Kilao is an organic product produced in Ghizer, one of the districts of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral district of KPK. Kuju village in south of Chitral is known for the production of Kilao but the production there is limited to household use. Rich in taste and rough in texture, it is made by using pure organic products including grape juice, walnut/apricot kernel, and some other local secret ingredients.
In the ancient times when food was scarce in the mountainous regions, a limited variety of local fresh fruits and veggies produced were used to preserve systematically to utilize during the time of food shortage, especially in harsh winters. These products, some of them are still produced today as specialty of each district of Gilgit-Baltistan, are rich in taste and energy.
Types of Kilao:
There are two major variations of Kilao – one is apricot kernel kilao and the other is made by using walnut kernel. Yet another variation, that is recently introduced, is Honey made apricot and walnut Kilao.
The main ingredient used to make kilao is grape that usually comes in white and black color although there are some slightly diverse types available as well. The other ingredients include walnut kernel and/or apricot kernel. The final product obviously is a result of the type and kind of ingredient used during the process of making the product.
Kilao is the specialty of both regions and the ingredients used to make Kilao are grown in abundance. There is a special time of the year and that is when the grapes are ready to pick. Usually it is the beginning of autumn season in September.
Kilao making process:
1.Juicing grapes for Kilao making
The grapes are picked around September and crushed manually to extract juice. The juice is then stored in an available vessel for at least one week to filter out and then heated to make a thick syrup or pulp.
2.Apricot and walnut threading/stringing.
Apricot and walnut shelling is the second step followed by threading them separately in a string. The only dry fruit used are walnuts and apricot which are beaded into a strong thread of varying length.
The length of string equals to something that roughly carries 1kg of walnuts or apricot kernels. The single string along with the dry fruits and the grape syrup is called Khomon in Chitrali Language.
The thread and needle used are not fixed but it is made sure that it should have strength to hold a kg of dry fruit. The quilting needle with large eye is used which is not sterilized before using it to thread these dry fruits.
3.Cooking the grape juice
The grape juice is cooked in a Cauldron for 12 t0 14 hours to get a syrupy consistency. The other ingredients includes, flour and ashes of mulberry wood. It is said that the ashes helps in filtration of the pulp and the ashes settle down on the bottom of vessel once the juice reaches the required consistency. Cumin is also added, and it is a common practice only in Chitral. These ingredients are added when the syrup is half way cooked through.
Color of kilao depends on the grape juice, the darker the juice the darker is the color of kilao.
4.Dipping/coating the juice on apricot and walnuts
Homemade grape juice is cooked to sticky consistency and then threaded dry fruit is dipped to coat a single layer. There is no temperature controlling and checking machine used in the whole process. The experienced member of family can tell when could they add an ingredient or how long the juice be cooked.
5.Drying the pulp coated dry fruit (Kilao)
Kiloa is traditionally dried in the sun. The beaded dry fruit coated with the grape syrup is hanged on wooden sticks in the sun, The practice of drying in the sun is changing as the people noticed that the color becomes much darker than usual when kept in the sun for long time, therefore people now prefer to dry them in shades.
It takes 3 to 4 weeks to fully dry them. The time can vary depending upon the weather conditions.
In Gilgit Baltistan the dry fruits and kilao is stored in cotton cloth bags. Nowadays paper bags and paper box packaging for storage is popular.
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