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Srivilliputtur is not only famous for Sri Aandal temple but also for the legendary ‘palkova’ – a sweet made from cow’s milk and sugar. Locals say that it has been traditionally manufactured and sold since 1940 and is the main cottage industry of the Srivilliputtur area.
The history of this delicious palkova can be traced back to the time when people of this town were forced to find alternative uses for the unconsumed milk. As the area boasts of excessive milk production, locals had to find an innovative way to convert the remaining milk into food and it is said that this is how Srivilliputtur palkova came into existence. It became so popular among people that this is now their primary occupation.
Locals say that in 1945 the cooperative societies established by the government took up the task of making palkova on a large scale using a special skill that was already known to the people of Srivilliputtur. What makes the milk so unique here are the climatic conditions that are believed to enhance the growth of variety of crops which are later used as fodder for the livestock. The fodder fed to the cows and the rich grazing available give this palkova a very distinctive flavour and this is reflected in its preparation as well. As the milk is naturally sweet, very little sugar is added while preparing the palkova and this adds to its extraordinary taste.
The cow’s milk is sourced from vendors and cooperative societies early in the morning. The milk is reduced by slow boiling on a wood fire. Generally dried tamarind wood is used as the firewood in traditional mud stoves. Ancient firewood burners and stoves are also used as part of the traditional preparation. A wide-mouthed shallow iron pan is used for making the sweet. Sugar is added when the milk has reduced. The final product is yellow to brown in colour; semi-solid in nature with a smooth texture; sold by weight and packed in butter paper. Locals say that approximately 2,000 kg of palkova is produced every day. The average shelf life of the milk product is 7 to 10 days.
Palkova from this region excels in taste and smell as compared to that made in other parts of the state because of the high fat content and naturally sweet taste of the milk. Locals say that they make about 3.25 kilograms to 3.5 kilograms of palkova from 10 litres of milk as compared to other places which make less than 3 kilograms for the same quantity. About 1.25 kilograms of sugar is added for every ten litres of milk.
Srivilliputhur palkova that simply melts in your mouth was granted the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2019 and what is interesting is that the original recipe for this traditional milk sweet came from North India but became famous in this region because of the sweet nature of the milk here.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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