March welcomed me back home from my travels with a cool, breezy –and I imagined –slightly distant and reproachful air for having gone away for such a long time. The couple of rain showers that greeted me soon disappeared. Now, clouds of dust rise up without any reason, and dried leaves swirl to the ground: “the hot summer rustles like a carnival outside my window”, in the words of one of my favourite poets. There’s a beauty to every season that I look forward to and enjoy, and the Indian summer creates so many different moods. The searing heat of the North Indian plains that I was once so familiar with brought the fragrance of vetiver –khas, from soaked mats that hung on the verandah, or backed huge coolers to bring down temperatures. Out in the garden, tuberoses saturated the air with their fragrance. It’s fascinating how every part of the country we lived in had its own version of a summer cooler. The classic summer drinks were Rooh Afza, with chilled water and cubes of ice, or nimbu pani, salty, sweet and thirst quenching. The elegant aam ka panna; and vetiver, the scent I associated with summer, turned up as a delicious, syrupy drink too. The summer days went on endlessly; we cherished the cool hours, using them carefully. Here in Bangalore, the summers are tame compared with the ferocity of the northern plains. Still, in the evenings we sigh, and complain that the heat is unbearable. Neem flowers, pale and subtle, invisible in the darkness, float down from the trees, their scent everywhere, seductive, unforgettable, getting stronger with the night. During the day, I spend idle hours outdoors, taking advantage of the spreading shade of that friendly neem tree. The sun filters through the leaves, casting faint shadows on the table. Tiny, exquisitely scented blossoms fall with any breeze, tangling in your hair and showering the ground around you. There’s a summer drink on a tray at my elbow, an old Coorg favourite, a glass of kaipuli squash. It is sharp and sweet, with chilled water, ice cubes and a sprig of mint. A few months ago, I squeezed out a quantity of juice from a batch of bitter oranges that had arrived from Coorg. The pale yellow halves and startlingly sour juice might have made you wonder if this was the right kind of fruit to make into a drink. But the mixture of juice and sugar needs nothing more than a good soak in the sun to become a rich, concentrated squash in a few days, which can enjoyed for months. Kaipuli squash is a warm, liquid gold in colour, and the fresh, vivid taste of the fruit comes through. It reminds me of Coorg with every sip, and the summers there. Everyone is well-stocked with locally made juices and squashes: orange, ginger-lime, nellikai (gooseberry), passion fruit and of course, kaipuli, concoctions they have been making for generations. We’re very fortunate to have such an abundance of fruits growing locally, especially the citrus variety, and kaipuli shows off its flavour in many ways. If there is no prepared squash, you just have to pluck a fruit off the tree, slice it in half, squeeze out the juice and stir in some sugar to make a cool, refreshing drink for those unexpected guests who always drop by in Coorg. Summer in the hills is brief and intense. The higher peaks seem to retreat far away into a haze of cloud, distancing themselves from the heat, and the deafening creak of cicadas echoes everywhere. Small streams run dry, and you can sink ankle-deep into dust on un-tarred roads. Hillsides turn russet with their cover of dried bracken fern, and small fires spread easily. There’s an air of restless anticipation, and nights are oppressive. Shadows are sharp and deep. Walking out on work in the heat of the day always brings you to long corridors of trees that cover paths and the narrow lanes typical of Coorg –canopies that offer a world of luxurious shade, so cool that it’s like plunging into a pool of icy water. Here, you rest, and want to linger forever. Afternoons are meant for siestas, still and silent when the rise and fall of the chorus of cicadas pauses for a brief break. A walk around a coffee estate is hot, dusty work at this time of year, but there’s always a drink made from local fruit set out on the verandah to welcome you back. The house is always pleasantly dim inside. I haven’t seen those hills in a while, and right now they seem very far away. But I have a bowl of fresh fruit and a glass of chilled kaipuli juice, and I’m thinking of the changes in seasons that bring different light, colours, scents, and tastes to our table. Imagine the monotony of one, single, temperate season –or even just one kind of summer. There’s a cool breeze blowing right now. The whisper of summer is all around, and I’m set to enjoy it.

Kaipuli Squash Recipe

Coorg Bitter Orange Squash

Ingredients and Method:

  • Take ripe Coorg bitter oranges and squeeze out the juice. Strain.
  • Add half volume of granulated sugar to one volume of juice, and the freshly squeezed juice of 2-3 limes.
  • Stir several times to mix thoroughly, fill into a large glass or stainless steel bowl, and place in bright sunlight.
  • Cover with a muslin cloth or food mesh. Stir occasionally during the day, and bring in overnight.
  • Repeat the process over 2-3 days, until all the sugar has been absorbed, and the liquid reduces a little and begins to look darker and more concentrated.
  • Pour into a sterilized bottle and refrigerate for a longer shelf life.
  • Kaipuli juice is a delicious summer drink served with chilled soda or water, ice cubes and a few sprigs of fresh mint leaves. For anyone who loves sharp citrus flavours, a thin slice of fresh kaipuli in a glass of juice wakes up your taste buds.
  • Don’t hesitate to use it as a base for your own cocktails!

Cook’s Note : The sugar in the juice is an ant magnet, to do take care to protect the bowl from attacks. If you live in the heart of the city, or an area where air pollution is very high, it may not be a good idea to leave the bowl outdoors.

Image Credits: Nithin Sagi
All Food Styling: Kaveri Ponnapa

Thank you for visiting this page. If you read something that you enjoy, or see an image that you like, please take a moment to write a response. Do look out for the recipes of all the food featured here in my upcoming cookbook.

Kaveri Ponnapa

Kaveri Ponnapa is an author and widely published independent writer on heritage, food and wine. She is the author of The Vanishing Kodavas, an acclaimed cultural study of the Kodava people, and a collection of Kodava poems, A Place Apart, Poems from Kodagu. Kaveri is an acknowledged authority on Kodava culture, history and food traditions.

  1. Sowmya Joyappa says:

    I’ve heard that every once in a while in life we discover a gem at random and I wanted to just say thank you for this lovely blog of yours Ms.Ponnapa. After almost a decade away, we visited Coorg as a family this summer and I got to relish glasses of iced kaipuli juice every time I paid a visit to various relatives homes. I stumbled onto your blog while searching for the recipe over the weekend and read through quite a few of your posts and found every entry to be an absolute delight. I’ve even got my mum hooked on to your site. She read the post about koilemeen and went into raptures about how it was one of her favourite dishes during her childhood years and has unfortunately, not savoured it in decades.
    Thank you so much for the beautiful writing and I will be revisiting this table very often in a ready appetite for dinners and stories.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello Sowmya, welcome to The Coorg Table. You have made my day with your very generous words and response to my blog- it’s a labour of love, and when someone enjoys it, the way you have, it makes every bit of the effort worthwhile.I’m delighted that your mother found her way back to a part of her childhood through a post. Do keep visiting these pages, and share them with others. I would love to hear from you again,and your mother too, especially if you have tried out any of the recipes – but would love to hear, anyway! Warm wishes. Kaveri

  2. Radhika @ says:

    Namaskara Kodagina Kaveri avare!
    I have a special fondness for Coorg and was so thrilled when I discovered this website of yours.
    Since then I have been coming back, though I am leaving a comment for the first time. Your writing has me glued and transports me in time to the parts of Coorg I have visited. I am certain I’ll be back here for more..

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello Radhika, yes, indeed, I am! Delighted to know that you have been visiting The Coorg Table, and have been enjoying the writing. Do keep visiting- on Facebook too- and try out some of the recipes, they are good! It’s always wonderful to hear from a reader, it makes the blog come alive in a different way – so keep posting those comments, they are always welcome Best wishes. Kaveri

  3. muthanna says:

    Ms.Kaveri Ponnapa! Now that u r an academician, a professional connoisseur in food and beverages, u need to document the authentic Coorg dishes, esp of the Kaipuli, which I think is matchless in the world! Remember the kaipuli that’s roasted full with its skin on and then some out of the world Kaipuli pajji is made? This is for posterity! After Kaveri Ponnapa I wonder who
    among the Coorgs would even know these dishes!!

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Thank you very much for your kind and encouraging words, Muthanna. There are so many superb home cooks in Coorg, and many of them have been extremely generous with their recipes and expertise, which they have kindly shared with me. I agree with you, since food is such an important part of our identity, our culture and history. The food traditions that we enjoy have been inherited over generations, and we do need to document them. Right now there are many talented home cooks, but the important thing is to pass it on to the next generation, and the only way we can do that is by compiling it in a compact, accessible way, especially for those who live outside Coorg. There is a food related project in the pipeline, let’s see how it goes! Once again, thank you for your support, and here’s a link to kaipuli chutte pajji. Enjoy reading.

  4. Kaverappa Padeyanda says:

    Instead of using lemon we would used kaipuli for juice there was no changes it was just like lemon juice…But here it is very different and sounds so good, never tried like this before. I will try this…Also I enjoyed seeing gummate fruit in the image it is very rare now a days…………Thanks!!!

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Yes Kaverappa, we do that too, for a quick,very refreshing drink. This squash is delicious,and keeps in the fridge for months, without any preservatives, and it is easy to make. I love it. Gummate panne! The ones from Coorg are the sweetest. and best. Recipes coming up sometime. Warm wishes. Kaveri.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello Muthamma, thank you for the suggestion, it sounds quite exotic and pretty potent! I will certainly try it out. Best wishes. Kaveri.

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