India's Traditional Dairy
From burfi to kulfi, from kalakand to shrikhand, from gulabjamun
to chumchum extends the delectable world of Indian milk delicacies.This article brings together
information culled from diverse sources on age-old, milk-based specialties from different
regions. Also included is information culled from diverse sources on the Indian milk-based
sweets and other specialties from different regions of the country.
Since time immemorial, a
significant proportion of milk has been used in India for preparing a wide variety of
dairy delicacies an unending array of sweets and other specialties from
different regions of the country. In the process, the basic limitation of milk its
perishable nature has been tastefully overcome. Its
processing aims to extend the shelf-life of milk, while converting it into mouth-watering
tit-bits. Thus, diverse methods to prepare as well as preserve milk products have
been developed. An estimated 50 to 55 per cent of the milk produced in India is converted
into a variety of traditional milk products, using processes such as coagulation (heat
and/or acid), desiccation and fermentation. Over the millennia,
these processes have largely remained unchanged, being in the hands of halwais, the
traditional sweetmeat makers, who form the core of this cottage industry.
Although 46 per cent of
the milk produced in the country is consumed as liquid milk, increase in consumption can
be stimulated. Milk plays an important role in the national diet. In Indian households,
the life of milk is extended from 12 to 24 hours by repeated boiling. It is preserved by
souring with the aid of lactic cultures, which imparts an acid taste, particularly
refreshing in hot climate.
The first of these products developed was dahi (curds or yogurt), obtained by fermenting milk. In
the process, the digestibility of milk constituents improves.The product is widely
consumed along with meals. The surplus dahi is used as the intermediate product and
churned into makkhan (butter), while the liquid whey chhach or mattha
is consumed as a refreshing beverage or converted into kadhi, a spicy dish served
hot with rice.
Nutritional benefits: When food is supplemented with 250
gms of dahi a day, the status of thiamine improves. Dahi
also increases the pyruvic and lactic acids among children on a
typical poor rice diet. Due to fermentation of milk, a
greater amount of phosphorus and calcium is made available to the digestive system
by their precipitation in the lower intestines due to the acid condition induced by
Lactobacillus sp. The consumption of sour milk also results in
increased efficiency of the human body to cope with a sudden influx of lactic acid in the
system. Dahi can also be consumed by people who suffer from lactose intolerance.
Thus, dahi in its different forms as lassi, kadhi, shrikhand, etc. also contributes
significantly to improve the nutritive contents of an average Indian diet.
A week's collection of makkhan(butter)
is converted into ghee. Dahi has a shelf-life
of a day or two; makkhan, a week; and ghee, about
a year. Ghee, thus, became the main dairy
product for extended preservation. A system of collection
of ghee from villages for trade gradually developed. Ghee mandis
(trading centers) have been in existence for centuries. India produces
some 900,000 tonnes of ghee, valued at Rs 85,000 million.The
value of the resultant lassi is Rs 25,000 million.
For most uses, the wholesome
flavor of ghee is its chief attraction. For table
use, it is served in melted form and mixed
with rice or lightly spread on chappatis. It is widely
used for shallow frying and deep frying of food. Innumerable
Indian sweetmeats based on cereals, milk solids, fruits and vegetables
are cooked, by preference, in ghee.
is a by-product in the preparation of makkhan. It
is estimated that about 55 kg of butter-milk is produced for every
kg of ghee. While most of it is consumed by
villagers and their families, some quantity is either given away
or fed to cattle. The reason for this is lack
of any market for it in rural areas. Butter-milk is rich
in milk protein and calcium, and forms a nutritive and refreshing
Nutritional benefits: Makkhan and
ghee contribute as much as one-third of the
fat in the Indian diet. Ghee is produced mainly for consumption
directly as food and as an ingredient of food preparations including
sweets. Over the centuries, people have cultivated a liking
for the aroma and flavor
of ghee and prefer it over vegetable oils, the other traditional
cooking medium. The vegetarian habits of many Indians preclude from
their diet animal fats such as tallow or lard, used in the West.
Thus, ghee forms an important source of fat in the vegetarian diet.
Ghee and makkhan are important
sources of vitamins A, D, E and K. They also contain small
amounts of essential fatty acids such as arachidonic
and linoleic. Considerable losses
of Vitamin A and carotene can occur during cooking, the latter
being more rapid. Below 125°C, Vitamin A is fairly stable, but
above this temperature it is rapidly destroyed. Some 10-20 per cent
of carotene is lost during the normal cooking operations.
One major milk product in common
use is khoa, obtained by rapidly
evaporating milk in shallow pans to a total solids of about
70 per cent and capable of being preserved as such for several days.
It is used as an ingredient in making different
kinds of traditional mithais (sweets) such as peda, burfi
and gulabjamun. Some 900,000 tonnes of khoa valued at Rs
45,000 million is produced in the country.
Yet another milk product of significance
is chhana, a product of acid coagulation
of hot milk and draining out of whey. It is used in preparing
different kinds of sweets such as rasagollas. As they are especially
popular in the Eastern region, they are called Bengali sweets.
Approximately 1,200,000 tonnes of chhana,
valued at Rs 6,000 million is produced in India.
of khoa and chhana produced is probably twice the value of all milk
handled by the organized sector in the country. The traditional
dairy products sector in India, like its agricultural counterpart,
is grossly undermanaged. It, however,
opportunities that even the Western dairy
world would be envious of. The value of khoa and chhana-based
sweets could possibly exceed Rs 130,000 million.
high-volume market for traditional dairy products and delicacies
is all set to boom further under the technology of mass production.
This market is the largest in value after liquid milk and is estimated
at US $3 billion in India and US
$1 billion overseas.
More and more
dairy plants in the public, cooperative and private sectors in India
are going in for the manufacture of traditional milk products. This
trend will undoubtedly give a further stimulus to the milk consumption
in the country and ensure a better price to primary milk producers.
Simultaneously, it will also help to productively utilize India's
growing milk surplus.
handbook on the "Technology of Indian Milk Products" is being compiled
by the publishers of "Dairy India Yearbook". For more details, please
visit the Home Page at: http://www.IndiaDairy.com/impbook.html.