Chakka varatti is the Malayalam name for jackfruit jam, the mother of all jams. The fruit to its preserve form becomes gastronomically satisfying only when your five senses are awakened and you are actively involved in the experience of making it manually. It is definitely a test of toil and tolerance when the process begins standing in sweltering heat near the firewood stove, the fruit pulp simmers in the mini swimming pool size bronze cookware and stirred consistently with a paddle size wooden spatula. Soon enough the daunting task is over come by heavenly scent of jaggery, ghee and jackfruit cooking away to glory. The hours of stirring becomes a therapy and turns it into a glazed blob of intensely flavorful fragrant mixture.
This post is a dedication to the labor intensive work of preserving fruits.
Jack fruit is the largest tree borne fruit in the world and it is found abundantly all through out Kerala. A good sized tree produces 30 to 40 fruits in a year or even more. Sometimes a tree bears fruits even on exterior of its roots. When the fruit ripens it has a distinct aroma enough to tell from yards away. Every country side homes’ backyard has two to three trees. If you haven’t seen the jackfruit then I can tell u it can be 5-10 times bigger and heavier than a pineapple……humongous right !! It takes strong men to bring down the fruit from the tree without any damage. Oh the work doesn’t end there it is just the beginning!!!
Once the fruit is ripe it will not stay good for a longtime so with a fruit that big of a size there is a limit for a family can consume all by themselves. They willingly disperse it off in all possible ways. Very few like me are glad to see the food gifts being brought or sometimes dragged through the front yard.
Everyone has different expression seeing it. It is so funny watching how others react …lol! The domestic helps put their hands on the forehead saying here comes one day’s job. Granny,on the other hand gives a triumphant look and smile which signifies I have lived through one more year to see the bounty while it is being brought in, she allocates the place for it until fully ripe. Depending on the ripeness of the fruit and quality of the fruit the dish is decided. . It ranges from chakka varatti, chakka appam, chips, puzukku, avial, poonju thoran etc.. . are to name a few. Varikka chakka is most preferred which is firm and fleshy fruit over kuzha chakka which is stringy .The jackfruit that is harvested before rain is most likely to be sweeter. Some even have sweet nectar present inside called thein varikka chakka. Jack fruit is the most difficult messy fruit to cut open and slice because there is a sticky, slimy latex like white glue coming from the core which has to be handled with care.
Last holidays ,one morning our relative brought a huge, gigantic one from his backyard and everyone was exchanging worried looks on how they are going to finish it 🙂 and there comes Granny in pristine white attire without pretensions or apron. She oils both her palms well and the knife, keeps a big roll of paper handy to wipe off the latex as it oozes and begins butchering the fruit.
Granny is so well organized in doing the messy jobs I am always astonished the way she handles things with so much ease and her confidence in tackling a small cattle size fruit without one error to stain her clothes . . She has a special knack to cut the fruit without much effort and the knife glides through I don’t know how to explain but shes like this automated machine cutting with precision.
On an old plastic sheet the fruit is first cut into quarters the core is cut off .She then bends the quarters to fan out which helps in extracting the fruit from the base and removing seeds. Phew! from there work is assigned to all of us . The strong scent of it is enough to make u nose blind. It was my kiddo’s first time seeing a massive fruit and she did not fail to show her aversion to the smell and look :))
Anyone of us might have done the job but not with so much enthusiasm for sure. Granny’s positive attitude and approach to messy sticky work is commendable. At her age we would have recoiled in bed and shunned cutting even an apple. Let me not jinx her health by telling this young lady’s age 🙂 But I would like to emphasize her words start doing such jobs at a young age, do it often, be attentive and learn while others do is her mantra.
This particular jackfruit was enormous so many of the family members joined in for chopping the fruit, it is most time consuming one because they hold 2 3-fruits in the hand and almost mince it from the top with a knife in the other hand, generally this takes hours.I must say I was much motivated by Granny’s enthusiasm that I took charge from there on for the first time because chopping is the only job I know well and has become a breeze for me over the years using cutting board. Meanwhile they took care of cleaning the seeds.To my surprise those stunt masters were impressed with my knife skills;))))
The preserve is made by slow cooking on stove top in a heavy bottom large bell metal pot/urali .The cooking and reducing takes hours with continuous stirring .Few glorious hours are spent enjoying gossip while the hands move in a rowing motion. Everyone takes turns doing it.Trust me team work is the highlight of the show.The pictures you see is a small portion of that treasure packed while I was flying back after vacation.As soon as I reached here I freezed a portion of it .It stayed intact there for guess how long ? One and a half years. I finally got a chance to make payasam from the batch because rest went in just scooping and enjoying.
The pics are the prep shots for payasam – coming soon!
Jack fruit- 5 to 6 cups
Jaggery -3 cups
Ghee- 1/2 cup or sometimes lil more
1.Extract the fruit and remove seeds and other .Chop the fruits then pressure cook it adding 1/2 cup water .When cool grind to paste.
2.Pour 1/2 cup water and melt jaggery let it cool then strain it off the impurities and keep it ready.
3.Mix the jaggery melted and the jackfruit in the wide mouthed bell metal pot.Keep stirring until the whole thing reduces .When the mixture gets slightly sticky pour ghee little at a time ensuring it does not get burnt.
4.Keep stirring until the mixture becomes thick ,no longer sticks to the side and comes together while stirring,deep brown remove from the stove and leave it aside to cool then store in room temperature in airtight container.It can be scooped out and eaten or you can make chakka payasam /pradhaman.
The more it is heated the thicker it gets and becomes a halwa like consistency.
Here is Nendrapazham varattiyathu -halwa
- Properly made chakka varatti could last upto 8 months in room temperature without any reheating.
- But if you want every few months it can be reheated and returned to a clean container to avoid any fungal formation.Or like me u could freeze it
- The measurements are approximate ,if the fruit is not sweet enough u might want to add more jaggery .Ghee too is to be added till the mixture comes together.
If you are not familiar with the fruit then just reading the recipe part alone is so deceptive because the preserve or Jam is more of the hours spent on stirring than the steps itself. It is more about the teamwork involved than the final product. It is about preserving the fruit by the family for their loved one who lives in a distant land who did not get a chance to eat the fruit harvested that year.The family usually celebrates with payasam on their arrival. When many hands contribute to making the preserve the work doesn’t seem so much at all infact it is fun with all the laughter some lil gossiping going on all through out the process.
I hope to add all the scene pics in future but till then pl bear with me..
Hope you enjoy seeing chakka varatti just like me.