Jaggary played an important part in Sri Lankan lives long time ago. A steaming cup of tea or coffee, served with a piece of kitul jaggery was a must back then. Before sugar replaced the place of jaggary, it had been Sri Lankas best loved sweetener.
Collecting sap for making jaggery does not look like an easy process but to villages who are used to climb trees, 40 foot or more in height, it is not a big deal. They are able to go to the top of the tall tree within minutes, making sharp incisions at the base of a cluster of flowers that droop down from a branch like a bunch of grapes. A sack is tied to the base of the cluster to collect droplets of sap trickling down.
The sap need to be collected over several days. The syrup is called Kitul Pani. .This is the thing that is further boiled down and set into molds, usually fashioned out of empty coconut shells, to make little blocks of hakuru, or jaggary.
The jaggary making requires skill and experience. The quality of the treacle and the method of stirring can change the texture of the jaggery and determine the grade or type of hakuru. There is soft sudu hakuru (white Jaggery) and grainy weli (sand) hakuru, traditionally prepared by pouring treacle into a pouch made of areca nut leaves and drying it over a fireplace.
Jaggary making is a quick process. The treacle is heated to a boil for 30 minutes to an hour, until it begins to set into a solid form. The mixture is then stirred rapidly for ten to 15 minutes, and poured into coconut shell molds. It is very important to know the point at which the mixture is taken off the fire, and when it is taken out of the mold. The mixture hardens within ten minutes.
Jaggry is used to make many dishes popular in Srilanka. Wattalappan -the dessert made using jaggery is the most popular among Sri Lankan Muslims and Srilankans alike.
It is a must during Ramadan, and Commonly served at weddings, parties and other special ceremonies. Semolina and jaggery pudding, Kithul flour pudding, Bibikkan and sago pudding are among other favorite dishes.