What comes to your mind when anybody mentions Jhumri Telaiya? Yes, Vividh Bharati and the song requests it received from this town. There is, however, more to Jhumri Telaiya than its people’s love for music, besides the fact, of course, that it is not a fictitious place.
This small Jharkhand town was also the place from where India exported most of its mica, the wonder insulation mineral used in the construction of spaceships and defence equipment, to the world. But the mineral lost its sheen following the discovery of cheaper synthetic substitutes, and also the collapse of its biggest importer USSR. And with so many options available, people no longer need to tune in to radio to listen to their favourite songs now. Jhumri Telaiya, however, has still managed to retain its uniqueness, riding now on the fame of the sweetmeat variety it improvised and made its own — the delicious Kalakand that has given the town a new identity.
Unlike the version available elsewhere, the Kalakand of Jhumri Telaiya is moist and creamy.
While Kalakand is said to have originated from Rajasthan in the late 1940s, it found its way to Jhumri Telaiya in the late 50s, say locals, when the “Bhatia brothers who had come from Pakistan after Partition” started selling the creamy version. It was an instant hit. Over time, Kalakand’s demand soared high and Jhumri Telaiya became a gastronomical destination for people who would come to the town just to taste its specialty. Almost every sweet shop now sells Kalakand, and the prominent ones have also been supplying bulk orders to a special and steady clientele of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen all over Bihar and Jharkhand.
While the sweet shops won’t share the original recipe, having been born and brought up in this unique town, it was important for me to know how to make the Kalakand that you find there. I got to know the basic recipe and decided to give it a try. While the first attempt had not been successful, I got it right the second time and thereafter, with my father certifying that this was how it tasted more than half a century ago. It’s a regular dessert in my kitchen now.
Here goes the recipe.
Milk: 1.5 kg
Kesar (saffron): A few strands
Vinegar: 2 tablespoons
Dry fruits: For garnish
Boil the milk in a saucepan, adding sugar and kesar.
When it reduces to almost half, set aside 150 ml of the sweetened milk.
Now add vinegar to the boiling milk and stir it slowly for a few minutes.
Cover the saucepan and let the mixture rest for 15 minutes.
When the milk and whey separate completely, drain out the whey and slightly mash the cottage cheese using your hands (don’t use a mixer-grinder).
In a separate pan, heat 100 ml of the sweetened saffron milk that you had set aside and add the cottage cheese to it.
When the milk dries up and the mixture thickens (here, you can add some milk powder, though it’s optional), turn off the heat.
Now spread the milk mixture on a greased tray and level the surface.
Leave it for an hour or more.
Once cool and set, pour the remaining 50 ml of the sweetened milk on top of it and garnish with dry fruits. Cut into squares and enjoy your juicy homemade Kalakand — the pride of my hometown Jhumri Telaiya.
Note: You can use any other sour agent instead of vinegar — lemon, citric acid etc. Just make sure of the quantity. Their sour taste should not seep into your Kalakand. At shops, they use phitkari (alum) for the purpose.