Creamy goodness in earthen pots

Creamy goodness in earthen pots

Creamy goodness in earthen pots
A  unique lunch awaits travellers on National Highway 218 at the Upper Krishna Project (UKP) Circle, 40 km from Vijayapura — avalakki (rice flakes) or bhakri (jowar roti) with a creamy curd set in earthen pots (gadige mosaru or kene mosaru). Rows of stalls, with creamy curds in earthen pots, make for a delightful sight too. The source of this dairy product, highly praised for its thickness and unique flavour, is the close by village of Kolhar in Vijayapura district. In fact, the words ‘creamy curd’ and ‘Kolhar’ have become synonymous with each other for generations.

Though there are multiple accounts of the genesis of Kolhar curd, no one disputes the fact that a special mix of native grass varieties, straws of pearl millet, pulses and locally available wild bean — all grown naturally on the banks of River Krishna — gives the curd its unique flavour. Good weather condition and the meticulous procedure followed while making the curd makes it thick and creamy.

The villagers domesticate both buffaloes and cows. The buffalo population in the village is about 2,000. About 500 households have taken up curd making as an income-generating activity. While buffalo milk is used mainly for making curd, cow milk is sold at the local Karnataka Co-operative Milk Producers’ Federation (KMF) procurement centre. “A litre of cow milk is sold at Rs 25, while a litre of buffalo milk is priced at Rs 40. But, curd prepared from one litre of buffalo milk fetches us Rs 80. This explains why 70 per cent of buffalo milk produced in the village goes into curd preparation. And it is always in demand,” says Siddappa Balagonda, a progressive farmer in the village. Normally, men take care of the cattle by grazing them while women do the crucial work of milking and curdling. “The skill of curd making has helped us make a decent living,” says Parvatamma Bilagai, a dairy farmer. A co-operative society, which has about 250 members, has been formed to cater to the needs of dairy farmers.

How’s it made?
The milk is brought to a boiling point in a steel vessel and then poured to earthen pots. Later, each pot is placed on the charcoal stove and heated again. This is done to thicken the creamy layer. The pots are then set aside till milk becomes lukewarm. A few drops of curd are added to the milk and is kept for incubation for about eight hours. The earthen pot absorbs the water content, making the curd so thick, that it is weighed in grams.

Kolhar’s morning curd market is a sight to behold as hundreds of people sit on both sides of the village main road with their curd pots. People from near and far, mostly dhabas, khanavalis and small outlets, are the major consumers. Restaurants in Vijayapura city also place it significantly on their menu. Though other villages located on the banks of River Krishna have been producing and selling curd, the flavour and thickness of Kolhar curd remains unmatched. The curd has a keeping time of 15 days when refrigerated. Villagers feel that better infrastructure like a cold storage unit could help them reduce work and enhance productivity.

Kolhar curd has entered a new phase with KMF promoting it as a brand and making it available in all its outlets in Vijayapura and Bagalkot districts. Golappa Channappa Walikar, a resident of the village, narrates an incident, where presenting Kolhar curd helped him develop a comfort zone in an unfamiliar place. “Recently, when I visited a hospital, I took curd pots, as it is a tradition here to take curd pots when we travel outside, and presented it to the doctor there. Seeing it, he went down memory lane and soon, a friendly atmosphere was created. ”

Writer Krishna Kolhar Kulkarni, who hails from this place and has made a documentary on Kolhar curd along with Srinivas Tavarageri, observes that there is a slight change in the quality of curds after the entire village was relocated to a place four km away, when the old village got submerged in the backwaters after the construction of Almatti Dam. In fact, for a while in the late 1990s and early 2000 the village passed through a tough phase.

“Old Kolhar was located on the Vijayapura-Hubballi Highway. Villagers used to sell curds on the roadside and travellers used to demand a stop here to taste creamy curds. Quality and accessibility boosted the villagers’ confidence. They didn’t have to spend on promotion as any person who tasted the curd would buy two more pots before continuing the journey,” says Krishna Kulkarni. Once the fame spread, the curd gained popularity in far-off places of Karnataka and Maharashtra. Later, in the 1990s, when the Upper Krishna Project was initiated, the highway was closed as there was no bridge.

There was a brief gap before villagers took to their traditional occupation again. Fortunately, a new bridge was constructed  close to the village, and the road was upgraded and declared as a National Highway. Now, the Upper Krishna Project Circle has become the new stop for hundreds of vehicles — public transport, private and goods carriers.