Sweet tradition: Kamisah (right) and her sister Mujinah Abdul Rahim with some of the halwa.
BATU PAHAT: Halwa or fruits preserved in sugar are the must-have items at Kamisah Abdul Rahim’s table for Hari Raya.
She is well known among villagers of Kampung Bintang, Mukim III, Peserai near here as the only one who continues making the traditional delicacy.
Guests and relatives visiting Kamisah’s house during the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations look forward to sample her halwa.
Despite an offering of cookies on her table, they enjoy the halwa, which is served only once a year during Hari Raya.
“Making halwa is tedious and requires someone with patience, hence not many are interested,” Kamisah said when met at her house here recently.
The octogenarian lamented that even her daughters and granddaughters were not interested in making the delicacy adding that it would eventually die out.
Apart from being served on Hari Raya Aidilfitri and Hari Raya Aidiladha, halwa is also a “must have” at weddings in the Batu Pahat district in the old days.
Kamisah said her interest in halwa started when, as a teenager, she watched her aunts and grandaunts making the delicacy.
“Old recipes don’t really have exact measurements for the ingredients used, it is more of a little bit here, a little bit there,’’ she said.
Kamisah said the making of halwa began six months before Hari Raya adding the preserved fruits could be kept for two years.
She said no preservatives or additives were used, unlike commercially-produced crystalised fruits and pickles.
Among the fruits used are young papayas, unripe pineapples, soursop, belimbing buluh (bilimbi), cermai (cherry-like sour fruits), and winter melon.
The flesh of young papayas is cut into the shape of bunga cempaka while unripe pineapple, soursop and winter melon are cut into the potong wajik pattern or diamond shape.
The cuts are soaked in water mixed with salt for four to five hours after which they are washed in water mixed with limestone.
After draining the limestone water, they are immersed in boiling water for a few seconds and drained again.
“Salt soften the flesh of the unripe fruits flesh while the limestone water firms them,’’ said Kamisah.
After draining, the fruits are soaked in syrup made from granulated sugar and rock sugar for three nights.
The syrup is drained and its contents washed in running water.
A new syrup is produced and the fruits are soaked in it for another three nights and this is repeated for two weeks.
Following the preservation work, another syrup is added to the fruits before they are kept in airtight bottles.
The fruits crystalise in the bottles and will be ready for consumption six months later.
“Apart from serving halwa in syrup, it can be dried under the sun to produce dried fruits,” she said.