By Victoria Cosford
I’d often come across ‘jaggery’ – lovely word – in Indian recipes and was aware it was a sweetener. Except, after talking to Aner Yeffet, I now know it’s evaporated cane juice. In fact, I now know quite a lot about sugar cane; that it’s a tropical weed and quite easy to grow, though demanding intense physical labour; that the mulch left after the juice is squeezed out of the cane – called bugasa – is a ‘very potent and very good,’ fertiliser, according to Aner.
Market-goers would be familiar with the theatre happening at the back of the Byron Bay Cane Juice stall every Friday. There’s Aner unloading the graceful spears of cane then his team-mate feeding the cane through a stainless-steel contraption, the flattened cane emerging out the other end, the juice extracted. ‘We try to make it look fun for the markets,’ Aner tells me. ‘We try to give customers a lot more variety and experience.’ To this end he will add lime, ginger, turmeric, passionfruit, mint – all purchased from the markets – to the sweet beverage, at no extra cost. ‘We haven’t put our prices up since 2017,’, he says. ‘We love to help make life more sustainable.’
Aner, with a Certificate III in horticulture, took over the business about 11 years ago. ‘I tasted cane juice in India many years ago,’ he says, ‘and was instantly hooked.’ He decided to upgrade the business, and all the farming methodology behind growing the best cane. His cane is grown on 11 acres of leased land, and ‘with the years we get better and better results.’
Yes, cane juice can indeed be used in cooking as a sweetener – Steve Snow from Fins restaurant in Kingscliff periodically orders it for a duck dish on his menu (wow!). As for the mulch, ‘we give it away free!’ says Aner.
Byron Bay Cane Juice is at Mullumbimby Farmers Market at the showgrounds every Friday 7–11am.