In Goa, the season of cashews is here! And, you can find people busy plucking cashews on the hills, while some are chilling with a chilled glass of ‘Urrack’, ‘Feni’ or ‘Niro’ in their hand. What started as a traditional occupation is today a popular industry that is bringing in a lot of revenue to the state.
The local drink ‘feni’ has a huge fan following, not just locally, but globally too. The cashew fruit is also among the few which is entirely used for various purposes. In order to understand how this works, the students of the Department of Economics, Carmel College for Women, Nuvem, were invited to be part of the ‘Cajuchem Fest’, curated by Marius Fernandes, popularly known as ‘Goencho Festakar’.
The festival was organized at Arao, Pomburpa, in Bardez, and hosted by a cashew farmer from pomburpa, Thomas Fernandes.
How feni is made
During the fest, the feni extraction process was explained to the students. The preparation for the same starts in the month of November. The area below the cashew tree is cleaned so that when the cashew apples fall, they are visible. Following this, the season of cashews is welcomed, that is, from the months of February to May, which sometimes extends to June.
The first step includes picking up cashew apples, that have fallen on the ground, using a stick attached with a nail called ‘Kanto’. The farmers are then engaged in separating cashew nuts from cashew apples, after which, the cashew apples are put into a machine and the juice is extracted. After extracting the juice, the leftovers are gathered and placed on a horizontal stick and mounded together, and a rope is tied in order to keep it firm. This tied mound of cashews is left for several hours, or even overnight, under a heavy stone. The resulting juice that is collected after this squeezing process is called ‘Niro’. This is a popular refreshing juice that is enjoyed by many Goans.
Later, the extracted juice is left in a large barrel for 48 hours to ferment. The waste is not thrown, but dried and used for household cooking fire. After completion of the required number of hours, the juice is poured into an earthen, or copper, pot, which is buried deep for fermentation. After this process, the juice is distilled by boiling on an outdoor fire, during which it undergoes vaporization and distillation. Cold water is continuously poured on an earthern pot called ‘launni,’ which holds the juice. It is stirred with the help of a bamboo pipe. The juice obtained in the first phase of the distillation process is called Urrack.
People in Goa generally enjoy ‘Urrack’ with a cold drink, called Limca, and a pinch of salt and lime.
From Urrack to Feni
The spirit that is produced after triple distillation is cashew feni. Urrack is also mixed with niro in a proportion determined by the distiller, and redistilled to give a spirit called ‘cazulo’ or ‘cajulo’ . ‘Cazulo’ or ‘Cajulo’ is again distilled with urrack to give a high strength spirit, called Feni.
Learning at the fest
Besides witnessing the age old traditional of making feni, the students also learnt the art of roasting cashew seeds and extraction of cashew nuts. Additionally, they were also introduced to a traditional game using cashew seeds, which was a popular game of yesteryears.
During the event, Maryanne Lobo, an ayurvedic doctor, also explained the different medicinal uses of feni, besides it being Goa's heritage drink.