My mother in law was very particular about eating food that would aid digestion. She would add heeng/asafoetida in most of her preparations. Yogurt or buttermilk was a must with meals. She would very often consume lemon pickle, or julienned ginger mixed with lemon juice. She also had a collection of mouth-watering churans (digestive powders), that we all were interested in eating, or rather licking. In winters it was, and still is a tradition to make gajar ki kanji at our home. She would tell about health benefits of this fermented carrot drink. Though she could not scientifically explain the health benefits of these traditional food items, but she was spot on about the goodness of all these tasty yet healthy foods.
Fermented food has traditionally been a part of diet of almost all cultures. The present generation has gradually moved away from healthy natural food towards high calorie, rich in carb unhealthy food. Fermented foods go through the process whereby natural bacteria feeds on starch and sugar present in the food and forms lactic acid. Nutrients present in the food are preserved and broken down into more digestible form in this process. Beneficial enzymes, vitamin B, and probiotics are formed. These aid in digestion.
In winters black carrot comes to the market in North India for about a month or two. It is used to prepare gajar ki kanji. The dark purple color of the carrot gives nice purple shade to the kanji. Antioxidant property of black carrot is four times higher than red carrot.
Black carrots: full of nutrients
Black carrot is peeled, washed, and cut into two-inch long batons. It is then added to boiled water, ground mustard seeds, salt and small amount of red chilli powder, and kept in sunlight or warm place to ferment naturally. In warm weather it may ferment in two days, but in cold weather, it may take around ten days to ferment. Table salt that is available in India is iodized, and is added with free flow agents. These agents and iodine inhibits fermentation. For this reason rock salt (sendha namak) or salt without iodine or free flow agents should be used in making kanji.
If black carrot is not available, red carrot can also be used. In fact in my childhood we lived in different parts of India, where black carrot was not available, and my mother used to prepare kanji with red carrots, and sometimes also added other vegetables such as turnip, cauliflower, and radish. With black carrots, there is no need of adding turmeric to kanji, since carrots give beautiful color to kanji. With other vegetables, add turmeric to get bright yellow colored kanji, instead of colorless, unattractive kanji.
Once the kanji turns sour, it is ready for consumption. It is taken as side dish with meals. The liquid can be served in glasses, with few pieces of carrots thrown in. Carrots can also be served separately, and they taste like kimchi salad.
Delicious gajar ki kanji is ready
During festival of holi it is a tradition to serve kanji to the guests. Sometimes lentil fritters (urad dal vadas) are added to kanji liquid, and the preparation is called kanji vada. I will write about it in another post in future.
Kanji adds to the experience of eating kale chane ke kababs or khandvi that can be served as snacks during festivities. Carrots along with turnips and cauliflower can also be pickled. Check the recipe of gajar gobhi shalgam ka achar.
Recipe of Gajar ki Kanji
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