Piles of bagasse lie strewn around, waiting to be sold as fodder or fuel. This is a natural by-product of the sugar extraction process in the traditional fashion, in India.
Meanwhile, waste plastic appears to be the major raw material fuel for heating up the raw sugarcane and boiling the sugar out of it.
Plastic at one end and bagasse at the other end!
The sugar industry in India is a well developed one and one of the biggest after textiles. It provides rural employment opportunities and plays an important role in the Indian economy. Although automated mills are located all over the country, manual jaggery manufacturing is still practiced widely. This method is very simple and no heavy machinery is required.
Jaggery is a typical Indian product used commonly in daily food preparations as well as in traditional sweets. This is a product is mostly manufactured in states like Maharashtra, UP, Gujarat, Bihar, and Jharkhand.
Many villages have small, seasonal plants for producing jaggery. These do not need heavy machinery and anyone can learn the simple process within weeks. The fuel used for boiling the sugar cane juice is primarily the dried sugar cane bagasse left after extraction of juice from it and the waste plastic, cardboard and paper from nearby areas. It is a cheap alternative for fuel and it prevents the cutting of trees.
The jaggery-making process involves a few main steps which are: juice extraction, filtration and boiling and then come the cooling and packing.
The process of manufacturing jaggery involves crushing sugarcane using a crusher and extracting its juice. From here, the juice is transferred to a settling tank to separate all the mud and other impurities. The juice is then moved to the furnace with a set of boiling pans.
The thick and shallow boiling pans are also known as Kadhais in which the juice is boiled over earthen ovens. The clarification process continues while boiling. It is continuously stirred using large ladles to avoid it sticking at the bottom of the pan. While heating and boiling the juice, the worker keeps removing impurities and dirt, accumulating at the surface of the boiling juice in the pan. This goes on for hours until most of the water from the juice is vaporized and the juice starts to thicken and reduce. The worker transfers the juice from one pan to another for greater concentration. Slowly the juice turns into a thick, golden brown paste. It needs a lot of experience to decide the right moment when the jaggery is done, any over or under cooking may ruin the taste.
The thick brown paste is spread to cool down on large plates with the help of large spatulas.
Then it is poured in various molded into different shapes and sizes as per their weight. Thereafter, local businessmen collect this jaggery from farmers and sell it in the local markets.
Jaggery or Gur is pure, traditional and unrefined whole sugar. It contains the natural goodness of minerals and vitamins naturally present in sugarcane juice. It is thus, considered the best sugar in the world.
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