With the onset of winter the people of West Bengal look forward to their favourite winter delight - nolen gur or date palm jaggery - a key ingredient in most winter delicacies from sandesh to payesh and everything in between.
Date palm trees are especially concentrated in the Nadia and Murshidabad districts of West Bengal, where tappers climb up date palm trees usually at sundown, make a small incision in the tree and tie a clay pot just below the incision in order to collect the sap or juice that oozes out; they return at daybreak to collect the pots now brimming with fluid.
The actual process of jaggery-making begins here, as the sap collected is poured into shalti (an iron cauldron) sitting on an earthen oven, and then churned as it slowly begins to take on a golden colour, emitting a heady aroma; once the right consistency is reached, this sap – now nolen gur is poured into clay pots, and is ready to be sold in markets - as this sets in the pots it forms jhola gur, with some portion being thickened even more and sold as solid blocks known as patali.
Nolen gur rasogollas are extremely popular as are the sandesh, with most homes in West Bengal used the seasonal ingredient in making pithe, puli, payesh and other traditional dessert; sweet shops and confectioners make advance bookings for nolen gur owing to the huge demand, with even nolen gur ice-cream proving to be a major crowd-puller.
Understanding this high demand for and the need for quick transportation of nolen gur from Nadia and Murshidabad to various districts of West Bengal, an extra bogey was added to the Lalgola Express in November this year.
Slurrrrp! Yummmm. Must visit the nearest sweet shop today itself.
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