Traditions in Turkey

The importance of yogurt in Turkish cuisine

Today I will show you the importance of yogurt in Turkish cuisine, its origins and the Turkish preparation technique. I will tell you about some of the many dishes that can be prepared with yogurt or that yogurt can accompany.

Memories of yogurt in Turkish cuisine with traditional technique

Every Sunday evening my mother prepared yogurt according to tradition. She had learned it from her mother, and her turn, she will have learned it from her mother and so on.

Yogurt is one of those basic ingredients of Turkish cuisine that can never be missing. Of course, many of us, here in Italy, but also in Turkey, now buy it packaged, but all Turkish women know how to do it at home in respect to tradition.

As a child, I had the task of measuring the temperature of the milk with my little finger, after the milk had been brought to a boil and placed in a container.

My mother used to tell me “yanarsa demekki hazır değil, yanmasza hazır!” which translated into Italian means “if the finger burns it means that the milk is not ready, if it does not burn the milk is ready!”. The milk had to be more or less at the temperature of the human body in order not to burn, and therefore be ready to receive the “maya”, i.e. the lactic ferments.

The maya was gently mixed in the milk, the container was covered tightly (to keep the temperature stable at about 37 ° as much as possible) and left to rest all night (without ever moving or touching it so as not to alter the fermentation).

The next morning the container was uncovered and placed in the fridge to thicken the yogurt.

My mother used 3 to 4 litres of milk to make weekly yogurt, with half a glass of yogurt made the previous week, which served as lactic ferments.

Yogurt in Turkish cuisine, yesterday and today

Of course today, there are ready-made yogurts of all types and for all tastes. Yogurt makers that make yogurt at home without cooking and bags with lactic ferments.

Surely in Turkey there are also those who use faster methods, in an era in which we all run, but I firmly believe that every Turkish woman loves and respects this ancient tradition that demonstrates the importance of yogurt in Turkish cuisine.

Taste takes us back in time, to our childhood. Typical dishes made with yogurt recall our Asian origins.

The origin of yogurt?

The term yogurt comes from the Turkish yogurt, which derives from the Turkish verb yoğurmak, which means to thicken. So it means thickening the milk with the help of enzymes.

Legend has it that the first yogurt was born a long time ago, by chance, in the Mongolian steppes. Nomads carried milk in bags made from animal skins. During the long crossings in the steppes, this milk was warmed up and the first yogurt was formed upon contact with bacteria.

By tasting it, they understood that, despite changing shape, the milk retained its nutritional properties. Yogurt was born !!!

At the beginning of the twentieth century, a Bulgarian biologist identified the bacterium that causes acidity, a bacterium that will be called lactobacillus bulgaricus. So, it was often thought that yogurt was Bulgarian, but it was actually invented by the Asian people of the Mongolian steppes.

Recipe ideas with yogurt

Yogurt was and is used for numerous preparations. As for the famous and refreshing ayran (a very popular Turkish yogurt-based drink), as a yogurt sauce to accompany an iskender kebab (and many other dishes), to prepare numerous meze (appetizers) such as cacık (based on yogurt and cucumber ) or simply to be consumed as yoghurt.

Yogurt accompanies our typical dishes such as sarma (stuffed vine leaves), such as keşkek (barley-based dish), but it can also be the main and indispensable ingredient as in ayranlı corba (cold yogurt-based soup ).