Sankranthi is a traditional Indian harvest festival which marks the commencement of spring in India and Nepal. Known by different names in different parts of India, it is usually celebrated around January 13th to January 15th, every year. Some South Indian states like Andra Pradesh, Telangana and Tamil Nadu celebrate Sankranthi for three days with each day carrying its own significance – like thanking sun god, cattle, farmers, family & friends for the harvest.
Being a Bangalorean since birth, I have grown up celebrating Sankranthi the way people of Karnataka celebrate every year. We wake up on this auspicious day, clean the house, apply rangoli (colored powder) at our doorstep, have oil bath, don new clothes, prepare delicacies and visit our friends and family to perform a ritual called “Ellu Beerodu” which involves bartering a plate laden with Ellu (white sesame seeds) mixed with finely cut jaggery, dry coconut and fried peanuts; along with sugar molded figurines known as Sakkare Acchu and a piece of sugar cane.
Being born to a traditional family, I remember my childhood days, when we cousins would sit cross-legged on the concrete floor with a piece of wooden mold in front of us. My grandmother used to prepare the sugar syrup on the kerosene stove and we all used to patiently wait until it reached the correct consistency. When the sugar syrup was ready, my grandmother used to lift the vessel containing hot sugar syrup from the stove, and carefully pour it into our wooden molds. Our job was to carefully and correctly tap the wooden mold to ensure that sugar syrup fills it completely. Despite burning our hands in this process, we thoroughly enjoyed being this part of ‘supply chain’ in creating sugar figures during this festival. I still reminisce those olden days. Somehow, this tradition of preparing homemade “sakkare achus” disappeared during my later part of childhood and teenage life. As years passed, we no longer sat around with our wooden mold waiting for sugar syrup to be poured into it. Our homemade sakkare acchus got replaced by store-bought ones which was less tastier and healthier.
When I moved to US after my wedding, I was enthusiastic to re-instate this tradition of preparing homemade sakkare acchus again. Having procured the recipe from my mother-in-law, I was enthralled to prepare it all by myself, for the first time in my life. She even was sweet enough to FedEx me the wooden molds to help me achieve my objective. Years have passed by and I still prepare these sakkare acchus every year, receiving accolades from my friends and family. This year too, I was overjoyed to prepare them last weekend for the upcoming festival on January 15th, 2016!
Sharing the recipe for interested folks! Enjoy 🙂
Powdered Sugar – 2.5 cups
Water – 1.5 cups
Milk – 1/2 cup
Lemon Juice – 2 Tbsp
Wooden molds of desired shapes and sizes
1) Place a wide mouthed vessel on the low heat flame. Add 2.5 cups of powdered sugar and 1.5 cups of water to it. Allow the sugar to melt completely and form a syrup
2) Slowly stir the syrup and add 1/2 cup of milk to the mixture. The syrup starts to boil.
3) Now add two Tbsp of lemon juice to the mixture. It will start to froth.
4) Cover an empty vessel with the cheese cloth and pour this hot sugar syrup into it. Gather the four corners of the cheese cloth and carefully twist the cloth completely to strain the syrup and remove impurities.
5) Pour this clean syrup back into the vessel on stove, and start vigorously mixing it with ladle. The color of the syrup should change from transperant to translucent to opaque white liquid. This is when it is ready to be poured into the wooden molds.
6) Place the wooden molds on clean and flat surface and pour the white sugar syrup into it. Tap the molds gently so that the liquid fills it completely.
7) Keep the molds aside and allow to dry for 5 minutes.
8) After 5 minutes, carefully remove the wooden molds apart to view the gorgeous sugar figurines!!