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 the 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 kinds of milk, 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 tastes and textures.
My favorite is buffalo milk yogurt because of its thick and unmatched texture, due to its fat content, and its thick kaymak layered on top. Unfortunately, it is not easy to find buffalo milk so I make yogurt from unpasteurized cow milk, using my homemade yogurt as the starter.
Bakraç, a special traditional bucket for yogurt, a traditional vessel, is still used in Anatolia, whereas plastic rules the industrial yogurt companies. All around Turkey, different cities hold different yogurts. Denizli is famous for its yanık yoğurt, and 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 into a caramelized flavor, when raw milk is 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 accompanies different dishes, used in cooking, as a liaison, marinating, baking, in the 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, and 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, and drizzled olive oil. Haydari, a delicious spread, drained yogurt, garlic, and mint. Yoğurtlu patlıcan salatası, roasted and mashed eggplants, garlic, yogurt. Kızartma, fried seasonal vegetables, usually courgettes, eggplants, potatoes, and pepper is served with yogurt sauce and/or tomato 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 a skewer, grilled over charcoal, served on top of tırnak pide and yogurt, tomato 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 the list goes on and on…
Tarhana‘s one of the main ingredient is also yogurt. Revani, a traditional dessert, made from semolina, flour, and yogurt, baked like a cake and poured with simple syrup when hot.
My fave yogurt book is the one from Artun Ünsal, Silivrim Kaymak, unfortunately in Turkish. It is named after one of 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.