and read the article for detailed information.
Gather around on the rug, its story time!
The sun is beginning to rise with its rays just beginning to filter in through the windows of the house. It wakes up a small boy, all of his seven years apparent in the curiosity his eyes held. He looks out of the window to see the bright green of the fields, and he hears the chirping of the birds and the tinkling of the flowing water nearby.
He wakes up to this every day of his life for the longest time. The house is as much a part of him as is the air he breathes; to have the privilege of living forever in the cradle of beauty and comfort of his home is something that appeals to him very much. It is a thought that stays with him, even later, when he no longer lives there as an adult and wakes to the hustle and bustle of the city.
Years go on by in this fashion, the yearning to go back to this house is strong and pulls with strength like never before. When the time for the move back to this house finally does arrive, alas, it is no longer feasible! The thought of the house, with its thick carved wood doors and windows, spacious halls and timeless splendor lying empty in wait for him disappoints him. A revolutionary idea hits him that if he can’t go to the house, he would bring the house to him. Against everyone’s seemingly sane advice, he brings back bit of his house back, the carved doors that kept him warm at night and the little windows that gave him perspective along with a view.
The wide-eyed curious boy of the story is an antiquities expert who is teaching me the ropes of the business. When I first met him, I figured that I might have trouble finding his house, but it was apparent from the first sight of his home, that it couldn’t have been anyone’s. The front door of the house is one that he painstakingly carefully brought back from his village, complete with the frame that it sits in; and not to mention the windows that only add to the authenticity of the whole look.
If you take a look at the picture of the door, you will see it is rather heavy. The solid-ness of the door is off-set by the patterns that are in the individual squares which form a rather delicate geometric pattern on the door. What makes this door as unique is, among other things, it is made of a single piece of wood! Let me now draw your attention to the lovely canopy that frames the door. Isn’t the hand carved detail on the frame a sight to behold?
There are a details on this door, that make it as special as the 140 year ancestral home it comes from, rather uncommon on the opulent doors of the present. The knocker on the door that you see is made of brass, which also serves as a handle. The shape of the knocker and the design of base is almost delicate in its flower like pattern.
The truly most significant aspect of the door, I have to admit, is the carving on the frame, I am not just talking about the pretty canopy on the top but the intricate design at the bottom. The sides of the frame, with the rising cone styled carving, is very typical of the older artists. The bottom of the pattern is a running band that almost gives it a lace-like finish and the actual pattern with its delicate leaves and twirls is a perfect contrast with the geometric pattern on the door itself.
For me, what makes this door as memorable as it is, is the fact that it is not one door that opens to one side, but two doors that throw their arms open to welcome you into the house. If you have had the opportunity to visit your own or anyone’s ancestral home in a village, you will see that is rather characteristic of that day and age.
Though, just because it looks like a fancy door, does not mean that the artist skimped on the security aspect. It may not be as fancy as the peepholes-security-camera of today, but it has a pretty heavy chain that allows you to open the door partially, to peek out of. It locks from the inside with a wooden plank that fits across the door, effectively barring anyone’s entry into the house.
The beauty of the door and its frame is only enhanced by the turmeric yellow with the vermillion dots that adorn the base of the frame. It is a rather common practice of staining the entrance with the yellow of turmeric, indicating a pious threshold.
For me, what completes the look is the window frame that you see in the picture. It originally started off being a window that has now been re-purposed to a frame to house Ganesha, the God of good beginnings. It almost feels like it is indeed a window, with God himself on the other side, smiling indulgently at you. It is this frame that just ameliorates the beauty of the door, taking you to a simpler time in history.
Now to the present builders of houses, it would seem that preserving the past was a great idea, and it definitely is, there is nothing quite like the workmanship of the years gone by. So, if you are redecorating and have access to antique woods and woodwork, incorporating it into your home isn’t the hardest thing to do.The doors I speak of today have the ability to teleport you into the past, where times were simpler, the air was cleaner and the sound of chirping was all the alarm you needed. This young boy in the story did eventually end up living happily, surrounded by all the things which made his childhood special.
These beautiful ceramic jaadis you see in the pictures are used for storing pickles.These are known as pingani jaadi or peengan jaadi in south India meaning that they are made out of porcelain.These double colour beauties mostly in white and brown combination are pride of the kitchen few decades ago.They come in various sizes from huge jaadis for storing pickles for the entire year consumption for those large combined families to small ones to store ghee and curds for daily consumption. These marvellous jaadis come in different shapes but invariably in double colours of brown and white. The standard shape is a tall and cylindrical called kola jaadi. They come in the shape of yellow pumpkin called gummadikaya jaadi or Parangi jaadi. They also come with big belly with narrow base and opening and these are called gundrapujaadi. While in entire south they are called Jaadi (singular) in Kerala state alone they are called Bharani. In plural, they are called jaadis or jaadeelu.
With declining of combined families and increasing mini families in tiny apartments, the concept of storing anything for a long time has given way to use and throw culture. With the onset of such culture the large jaadis have given way to plastic small bottles that meant for use and throw. These lovely jaadis have disappeared from the households and became the rare items for antique collectors. I am fortunate enough to inherit and collect some of these enchanting pickle jars. Some of the families who still value the traditional way of living and who knew the value of storing items in porcelain containers still consider old is gold and use these jaadis. Our elders believed that the health depends on not only what we eat but also what vessels we use for cooking, storing and serving what we eat and drink. They used Brass and bronze vessels for cooking, copper vessels for water storage and jaadis for storing items like pickles, and many other food items and they believed that the properties of the vessel mixed with the food enhance the nutritional value of the food and keep them healthy and happy. Our experience shows our elders were immune to the several diseases that the present generation is suffering. The traditionalists claim that the vessels used for cooking in the bygone days made the fundamental difference.They lived much healthier and happier than our present generation which discarded our traditional cooking and eating style and diverged to fast food and micro woven grade plastics.
I have grown in Jaadi culture. We used to have these handsome jaadis of all sizes in our house in my village Someswaram. We were having large jaadis for storingdifferent varieties of mango pickleslike aavakaya, menthikaya, maagaya and tokkudupachadi for the entire year. The smaller sizes of the jaadis were used to take a small portion of the pickles from the large jaadis for a weekly consumption and for daily serving. Once the small jaadis were empty they were recharged with the pickles and this process continued till the large jaadis were empty. Normally the mango pickle season starts from the months of April and May and all the jaadis will be full with pickles. As we start consuming they become empty sometimes by February or March. By then tender raw mangoes start coming in and my mother used to prepare temporary pickles out of these mangoes.These temporary mango pickles are not prepared as ceremonially as the annual pickles and there will be some compromise on the quality of ingredients since it is meant to be provisional and has to be consumed in a short time till we make the standard variety of pickles.
The Pickle season is a busy time in our house. The jaadis are cleaned and sun dried.There should not be any iota of moisture in the jaadis since moister spoils the pickle.They were sun dried at least three consecutive days. After that they are covered with lid and a cloth and kept them in the corner of the kitchen where nobody will enter.Then there will be exchange of notes with relatives and neighbours as to what varietyof mangoes,chillies and mustard seeds they would be buying and from where and their relative merits and demerits.There will be discussion on what they purchased last year and how good or bad the results were.The next major ingredient is oil and the success of the annual pickle depends on the quality of the oil. Only nuvvulanoone (oil extracted from sesame seeds also known as gingili seeds) is used for preparing aavakaaya and other pickles. My maternal grandfather used to cultivate gingili oil seeds and he used to send us for our annual consumption of gingili oil. For aavakaaya season we used to take the sun dried sesame seeds to our local oil man known as telukuliwadu who has a native oil crusher comprising wooden drum with a log like crushing pestle powered by a bullock and the entire crushing devise is called ganugu. The Telukuliwadu would keep the gingili seeds and a little bit of jaggery into the wooden drum, keep the wooden crusher in the position, make few adjustments and give command to the bullock to move.The bullock will move in circular motion and the crusher will move around the inside of the wooden drum crushing the oil seeds. After 2 hours of slow and constant crushing the oil will form in the basin of the drum which will be collected. I used to sit on the wooden plank connecting the crusher and the bullock and have a circular ride. The oil is transferred into the brass oil cans and carried to the house.
We used to have dedicated mango trees exclusively meant for aavakaaya pickle. People will go to the tree owner and purchase the required quantity from him. Only selected mangoes will be plucked. Fortunately we had our own mango tree in our fields and our requirement of mangoes used to come from this tree.The remaining mangoes will be left on the tree to be plucked latter for mango fruits.
Once all ingredients are in place my mother would consult the panchangam, the Hindu calendar for a good day and time for preparing the aavakaya. Aavakaaya should be prepared when here is no bad time like Varjam, durmuhurtham, Rahukalam and yamagandam, It is a custom in those days to invite elders to prepare the avakkaya. It is a way of showing respect and honouring the elders.My mother used to invite the wife of my grandfather’s brother; a widow, by name Pullamma for this auspicious ceremony. Aavakaya is prepared with devotion and under strict hygienic conditions. Pullammagaru is to put pasupubottlu(haldi dots )to the jaadis since jaadis are considered as Lakshmi pradam and they are treated with adoration. Pullammagaru is to wear a madibatta(a cloth washed, dried and untouched by others) after taking a head bath and then only she would start preparing aavakaya. The entire family is to participate actively and the ceremony is to be a fun and great get- together. My paternal uncle, Baapi Raju garu, used to cut the mangos into right size pieces with the special mango chopper called mamidikaya kathipeeta. Great skill is involved in cutting a mango for the purpose of aavakaya since the mango has to be sliced with a single stroke.The mango pulp should not be pressed but sliced.The size of the cut pieces is very important in the preservation of the aavakaya.If the pieces are too small they will lose the crispness and become soggy. If the pieces are too big the essence of the mango juices will not be released into the mixture with the result we do not get the right consistency and taste. The mango should be cut along with the Tenka (seed).Me and my sisters used to clean the cut mango pieces with a clean cloth and take out the Jeedi (kernel) from the Tenka and the thin layer between the tenka and the jeedi. My mother used to help her by providing necessary ingredients, utensils and jaadis timely to make her job easy. Pullammagaru her own recipe and style for preparing aavakaya.
Before starting the process Pullammagaru used to do a prayer and put pasupubottle (haldi dots )to the jaadis since jaadis are considered as Lakshmi pradam and they are treated with adoration. After preparing the aavakaya ooragaya (pickle) it is stored in jaadilu and it is topped with a layer of oil .The oil prevents any moister coming into contact with the aavakayapachadi. After that the mouth of the jaadi is covered with clean white cloth called vasin iin Telugu and vaedu in Tamil and put the lid over the cloth.The secret behind covering the opening of the jaadi with cotton cloth is that cotton cloth will absorb the moisture around the jaadi and prevent the moisture thus entering into the jar. Even by chance any moisture enters the jaadi, the oil layer will prevent the moister come in contact with the pickle. The aavakaya is allowed to do its magical chemistry for three days and during these 3 days it is not disturbed.After three days my mother will wear madibatta and open the jaadi, stir the contents thoroughly with a ladle .She will transfer a small portion into a small jaadi for us to have a first time taste of the new aavakaya. From the day of preparation of aavakaya till the third day people wait impatiently to taste the first morsel of this red delight. Then starts the process of distribution to kith and kin. The aavakaya is first distributed to the families of sons and daughters. Small quantities of aavakaya packed in small jaadis or glass bottles is distributed to relatives and neighbours as an exchange of good will and wait for their compliments. Similarly neighbours and relatives would also reciprocate the nice gesture of exchanging aavakaya. This mutual exchange is a part of the aavakaya culture.
After the demise of Pullammagaru, my mother took charge of the annual aavakaya preparation ceremony. Subsequently my wife Ramana got interested in preparation of the special Andhra ooragayalu and she used to prepare the pickles with utmost tradition and devotion. She will personally go and select the red chillies. She will bring two types of chillies. One the traditional hot chillies meant for pickles and second the Kashmiri variety which are not so hot but will give beautiful natural red colour to the aavakaya. Her pickles are a real success and she will invariably get lot of compliments from the friends and relatives. Even while we were in Mumbai, the great metro city, Ramana managed to get the traditional Gujarati women who will hand pound the chillies with the wooden rolu and rokali (large size mortar and pestle).After the decline of hand pounding services, she started using the milled powder.She would personally go to the market and select the mangoes after tasting them for correct pulupu and kanda (sourness and pulp). She is now a veteran in preparing traditional Andhra ooragayalu and her best bet is Menthi kaayapickle.
The favourite pickle of Tamilians “Vadumaangai“ is stored in the large peengan jaadis.Vadumaangai is prepared with tender green mangoes and preserved for a year.Similarly in Kerala “Uppumanga” is prepared with tender mangoes and this pickle is stored in brine in large Bharani.
The curd and butter milk is also stored in Jaadilu. During my days in our village, If any guests come to our house and adequate quantity of curds were not available,I used to go to the curd vendors and fetch the curds.The ladies in the farming community in our village used to sell curds stored in small jaadis. You have to pick up the number of jaadis you require and the curd is measured by jaadis. We used to take 3 or 4 jaadis and return the empty jaadis after use. Sometimes my mother used to keep a jaadi full of curds next to the plate and the guests would empty the jaadis. The curds prepared in jaadis taste excellent.
These jaadis are neutral in nature and do not affect or alter the taste,flavour and colour of the contents .The porcelain is a good preservative and keeps germs, bacteria and fungus away and thus the ideal jars to preserve pickles, chutneys and other long stored food items.We should admire the wisdom of our elders in selecting the ceramic jaadis for storage of food items .In our house and in my relatives house the jaadis are used to store jaggery, tamarind, turmeric, red chilli powder, salt, Gongoora chutney, tomato pickle, usirikai(amla)chutney, drumsticks pickle and Ghee.
How to make Andhra Special MamidikayaAavakaya
Raw mangoes: 8 numbers medium sized (approximately 9 cups of Cut Mango)
Step-1: Clean the mangoes with water and dry them thoroughly with a clean dry cloth.Cut them into 12 pieces along with the seed. Remove jeedi and the thin layer.wipe them with cotton clean cloth.Keep them aside
Step-2: Take a big bowl that will accommodate all the ingredients. Place mustard powder, salt, turmeric power, garlic flakes and the fenugreek seeds in the bowl and mix them thoroughly.Add little oil to wet them.
Step-3:Put handful of mango pieces into the masala mixture and roll them in the mixture so that the entire surface of the mango pieces are covered with the masala powder.
Step-4: Take a dry Jaadi and pour little oil into the jaadi to wet the bottom. Now place the marinated mango pieces in the jaadi. Put little oil on the top of the mango pieces. Repeat this process till all the cut mangoes are covered with masala powder and placed in the jaadi.
Step-4: Put some oil on the top of the pickle and cover the opening of the jaadi with the lid. Then cover the opening with a clean cotton cloth and seal with a rope. This ritual of covering and tying the jadi opening with the cloth is known as vasini kattadam
Step-5: The jaadi should be left alone for three consecutive days without disturbing the contents.In these 3 days the mango pieces,the masala powders, the oil and the salt mix and create the magical taste, texture and flavour that is unique to aavakaya. Remove the seal after 3 days and mix the aavakaya with a long dry ladle.Notice the red oil floating on top of the pickle known as oota. Oota is the sour juice of the mango extracted by the salt and mixed with the chilli essence and the oil.
Step-6: Now the Andhra special fresh maamidi kaiaavakai ooragaya is ready for serving
Varieties in aavakaya
In aavakaya itself there are so many verities.The traditional and proper aavakaya is prepared invariably in all Andhra houses and also some few different varieties of the aavakaya are also prepared. I am listing here some of the other varieties of the aavakaya.
Bellam Aavakaya: Bellam( jaggery) is added to the aavakaya to get that experience of sweet and hot taste at the same time coupled with the sour taste of mango and spicy taste of mustard powder.
Allam Aavakaya: Ginger garlic paste is added to the regular aavakaya for that extra spicy effect.
Gutty Aavakaya: The mango is not cut into pieces but sliced to the half way through from the top end and half way through from the bottom end. AAvakaya spices are stuffed into the sliced sections.Rest of the process is same.
Pachakaram Aavakaya: Instead of red chilli powder, yellow chilli powder is used. Yellow chillies are grown in the area around Gollaprolu and Pitthapura in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh) .The yellow chilies are also known as gollaprolu mirapakayalu which have a unique taste.
Nuvvula aavakaya: powdered sesame is added to the aavakaya.
Pulihora aavakaya: Pulihora talimpu or seasoning (known as Chaunk or tadka in Hindi) is added to the regular aavakaya for that special flavour.
Menthi aavakaya: Menthi powder (fenugreek powder) is added along with the mustard powder in this variant of aavakaya for that peculiar menthi taste.
Vellulli aavakaya: Vellullipayalu (garlic flakes with the skin are added to aavakaya. The oota will enter into the garlic flakes and when chewed gives a heady taste.
Yendu aavakaya: The traditional aavakaya is sun dried in the jaadi several times till the entire oota is absorbed by the mango pieces.Yendu aavakaya pieces go very well with curd rice.
Usiri aavakaya:In place of green mango pieces, usirikaya (Indian gooseberry) is used as it is without cutting into pieces. The Usiri kaya is pierced with a tooth pick to form small holes to facilitate flow of juices. This aavakaya has medicinal effect according to Ayurveda.
Dosa aavakaya: Dosakaya (Yellow cucumber) is cut into pieces and are used in preparing aavakaya in place of mango.
Senagal aaavakaya: Sanagalu (Bengal gram, chanaor chickpeas) are added to the regular aavakaya.
How aavakaya is consumed
Aavakaya is consumed mainly by Andhra people.Andhra is known as the rice bowl of India and the rice is the staple food of Andhras. They have invented various chutneys, pickles and powders that go excellently with rice.Andhra is also is the place where many varietiesof chillies are grown apart from mangoes, oil seeds like sesame and groundnuts.Ghee is also available plenty in this land. Using all these locally available ingredients, Andhras have since ages are patrons of good food with varieties of side and main dishes that go exceedingly well with rice. For many Andhras, aavakaya is a main dish. They mix aavakaya along with mango pieces, the sauce like pickle along with oota and pour liberal quantity of melted hot ghee with hot rice, make a round ball and consume with relish.For an onlooker fromdifferent region it would like as if they are consuming fire. Aavakaya is also taken as a side dish to enhance the taste of the main dish.The main dish of Mudda pappu with rice and ghee tastes heavenly with the aavakaya pickle as a side dish. Curd rice with aavakaya is a great combination. Aavakaya pickle is also taken as a side dish forIddli,dosa,Dibbarotti,and uppupindi. Aavakaya tastes fabulous within three months of its preparation (during this period it is fondly called Kothavakaya)and after that it slowly loses its zing.
The story of Jaadi
It is a wonder how jaadis emerged into our life and culture and ultimately settled as containers to our traditional pickles and other food items.In the early days all the pickles, curds, ghee etc are stored in earthen pots.I guess that During the British times they used to import chemicals in the glazed ceramic containers and after the consumption of the chemicals the empty porcelain jars are sold to the public. Because of their neutral nature people found them to be the ideal containers to use in place of earthen pots which are fragile in nature whereas porcelain containers are strong and heavy. The British standardised on the double colour of brown and white only to indicate that they contain chemicals and should be handle with care.With the popularity of these jars as a containers for various Indian food items,t hey are manufactured in India with the same colour combination for use in Indian market. These porcelain containers are subsequently acquired a native flavour and called as jaadis. Most of the jaadis I have seen carry the embossed inscription “Parrys”. Parrys is a famous British company established with its head office in Madras, the present Chennai,and the area near this company’s office even now known as Parrys corner. Subsequently Murugappa group acquired Parry and company. The porcelain division of Murugappa group stopped manufacture of Jaadis and are concentrating on bathroom porcelain utilities under brand name Parryware.
Ghee is known to Indians since 6,500 BC. This was revealed through the traces of ghee found from the excavated pots belonging to that period. Ghee was used by ancient Indians for the ritual fire sacrifices called Homam. Ghee is truly an Indian invention and mainly used in India. It has spread to the neighboring countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal. The origin of the word ghee is from Sanskrit word ghrta. It is called ghee in Hindi, Gujarati and Bengali, ghio in Punjabi, tuppa in Kannada, neyy in Malayalam, ney in Tamil and neyyi in Telugu.
Ghee was stored in earthen pots in the early years and its shelf life was up to nine months. Later, with invention of metals like copper and brass, Indians started preserving ghee in copper and brass pots. I have collected two antique brass ghee storage pots with beautiful shape and I’m happy to share pictures of these vintage pots and the story of how I acquired them through this article.
Ghee Pot with Lid in Round Shape
This ghee pot has a handsome round shape resembling the famous Indian lota. The pot is handmade with brass with a lid that perfectly fits the pot preventing any leaking. It has a handle made out of thin brass rod. There are two handmade brass plates riveted with copper rivets to the two sides of the ghee pot with a hole to which the handle is hooked. The handle is flexible. It rests on the belly of the pot when not in use and becomes straight when it is lifted with hand or when it is hung from the hook. Brass metal is conducive for some chemical reaction when it interacts with certain materials. To prevent such reactions, the brass containers are coated inside with a thin layer of tin metal, also known as tagarampoota. This brass ghee pot also coated inside with tin metal.
Ghee Pot with Cylindrical Shape
This ghee pot has a cylindrical or a barrel shape with a lid on the top. The entire ghee pot is handmade complete with the lid and handle. The cylindrical ghee pot has two heart shaped brass plates that have been riveted to the two sides at the top of the pot. These heart shaped brass plates have holes that are used to hook the brass handle. The handle is made by bending a thin bass rod. The side brass plates serve the purpose of hooking the handle and also for strengthening the body of the ghee pot. The brass ghee pot is lined with tin metal to prevent any possible chemical reaction of ghee with the brass metal.
In our ancestral house at our village Someswaram in East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh, we used to have a place within the house called “Palagoodu” meaning a dairy cupboard fixed into the wall in which all items related to milk and milk products are stored such as milk, curds, ghee, butter, butter milk, and also oils for cooking. This palagoodu is generally fixed to the wall in such a height that children cannot reach the opening. The cupboard has two doors and when closed they are held tight by a handmade wooden latch. In my childhood days, I used to see these ghee storage pots in palagoodu. These two ghee pots are the storage pots and are specifically used for transferring a small amount of ghee to a small bowl which is then served with a spoon. The lid is always kept very tight to prevent red ants from attacking the ghee.
My mother inherited these pots from her mother-in-law and we do not know the actual person who has purchased these. But they must be more than 100 years old. There are minute dents on the body of the pots due to constant use and antiquity. There are beautiful patina marks on these ghee storage pots.
Ghee and Indian Culture
Indian culture and ghee are intricately woven into the life cycle of Indian Hindu. Here are a few examples:
Immediately after the birth of the child, the father puts a drop of ghee on the lips of the baby with a golden ring even before cutting the umbilical cord.
During cremation of dead bodies, Hindus pour ghee over the dead bodies after placing them on pyre.
In traditional Hindu prayer, known as pooja, a lighted lamp or diya with the cotton wick soaked in cow ghee is placed in front of the God.
In harati ,the ritual of showing the lighted lamp to the images of deities in circular motion, cotton wicks soaked in ghee are used for the lamp.
During Diwali, the festival of lights, Goddess Lakshmi is invited into the house with the row of ghee lamps. On the day of Ksheerabdi Dwadasi, also known as Tulasi pooja (the day of celebration of Tulasi marriage with Lord Vishnu), the surroundings of Tulasi plant are decorated with ghee lamps.
Fire sacrifices called Homam have been performed way back since 5,000 years in which ghee was used. Homam is the vedic ritual of offerings to Gods through the medium of Agni (fire) in which ghee, rice, herbs and other ingredients are offered called poornahuti. In one form of Hindu worship called Pachamrutaabhishekam, the deity is bathed in a sacred mixture called Panchamrutam consisting of ghee, mishri (kalakanda), honey, milk and dahi (curd). Rice balls mixed invariably with ghee and dal (lentils) are offered to the deceased in an annual offering ceremony called shradh .
In the 5,000 year old traditional medical system native to India called Ayurveda, ghee is profusely used. Ayurveda is made up of Sankrit words – Ayus and Veda. Ayus is longevity and veda is science. Hence the word Ayurveda means the science of health and longevity. Ayurveda considers pure ghee as a supreme food. It is considered as having immense medicinal benefits apart from being a high powered nutrient. Ghee aids in the rejuvenation for both young and old. It provides vitality, enhances fertility, improves mental function, provides good voice and brightens the complexion. Ghee is consumed by mixing it with the food which enhances the taste and flavor of the food. Ghee is so nice it can be eaten as it is.
Ghee as the Life Giver – Mahabharata and Kauravas
The great Indian epic Mahabharata gives credit to ghee for the birth and life of Kauravas. This story tells us that ghee has the power of giving life. Once, the great sage Vyasa Maharshi visited the palace of Gandhari and Drutharashtra. The royal couple welcomed them and Gandhari served him nice food with which Vyasa Maharshi was very pleased. He asked Gandhari to ask a boon and Gandhari wanted 100 sons with King Drutharashtra.Vyasa granted the boon. Soon Gandhari became pregnant but could not deliver even after 2 years. Meanwhile, Kunthi, Pandu’s wife gave birth to the first of Pandavas. Getting impatient and angry with herself, Gandhari struck her womb which resulted in a miscarriage and a mass of flesh fell out. Vyasa Maharishi came to know about the miscarriage and ordered Gandhari to cut the lump of flesh into 101 pieces and store each piece in a separate pot filled with ghee and close the pot for 2 years and hide them. Then Vyasa Maharishi went to Himalayas. After two years, 100 boys and one girl broke open the pots and came out. That is how 100 Kauravas were born. The eldest being Duryodhana followed by Dussasana. The name of girl is Dusalla. Thus, Vyasa Maharishi had mentioned some 5,000 years ago that ghee has the power of giving life.
Ghee and Origin of Life
Ghee is considered as a sacred food because it is provided by cow which is considered as the most sacred animal. The origin of ghee is attributed to the Hindu vedic God Prajapathi, the Lord of creatures. He is said to have created ghee by rubbing his hands or by churning the hands together to produce ghee and pouring the same into the fire to create his descendants and all living creatures. The vedic ritual of pouring ghee into the fire is virtually the re-enactment of creation as done by Prajapathi. Butter is a symbol of semen, churning with hands represents the sexual act, the ghee represents formation of foetus in the mother’s womb. Thus, ghee is a life giver.
Ghee and Indian Food
My paternal grandfather, Yenugu Krishnamurthy garu, is a great connoisseur of ghee. His lunch consisted of rice, dal, vegetables, pulusu, rasam, two varieties of chutneys, one fresh lime, one pot full of curds and one bowl full of ghee. First, he would start with a small dose of rice drenched with warm ghee thus greasing the passage of the food that follows. Then he would mix each item with rice, pour ghee over the mixture and consume. The only exception is curd rice with which he will mix lime juice. By the time he would finish his food the bowl full of ghee will be empty. He lived a full life of 90 years and died one day peacefully after having his lunch with his favorite bowl full of ghee. I am inclined to think that the secret of his healthy life with full gusto till 90 years is the pure homemade ghee. He had no fat in his body or any problem of cholesterol.
Now a days we see people talk about avoiding consumption of ghee since they fear putting on fat or higher levels of cholesterol. My grandfather’s example adequately supports the theory that ghee in fact helps reduce the fat and the cholesterol and Ayurveda support this theory.
Ghee Preparation at Home
Ghee is derived from butter. Butter contains fat and milk solids. When butter is melted and simmered at low temperature, the water gets evaporated, milk solidifies and the fat gets separated. When the milk solids are filtered, pure golden colored butter fat is available which we call ghee. Ghee is luscious butter fat and an intense power food with butter flavor. Ghee has a nutty taste, with excellent aroma and marvelous mouth feel.
Melt the butter in a thick bottomed saucepan on a low heat.
Slowly increase the flame so that the butter boils.
First you will observe lot of white foam floating around and gives way to bubbles.
You will hear the sound of bubbles forming and breaking continuously. This happens due to the evaporation of water from the butter. You will reach this stage around 12 -15 minutes from the start.
Then you will see the brown particles start forming and are distinctly seen in the boiling butter. These are the milk solids that got separated from butter.
Keep boiling the butter for another 8 minutes.
You will see the brown particles become dark brown and settle in the bottom of the pan. At the same time you will see golden color ghee with the beautiful aroma.
We normally test the ghee for the right cooking by splashing few drops of water in the boiling ghee from a distance. If you hear a loud splintering sound, the ghee is well cooked. If you here a mild sound, the ghee is not well cooked. But this test has to be done carefully.
Your ghee is done. Put off the fire and let the ghee cool down.
Strain the ghee to separate the dark brown milk solids.
Your pure homemade golden colored pure ghee is ready. Keep the ghee in dry bottles with tight screw lid. Preserve the ghee in room temperature only. It will form into a nice grainy liquid. It will not get spoiled for at least six months. There is no need to refrigerate the home made ghee.
Difference between Ghee and Clarified Butter
If we have to explain ghee in English, we use the word clarified butter. In fact, there is a slight difference between ghee and clarified butter. By heating the butter, if the water in the butter is evaporated and the milk solids are separated from the butter, it is called clarified butter. In preparing ghee, the clarified butter is further simmered and boiled till the milk solids are caramelized and convert into dark brown. The ghee acquires a deep golden color with a heady taste and beautiful aroma. The clarified butter cannot be stored for long time whereas ghee can be stored up to 9 months without refrigeration.
Popular Preparations with Pure Ghee
Indian sweets like Mysore pak from Karnataka, minapa sunni from Andhra Pradesh taste best when prepared with pure ghee. All those mouth-watering sweets from Gujarat and Rajasthan are mostly made with pure ghee. Boorelu, the special traditional sweet dish from Andhra Pradesh is eaten along with ghee by making a hole in the sweet and filling the hole with warm ghee. In Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, chapathi is roasted with pure ghee. If it is not roasted with ghee for any reason, it is smeared with ghee just before serving or eating. The famous Hyderabad biryani is made with pure ghee. In south India, rice mixed with vegetables, dal, or sambar is eaten mixed with ghee. The special variety of idlis known as Guntur idlis are prepared by applying lot of ghee and are rolled in spicy dal powder.
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