Kokum Juice Concentrate

Kokum Juice Concentrate

Kokum Juice Concentrate

Before Maushi and Kaka moved to their lovely little red bricked bungalow in Khanapur, they lived in a rented love nest on the upper floor of a modest house. Khanapur is a dusty old town with a very, very special place in my heart. So special that I cannot bring myself to write about it every time I think I should. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the people and the house are both no more, and it feels like a part of me is dead. But, that’s for another time. Today is about happy summer memories.

I spent the best days of my childhood in Khanapur with my doting aunt and uncle. In a small, dusty Karnataka town, up uneven, whitewashed stairs, was their first house. A dark house that smelled of the smokiness from the wood fires being burnt downstairs. The tiled roof had skylights here and there and when it was sunny outside, you could see a sharp sunbeam shoot through them, carrying little particles of dust otherwise invisible to the naked eye. On cold days, when you wished you could just sit on the high bed and not come in contact with the floor at all, that sunbeam would come in like a warm hug. Kaka worked in a ceramic factory and would often get me lumps of wet clay to play with. I must have spent hours modelling random stuff with the brown clay and rolling it out like chappatis. Maushi taught literature to graduate students and always had funny limericks for me to learn. I would wait for her to pull out a freshly sharpened pencil from a long, tube like pencil box of discolored white plastic and hand it to me to go scribble somewhere.

Kokum fruit

Kokum fruit

Then, there was the farm–where they grew rice, mangoes, cashew nuts, and whatnot. I loved the ripe cashew fruits–in the summer, the fruits would be harvested, the tender nut pulled out from the bottom of the fruit, and made into an “usal”–a simple stir fry with loads of coconut and fresh green coriander. The mangoes went through their usual routine of pickling and being eaten as desserts or just by themselves. But there was one fruit that had the most glorious processing. The Ratamba or the ripe Kokum fruit. In the Konkan and in some parts of Karnataka, summers bring home this beautiful, plum-like cousin of the mangosteen. You halve the fruit, scoop out the inner white flesh, fill the cups with sugar and pile them up in a jar. At the end of the week, you have shriveled Kokum skins and a clear, gorgeously pink-red-purple syrup. The syrup is then reduced briefly with a dash of cumin seed powder and salt and stored away for the year. When you come home, tired from the scorching sun, you simply mixed the juice concentrate with cold water and you were good as new.The kokum skins were salted and dried and used in curries and lentils to add a tamarind-like dimension of sour.

I still remember how the Ratambe were lined up and counted before their necks were slit open and they bled their juices in that cold, dark, Khanapur house with a sunbeam rushing in to warm things up. Ratambe are rarely seen in cities like Mumbai, but I was lucky to have a relative send me some from her farmhouse in the Konkan. I just knew I had to walk down that memory lane again and make the Kokum sarbat. We now drink this with soda just as often as with water, and it is an excellent base for a quick version of Solkadhi made with Kokum concentrate and coconut milk (if you balance it with adequate amounts of garlic, green chili, and coriander). If you do manage to get the Kokum fruit, please make this concentrate–if not for anything else, just to see those lovely colors!

Kokum juice concentrate

Stacking up the Kokum halves

Stacking up the Kokum halves

Kokum Juice Concentrate

Ingredients:

  • Kokum fruiits
  • Sugar
  • Roasted cumin seed powder
  • Salt

Method:

  1. Halve the kokum fruits and scoop out the white flesh. Discard. (A lot of people make an instant drink by mixing the white flesh with water, sugar, and salt and then straining it but I don’t like it much.)
  2. Fill each half with sugar.
  3. Pile up the filled kokum halves in a non-metallic jar. (Glass and porcelain work perfectly.) Press down to accommodate as many as you can. Secure the lid.
  4. Leave in the sun for a week. At the end of the week, strain the liquid out into a thick-bottomed pot. Season with salt and cumin seed powder and bring to a boil. Turn off, cool completely and fill in sterilized jars.
  5. To serve, add 3 tbsp. kokum syrup in a glass and top with cold water or soda. Stir and serve immediately.
  6. Salt the wrinkled kokum skins and leave to dry in the sun for a few days until completely dry. Use these in curries to add a sourness or pop ne or two in your everyday daal for a another dimension. (This is what Maharashtrians used as a souring agent (apart from tamarind) before the tomatoes came along.)
Kokum getting dehydrated

Kokum getting dehydrated

Comments (20)

  1. Madhuli June 7, 2012 at 2:40 am

    Love Kokum and anything to do with it. Love the colour.I have never seen a fresh ripe Kokum fruit , lucky you 🙂 Fabulous post and loved the first photograph- so tempting!

  2. Rhea June 7, 2012 at 2:49 am

    who would have thought the quiet little kokum hid such glorious colours and flavours within! I loved reading about the house in Khanapur… memories are all we have to hug to our hearts sometimes 🙂

  3. chinmayie @ love food eat June 7, 2012 at 4:47 am

    Beautiful photos Saee! I too have beautiful memories which involve kokam! We make kokam concentrate every summer and it was such a treat 🙂

  4. Anjali June 7, 2012 at 5:20 am

    Vivid are the colors and memories filled with warmth. Hug to you sweety.

  5. Snehal June 7, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Your story brought back memories of summer days I spent in Konkan – a cozy, tile-roofed house set on the beach. Enjoying the sun all day long and coming home to an unlimited suppy of of kokum juice Ah…so refreshing! Thanks for bringing those beautiful memories back. The pictures are beautiful!

  6. Priti June 8, 2012 at 6:54 am

    Saee! These pictures are brilliant…I could actually ‘taste’ the kokums as I saw the pics..and boy! did my mouth water! 😛 I love kokum!!! Even as I type this its hard not think about how my tastebuds feel they r in a ‘homely’ heaven when I have anything with kokum. You have poured your heart into the story, I could feel it, my special place was in Roha at my maushi’s home & I still find myself visiting it in my dreams and craving for it time and again. The memories fill my heart with love and gratitude, I find my eyes welling up with tears and these kokums make my tastebuds go through the same turmoil – ambat goad murlelya athvaani anhi kokam…what a terrific pairing! So proud of you girl, Love you lots, Hugs!

  7. Radhika Oltikar June 8, 2012 at 8:23 pm

    Lovely post! You write beautifully 🙂

  8. chinmayie @ love food eat June 8, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    Also… We eat the white flesh also! Have you tasted them? You just have to suck on them and then spit the seeds out. They are sweet!!

  9. Aditi Bharadwaj June 8, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    What amazing photos! This is the first time im seeing fresh kokum berries! They look so amazing! 🙂 Never thought one could make kokum sharbat at home …thank-you

  10. Mallika June 11, 2012 at 9:10 am

    Saee, that’s a beautiful glass of kokum sherbet. Your post is so nostalgic, makes me weep as I think of my konkan ancestral house where we spent our childhood fondly. Kokum did make up an integral part of those memories…

  11. Ramya Manja July 4, 2012 at 6:33 am

    Never had a chance to see fresh kokum berries,lovely,they r so photogenic…..Koku sharbut looks n sounds awesome to me….

  12. Jayasri July 9, 2012 at 6:17 am

    I bought some dried kokum in my pantry, i was looking for some recipes landed up here, My sis is from pune, I came to know about using kokum because of her, I need to check out some recipes she has given me, meanwhile i thought why not google and see more of it, It is beautiful to know how the fruit looks like as I have only used the dried ones, beautiful clicks

  13. Ahalya March 25, 2013 at 12:19 am

    I will never get tired of saying this: You are an inspiration. You bring such art and love to food! You make summer, monsoon, winter occasions for great food, and even more valuable… sharing your memories. Thanks ya!

  14. Yukthi June 30, 2014 at 9:51 pm

    How many days can we store this in fridge?
    If I have to store this for months, which preservative to add ?

  15. Mandira March 18, 2015 at 8:30 am

    Lovely photos !
    Kokum is hard to find in Delhi…so i pick up my share when i visit the parents in bombay.

  16. Shreesh May 8, 2015 at 5:29 am

    Thanks for the recipe. I find that my home made product has some astringent (marathi : turat) tones which might be unpleasant to some. The commercial ones don’t have it. Do you know what causes it and how to get rid of it? Someone suggested that I should sort the fruits and use only the really ripe ones …. dark purple … and not the bright red ones. WDYT?

    • admin May 12, 2015 at 9:53 am

      Yes, Turat tones come from slightly raw ratambe. Try using fully ripe ones, and perhaps keep the concentrate a day or so longer before you reduce it–that should help mature the flavor.

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  18. Madhav April 24, 2016 at 1:13 pm

    Life was hard but simply sweet in those days. Families were bound by love for one another, mother natures bounty was there to meet all needs, How I miss all that, every fruit fresh from the trees has divine taste unlike the processed packaged stuff we get now, thanks for sharing.

  19. Shilpa May 30, 2016 at 2:15 am

    Hi! Would love to try this. I have only dried kokum. How can I use that?

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