Jaggery - Gur

Names of jaggery

Jaggery is the traditional unrefined sugar used in India. Though "jaggery" is used for the products of both sugarcane and the date palm tree, technically, the word refers solely to sugarcane sugar. The sugar made from the sap of the date palm is both more prized and less available outside of the districts where it is made. Hence, outside of these areas, sugarcane jaggery is sometimes called "gur" to increase its market value. The sago palm and coconut palm are also now tapped for producing jaggery in southern India. In Mexico and South America, similar sugarcane products are known as "panela" or "piloncillo".

All types of the sugar come in blocks of pastes of solidified concentrated sugar syrup heated to 200°C. Traditionally, the syrup is made by boiling raw sugarcane juice or palm sap in a large shallow round-bottom vessel as shown here.

Jaggery is considered by some to be a particularly wholesome sugar and, unlike refined sugar, it retains more mineral salts. Moreover, the process does not involve chemical agents. Indian Ayurvedic medicine considers jaggery to be beneficial in treating throat and lung infections; Sahu and Saxena[1] found that in rats jaggery can prevent lung damage from particulate matter such as coal and silica dust.

Jaggery is used as an ingredient in both sweet and savory dishes across India and Sri Lanka. For example, a pinch of jaggery is sometimes added to sambar, rasam and other gravies which are staples in southern India. It is also a delicacy in its own right. The Indian chef and cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey writes about a "jaggery board", like a cheese board, as a dessert course in a Bengali dinner, with varieties of palm and sugar cane jaggeries offered, differing in taste, color, and solidity. Jaggery is also molded into novelty shapes as a type of candy. Other uses include jaggery toffees and jaggery cake made with pumpkin preserve, cashew nuts and spices. Jaggery may also be used in the creation of alcoholic beverages.

Jaggery is also considered auspicious in many parts of India, and is eaten raw before commencement of good work or any important new venture.

Muzaffarnagar District in Uttar Pradesh has the largest jaggery market in India, followed by Anakapalli of Visakhapatnam District in Andhra Pradesh. These are the biggest and second biggest in the entire world.

In Myanmar, jaggery, known as htanyet, is harvested from toddy palm syrup. In central Myanmar and around Bagan (Pagan), toddy syrup is collected solely for the purpose of making jaggery. The translucent white syrup is boiled until it becomes golden brown, and then made into bite-sized pieces. Htanyet, which means "toddy lick", is considered a sweet, and is eaten by children and adults alike, usually in the afternoon along with a pot of green tea. It has been referred to locally as Burmese chocolate. Toddy palm jaggery is also sometimes mixed with coconut shreddings, plum puree or sesame, depending on the area. This type of jaggery is also used in Burmese cooking, usually to add color and enrich the food.

It is a rich source of iron due to the process involved, using iron utensils.

Besides its uses as a food, jaggery may also be used to season the inside of tandoor ovens.