Yogurt is yogurt, for us. Not a big fuss, one of the essential ingredients of every household. We love yogurt, not a secret. On the lands of Anatolia, people know how to make yogurt instinctively, sensing how long milk should boil and measuring the temperature of milk, with tip of their pinky finger.
Yogurt, as simply said, is one of the oldest fermented foods in human history. In parts of Central and West Asia, unintended fermentation of milk, could have produced something like yogurt, and people noticed that it keeps longer and it tasted good.
Yogurt is the Turkish name of the product which reached West Europe through Turkey and the Balkans. Yogurt is made from different milks, cow- which is now the most preferred in industrial yogurt making, especially in big cities like Istanbul-, sheep, buffalo and goat, which results in different taste and textures.
My favourite is buffalo milk yogurt because of its thick and unmatched texture, due to its fat content, its thick kaymak layered on top. Unfortunately it is not easy to find buffalo milk so I make yogurt from unpasteurised cow milk, using my homemade yogurt as the starter.
Bakraç, a special tradional bucket for yogurt, a traditional vessel, still used in Anatolia, whereas plastic rules the industrial yogurt companies. All around Turkey, different cities hold different yogurts. Denizli is famous with its yanık yoğurt, burnt yogurt, made from varieties of milk depending on the season but taste wise my preference would be goat or sheep. Burnt taste is the casein in milk burns and transforms in to a caramelised flavor, from when raw milk poured into the hot copper pans. (Denizli yanık yoğurdu, is one of the many items from Turkey in The Ark of Taste of Essedra Project of Slow Food, which is to point out the existence of endangered small scale quality food products that belong to the cultures, history and traditions, generally speaking.)
Yogurt in our culture, goes far behind being a breakfast food, in fact it’s not commonly enjoyed at breakfast, but accompany different dishes, used in cooking, as a liaison, marinating, baking, in desert making, ayran making, etc etc…
Yoğurt çorbası, or yayla çorbası, the yogurt soup is one of the famous soups, mostly made with yogurt, rice, stock, dried mint. Çılbır, poached eggs, topped with garlic yogurt and butter drizzled on top, is worthy for sultans as we say. Cacık, is considered as a salad or even meze when prepared thicker, is yogurt, garlic, diced-cubed or shredded cucumbers, dill or mint, drizzled olive oil. Haydari, a delicious spread, drained yogurt, garlic, mint. Yoğurtlu patlıcan salatası, roasted and mashed eggplants, garlic, yogurt. Kızartma, fried seasonal vegetables, usually courgettes, eggplants, potatoes, pepper is served with yogurt sauce and/or tomatoe sauce, best!
As for sarma and dolma, vegetables wrapped or stuffed, when cooked with mincemeat and served hot, yogurt is usually the garnish on the plate. Yoğurtlu kebap, mincemeat or chunks of meat kebabs on skewer, grilled over charcoal, served on top of tırnak pide and yogurt, tomatoe sauce, a feast, I have to say. Mantı, can not do without it, surely with garlic. Yuvarlama or yuvalama as Gaziantepliler would say, a bayram dish, dumpling stew with meat, chickpeas and yogurt, Şiveydiz, a seasonal stew made from fresh garlic, spring onions, meat and yogurt, both silky with perfect textures and taste, and list goes on and on…
Tarhana‘s one of the main ingredients is also yogurt. Revani, a traditional dessert, made from semolina, flour, yogurt, baked like a cake and poured simple syrup when hot.
My fave yogurt book is the one from Artun Ünsal, Silivrim Kaymak, unfortunately in Turkish. It is named after one the most known yogurts of Turkey. The Yogurt Man Cometh, a travelogue by Kevin Revolinski opens up with the same named memoir, a door to door yogurt seller, on the cover Suat Veral’s drawing of the old timer yogurt seller, the ones who used to shout yoğuuuurrttçuuuu while walking on the streets of Istanbul…
Yogurt is a habit, a delicious one.