Friday, July 13, 2012

As an American living in Turkey, I was shocked to see all the varieties of yogurt when I first moved here.

Stop by any grocery store or a peynirci (a cheese shop), and you will find a plethora of yogurt in plastic tubs, clay crocks or glass containers.

Even after nearly two years of living in Istanbul, I still don’t understand all the varieties of yogurt. Neither do some of my fellow expats. Is there a handbook somewhere?

I understand doğal (natural) and kaymaksiz (without kaymak). But what about the other 18 varieties?

Turkey makes the yogurt shelves in the U.S. look boring where you basically have non-fat, low-fat and plain yogurt.

Then, you have all the varieties of fruit-flavored yogurt in the U.S.  I used to love these yogurts, but now I realize how much tastier and healthier it is to buy plain yogurt and add your own fresh, cut-up fruit.

In the U.S., the closest thing you can find to Turkish yogurt is the Fage brand of Greek yogurt, but that’s about it.

In my kitchen in Istanbul, I’ve fallen in love with süzme yoğurt  - a strained Turkish yogurt that is extra creamy, extra rich and thusly, extra fatty. But ohhh so good!
Organic Turkish süzme yoğurt served with fresh raspberries and a sprinkling of sugar.
Süzme yoğurt is the perfect substitute for sour cream and also is a key ingredient in some of my muffins, scones, cakes, my breakfast and even summerpopsicles.

This particular süzme yoğurt, I bought this week, is made by Elta Ada, an organic farm on the Turkish island of Gökçeada, established in 2004. Simply tir any type of fresh fruit into this thick yogurt, sweetened with a little sugar, and you have the perfect snack!

Gökçeada is Turkey's largest island in the Aegean Sea and is known for its organic farming practices. More than 400 producers are involved in organic viniculture, olive oil, animal breeding and organic vegetable gardening on the island.

Sounds like another place to add to my constantly-growing list of places to see in Turkey. I cross off one destination just to add two more to it!

Maybe one of the farms on Gökçeada would let me volunteer to work for a day there. Any takers?

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my organic süzme yoğurt with a fresh batch of frambuaz from the pazar.

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Dolce Fooda said...

What about Ayran?

Karen said...

Wow, now I"m curious too. I would love to read anything else you learn about all the different varieties of yogurt. Like you, I look at back at our sugared yogurts and think "we can do better."

Joy said...

@Dolce Fooda, I like ayran. I just don't looove it as much as I love Turkish yogurt! ;-) In Gaziantep, we had ayran that was so fresh and thick, you had to drink it with a spoon!

@Karen, guess I need to take someone with me when I go to a peynirci one of these days to solve the mystery!

Ozlem's Turkish Table said...

Love yoghurt too - and just put ayran at my post:)!! So miss the suzme yoghurt, nearest I can get there is the Fage brand. Do make it to Gokceada, refreshing, with amazing produce

Becca Ramspott said...

YUM! I am glad there is such good yogurt over there ... and I think it would be neat to to go the place where they make it and work for a day! I'm with you on how it tastes better to just buy plain yogurt and add your own fruit. I do that here in the U.S. Miss you!

Sue Narayan said...

Yep, Suzme is the best. Just discovered it about a month ago. I noticed that in Minnesota, most stores now carry Chobani Greek Yogurt, which is pretty good.

Joy said...

@Ozlem, too bad you can't stock up on suzme yogurt when you are here in Istanbul next month! ;-)

@Becca, very true...that would be cool! I know several people who make their own yogurt at home too, but I don't have time for that.

@Sue, Enjoy the Greek yogurt as the best substitute then! ;-) Hope all is well back in the USA!

Cuisine de Provence said...

Do I miss Turkish Yogurt? I could get it when I lived in Germany, I could get it when I lived in Britain but in France so far no luck. So I just go on missing it....

Joy said...

@Barbara, but you can enjoy Turkish yogurt when you come visit us in Turkey! ;-)

Joy said...

Some answers to my yogurt mystery:

The "dogal" yogurt is probably closest to what one would consider regular plain yogurt in the US.

Suzme as its name says, is strained yogurt like the "greek" style in the US.

The kaymakli yogurts appear to be made by injecting the culture directly in the containers in which the yogurt will be sold, so that it gets its characteristic layer on the top. "Tava" yogurt I think is also made this way. (Another Turkish friend said her parents only use Tava yogurt to serve with food.

What differentiates some of the yogurts, in particular the tava types, is that there is some reduction of water before the milk is cultured so that the end result is thicker. In addition, apparently, powdered dry milk can be added as well, to increase the thickness of the end product. That's why some yogurts, even if they say "tam yagli," seem to be thinner than others.

Finally, some yogurt cultures apparently will make yogurt thicker than others but i don't know if that's in play here or not. as to their various uses in turkey, I don't know -- seems maybe that the thicker ones are used in some recipes in order to cut down on the amount of wateriness of regular yogurt. Otherwise may also just come down to personal preference.

Unknown said...

Hi Joy! You got a good response re yogurt! Did you see my comment on the expat cook's FB page? Chobani is all the rage in the US it seems and the owner is making a fortune!!!!

Joy said...

Thanks so much Claudia! I'll add your info here so everyone can see it too.

Coincidentally there is a very interesting article in the 9 July edition of TIME about this Turkish guy Hamdi Ulukaya who has made a fortune in the US with his yogurt business 'Chobani' -sounds like süzme. It only took him 5 yrs to become a projected $1 billion business !! With the yogurt that we know and love!!

Barb said...

Just took a trip to Riga, Latvia and tried Turkish Yogurt! It was by far the best I've ever had. Too bad we can't buy it here in the US.

Unknown said...

Thanks the post. Great info (in the comments too).
I just moved to Istanbul and been looking for the equivalent for "greek" yogurt. From a nutrition perspective, it has good macros (hight protein, low carbs, and low fat if non-fat). Indeed, I found out that greek yogurt is basically strained yogurt. In Turkey, that's süzme yogurt.
Now, my objective is to find non-fat süzme yogurt. Any luck do you think?

Anonymous said...

I found 3% fat Suzme yogurt hee in Turunc. Lovely it is too, with banana, strawberries and a spoon of honey. Heaven for breakfast.

Joy said...

@Anonymous, sounds like a perfect breakfast! Afiyet olsun! :)