By Pushpesh Pant It was almost three decades ago when India heard the footsteps of traditionally handcrafted 100 percent naturally preserved ‘fruit preserves’.
One English woman married to a Indonesian who came from Bhuira, a small village in Himachal Pradesh, started on a very small scale with multi-fruit and bitter marmalades and preserves with chunks of luscious fruit that eschew synthetic colors, flavors and preservatives. But the taste of the people was not used to the natural taste of these products. They were addicted to brilliantly colored (artificial) and sugary-sweet mixed fruit jams. Even some strawberry, mango fruit jams were improved with added (synthetic) flavors. It was about the same time that Karen Anand started her gourmet food business near Pune. Both Bhuira and Karen’s cuisine attracted a small but discerning clientele. Karen catered for the top tier of First Class passengers in international airlines and super deluxe hotels. Bhuira has carved a niche for itself by introducing new flavor blends and attracting the upwardly mobile people Native Americans who had tasted homemade preserves and were concerned about the added sugar in mass-produced jams.
The words preserves and preserves gained popularity in the 1990s to distinguish it from the regular jam. tatas had come out with an interesting strawberry preserve, but it didn’t impress. After another decade, Welcome Group Hotels ITC fame came with a line of preserves and preserves branded as a product far superior to regular jams. All this while the battle for brands was on the market and popular Indonesian labels changed hands and muscle-powered multinationals displaced smaller competitors. Several factors combined to give a powerful thrust to artisanal fruit preserves. Sustainability became a buzzword. Farm-to-table was another expression that captured the popular imagination. Klein became beautiful again and conscientious citizens were inspired to support village-level enterprises that made their living from the grassroots. dr Paul set up a women’s cooperative umang near Ranikhet and trained local women to produce high-quality jams, jellies and pickles from locally produced fruits. These were sold under the Kumaoni label.
Inspired by these pioneers, a group of young people tired of business founded Him Nectar Foods in Bageshwar in 2015 and slowly moved out to Pilkholi village near Ranikhet. Sushma Nambiar and Jatin Khetrapal gratefully remember the advice and help Bhuira gave them when Him Nectar went into labor pains. Finally, a small factory-cum-training unit was established in Kalika amid a cluster of fruit trees. Another corporate dropout who founded an NGO Himjoli put his faith in the new 100 percent natural product. This region is known for its apricots, plums and pears and there was a time when there was a lot of apples in the Chowbatia Gardens.
Lush Alexander pears, deep purple centosa plums and many varieties of apricots – morpankh, badami and gola are sourced locally. This is the philosophy followed by Bhuira and Karen’s Kitchen. Improve the skills of local villagers, empower women and come up with a product that matches global quality. There are many chefs who use these natural preserves in innovative dishes. BoilerSisters in Jaipur surprise their guests with Alphonso Kalakand made with Alphonso Preserve.
The duo Ratika and Richa Prepare natural fruit preserves (strawberries, bael, phalsa, jamun) to enliven pies and other desserts. Nishant Choubey likes to work with natural homemade fruit preserves handmade in small batches. He firmly believes that marmalade and jam may have complemented buttered toast, the use of preserves being limited only by the chef’s imagination. He has used coarse apricot jam in his rendering of khubani ka meetha in Michelin gilded industry in Bangkok and has incorporated the magic of Jamun preserves into oat-enriched smoothie.
Many people have the misconception that handmade preserves are an excessive and priceless extravagance. Nothing is less true. Top products are available in the range of Rs. 275-375 for a 330g jar. You need a small dollop – a teaspoon full to taste the nectar! Ripple effects are clearly visible. It is an idea whose time has come. By Himalayas hinterland to Sahyadris and the Nilgiris Ranikhet† Pune and Bangalore, the preference for artisanal fruit preserves is steadily growing. The generation after 2000 is carefully threaded through – ‘nature-identical’ flavors are losing ground. Who needs chemical preservatives when you can store the jar in the fridge after opening?
Some exotic flavors are also available in sample baskets in mini jars. Like the revival of other handicrafts, this trend is likely to stay with us. Disclaimer: The views expressed in the above article are those of the author and do not reflect those of ANI. (ANI)
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)
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