The sounds of a whirring diesel machine and dangdut music from a mobile phone reach the village road in Genengan village, Malang in East Java. Workers sort sugarcane that had just arrived to make ondrongan [brown sugar].
Ondrongan sugar is made from sugarcane and used as an ingredient for making sweet soy sauce and other food.
This home industry in Genengan can make an average of 800 kilograms of brown sugar per day from about 10 metric tons of sugarcane.
Workers start their day at 8 a.m. and work on the first step in the process: extracting the juice from the cane using machines.
“Ten years ago we still used cattle to extract the juice; we moved from one field to another during the harvesting season,” Supardi, owner of the home industry said.
The juice flows to six large boiling pots sitting on a 10-meter stove fired by sugarcane residue, wood and tires. After it reaches a boiling point in about an hour, the workers will add baking soda to tie the juice. They will then boil it some three to four hours more.
When it has thickened and become brownish that means it’s ready to be poured into a cooling container where the workers stir the brown sugar and tamp it down until it cools within an hour. Later, they will rake the brown sugar into a grainy pulp and put it in 50-kg sacks.
They sell the brown sugar to makers of sweet soy sauce or seasoning in Gresik, Surabaya, and Sidoarjo, all in East Java. Each 100 kilograms is sold for about Rp 90,000 [US$6.60]. [evi]