This post is about my Amla and Ginger Jam. Amla (in Hindi), Nellikai (in Tamil) or the Indian Gooseberry is much known for its medicinal uses across India. It is much used in Ayurveda and other alternative medical practices even in Sri Lanka, Tibet and China. Indian Gooseberries are in season as the rains recede and are now available everywhere.
If you’re not familiar with the Indian Gooseberry, it is a small, round and somewhat hard fruit the size of a large marble or small lime. It is a sour, slightly bitter and astringent fruit but very rich in Vitamin C and anti-oxidants. It is the main ingredient in Chyavanaprasham or Chyavanprash, a dark coloured jam like Ayurvedic supplement. Chayavanaprasham is considered a good way to boost immunity, especially against common seasonal colds and cough.
Indian Gooseberries are usually preserved whole into a sugar syrupy jam like concoction called Murabba in North India. This makes them more palatable. In my part of the South, Indian Gooseberries are preserved by pickling them. We pickle them in brine, or in sesame oil with red chilli powder and Indian pickle spices.
It happens that Indian Gooseberries aren’t a favourite in my home. I don’t mind them pickled, personally. I was recently given a small bag of them and couldn’t think of anything to do with it beyond pickling. Since they’re a bit bitter and quite astringent, it is challenging to cook or bake with them. Since they’re made into Murabba in the North, I thought of making an Amla and Ginger Jam.
I don’t know how many varieties of Indian Gooseberry exist. I’m personally aware of two. The first one tends to be smaller in size, a darker shade of pale green and is very astringent and considered to have better medicinal value. This is the variety that I saw around me in my childhood. The second variety has a larger sized fruit and is a paler shade of pale green, juicier and less astringent. This variety tastes better on the tongue. I remember it being referred to as “Bangalore Nellikai”.
I like using jaggery over sugar where I can, as a sweetener, so that’s why my Amla and Ginger Jam is a dark colour. You will have a lighter coloured jam if you use sugar. The amount of jaggery in the recipe below is just a reference. You may adjust the amount of sweetener to your taste when you make this jam.
Indian Gooseberries don’t have a very strong flavour beyond the mildly tangy, bitterness and astringency. Using ginger and ghee improves the flavour while disguising the astringent taste quite a bit. Please note that this jam will retain a very mild astringency. I didn’t add any spices because I wanted the jam to be about the fruit and ginger. You could add a bit powdered cardamom and or a bit of cinnamon. You could try some cumin powder too.