Good feni begins with good caju. The fruit. From which this magic elixir we call feni is distilled.
There is caju and there is caju. It comes in two colours red and yellow. The caju fruit is one of the few with the seed growing outside the fruit which make separation easy. In caju season the hill sides are awash with the speckled colors amidst the green leaves with the backdrop of Goa’s rich red earth.
My first visit to a caju plantation found us raring to go. You’re given a bucket to tie around your waist. And a long stick with two thorns sticking out at the far end. Armed, you head off to the trees and you lunge for the first fallen fruit you see. Only to be admonished. Have patience” .
You walk on to the farthest corner of the orchard and then start gathering up the fallen fruit on your way back. Makes perfect sense. Why carry the fruit two ways, on your way and and then again on your way in? One of those little caju hacks that make caju feni what it is.
Two gatherings of caju happen every day. One in the morning and one in the evening. To get to the fruit before any insect or animal does. The fruit drops from the tree when it’s perfectly ready. All the sugars at their peak the flesh of the fruit laden with juiciness.
Our takeaways from this …
1. Never pluck a caju for feni.
2. Never on the way out only on the way in.
3. A bucketful of caju that’s going to be distilled to give us the most flavourful urak ever or caju feni if we have the patience to wait for the double distillation.