All About Turkey

Traditional Turkish drinks

Raki

When one thinks of Turkey or Turks, one is reminded of Raki. Although it is not known where or when this drink was invented, it is certain that the history of raki does not go as far back as wine or beer. There are many proverbs on raki which is the traditional Turkish drink. Raki is made from different fruits in different regions, but grapes, figs and plums are the main ones.

In the Near and Middle East countries the drink is known by different names such as Araka, Araki, Ariki which obviously come from the same origin. Some claim that it is called Iraqi (from Iraq) because it was first made in this country and spread to other regions. Others say it got its name from the razaki grapes used in producing it. Both theories are acceptable. Another theory is that arak in Arabic means "sweat" and araki " that which makes one sweat." If one drinks too much raki one does sweat and when raki is being distilled it falls drop by drop like sweat, so the name could have come from Arabic. In neighboring countries different kinds of raki have different names. In Greece gum is added to it and the drink is called "Mastika". Duziko which comes from the slavic word "Duz" means raki with aniseed. In Turkey, raki made from grape residue used to be called Düz Raki or Hay Raki. Zahle raki has taken this name because it is made in the city of Zahle in Lebanon. Raki is not a fermentation drink like wine and beer but a distillation drink, so more technical knowledge and equipment are necessary for its production. Encyclopedias write that in "Eastern India a drink produced by distilling fermented sugar cane juice is called "arak" and the same name is given Ceylon and Malesia to an alcoholic drink made by the distillation of the juice of the palm tree. It is also noted that in Iran the drink made in the same way from grapes and dates is also called "arak".

The history is going back 300 years. The art of distillation which started in the Arab world and spread to the neighboring countries was implemented when people thought of making use of the sugar in the residue of wine processing. With the addition of aniseed, raki took on its Turkish characteristic. The famous Turkish traveler Evliya Celebi listed the artisans of Istanbul in the first volume of his book on his voyages which he wrote in 1630. Among the artisans he also mentioned the arak makers. While writing that arak was made from all kinds of plants, he also mentioned the word raki and said that drinking even one drop of this intoxicating drink was sinful. It is known that at that time in Istanbul 300 people in 100 workshop were occupied in the production and sale of this drink. Evliya Celebi spoke of tavern-keepers as "accursed, ill omened, blame worthy" and said there were taverns all over Istanbul but especially in Samatya, Kumkapi, Balikpazari, Unkapani, Fener, Balat (last three are on the Golden Horn)and the two shores of the Bosphorus and added "Galata means Taverns". Evliya Celebi recorded the small wine shops and the kinds of wine they sold and also mentioned the taverns that sold raki, all kinds of raki, like raki wine, banana raki, mustard raki, linden raki, cinnamon raki, clove raki, pomegranate raki, hay raki, aniseed raki, etc.

Raki was first produced from the residue of grapes left over from wine making. When a shortage of residue started, spirits from abroad were imported and processed with aniseed. This went on till the First World War when, for want of raw materials raisins were used in the production of raki and sometimes even dried figs and mulberries. For good quality raki, seedless raisins and aniseed in Cesme (Izmir) were preferred. As the raki industry developed, aniseed agriculture grew and developed with it. When alcoholic beverages were prohibited at one time, underhand producers lost no time in taking steps. The administrative authorities, especially in small towns, turned a blind eye to the illegal production of raki so long as it was made in accordance with the technical rules. In many houses meat grinders were used for mincing the raisin, large basins formerly used for daily washing were now used for fermenting the grapes and oil cans were converted into distilling apparatus. The raki which was usually without aniseed and which often contained materials harmful to health were distributed to by children, in the evenings, when the streets were no longer crowded.

Today in Istanbul, drinking raki has its own traditional rituals. Most important is what it is to be partaken with. White cheese is the main and unchangeable "meze" of raki. Raki is usually drunk with cold dishes like tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce and seafood. Fish is also a favorite, especially mullet and mackerel. Due to the aniseed it contains, raki changes color and becomes a milky white when water is added and a glass of pure water to go with it gives a distinct pleasant taste.

Istanbul used to have many tiny taverns but nowadays if you want to drink raki and eat dishes that go well with it the best places are Kumkapi, the Bosphorus and the flower market in Galatasaray at Beyoglu district. The favorite mezes of raki drinkers, roasted chickpeas and freshly salted almonds, can be found in almost all taverns.

Those who have been drinkers of raki for years and years, point out that this drink affects one according to his/hers mood. Sometimes one is tipsy after a glass or two; while sometimes even a huge bottle gives only a feeling of well being and enjoyment.


Boza (Fermented Bulgur Refreshment)

Ingredients Measure Amount
Bulgur 2 1/6 cups 325 grams
Water 20 2/3 cups 4150 grams
Flour 2 tablespoons 16 grams
Sugar 2 ½ tablespoons 450 grams
Yoghurt ½ cup 50 grams
Dry yeast ¾ teaspoon 5 grams
Vanilla 2 ½ teaspoon 25 grams
Cinnamon 4 ½ teaspoon 45 grams

Servings: 12

Preparation:
Wash the bulgur, drain and place in a large pot, add 12 cups water, cover and let stand overnight at room temperature. Cook over low heat for about 2 hours. Place in blender and process and then pass through a strainer and refrigerate. Return the bulgur which is left in the strainer to the pot, add 7 ¾ cups of water and cook for another hour over low heat. Pass through the strainer and place in the refrigerate.

Place the flour in a small saucepan and add 2/3 cups of water and cook over low heat until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add 2 tablespoons sugar and blend until the sugar melts. When cooled, add the yogurt. Melt the yeast in a cup of water, let stand for 5 minutes and add to the yogurt mixture. Let stand in warm environment for 30 minutes. Add the mixture with yeast to the creamy bulgur and let stand at room temperature for 1-2 days, stirring occasionally. Add the vanilla and the remaining sugar and stir well until they are wholly dissolved. Serve, sprinkled with cinnamon. This refreshment can be kept in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.

Nutritional Value (in approximately one serving) :
Energy  242 cal, Protein 3.5 g, Fat 0.5 g, Carbohydrates 57.5 g, Calcium 29 mg, Iron 1.3 mg, Phosphorus 97 mg, Zinc 1 mg, Sodium 1 mg, Vitamin A 6.9 iu, Thiamine 0.09 mg, Riboflavin 0.05 mg, Niacin 1.16 mg, Vitamin C - mg, Cholesterol 1 mg.

Notes :
Instead of bulgur, it can be prepared with millet or barley or a millet and bulgur combination. A traditional refreshment, with a history which goes back to very early times. Boza is mainly consumed during winter months. Best place to buy and drink Boza in Istanbul is "Vefa Bozacisi".


Sahlep

Ingredients:
4 cups milk
1 cup sugar
1 Teaspoon sahlep powder (also sold in supermarkets)

Preparation:
Mix sugar and sahlep powder (dried powdered roots of a mountain orchid - Orchis Latifolia or Orchis Anatolica in Latin) in a pan. Add the cold milk and some sugar stirring constantly. Heat the mixture until it boils again stirring constantly. Let it boil for 2-3 minutes and remove from heat. Serve it warm and garnished with powdered cinnamon.

Tips:
The thicker the sahlep is, the better it gets, it's a hot and creamy drink. Sometimes addition of a little bit of starch might help to get the desired consistency. It is a remedy for sore throats and colds, therefore it's mainly consumed in the winter months for cold climate. Because the real sahlep powder is expensive, on the streets they make it with more cornstarch than the real thing, that's why it would be better to do it at home or go to reputable pudding shops in Beyoglu district or along the Bosphorus for example.

Usually the mountain orchids have tuberous roots rich of starch-like substance. These tubers are gathered while the plant is in flower, then washed, boiled in water or milk and then dried. These dry tubers are grinded. This grinded powder is called sahlep.

Sahlep can also be added to ice-creams in the city of Kahramanmaras, it's the famous Maras Ice-Cream. In Maras ice-creams, sahlep gives its great taste and strong mixture with goat milk being the first and the most important element of Maras ice-cream, and the second one is real goat milk.


Ayran

Ayran (yoghurt drink) has been one of the most popular drinks of the Turks since the discovery of Yogurt among the Turkish tribes in Central Asia. It is simply made by diluting yogurt with water. Some salt is added to taste. Best served chilled.

It not only accompanies any meal but is drunk as a refreshing drink by itself especially during summer months. It is common among all regions of the country only the slight variation being its thickness. Especially in the south, for example, thicker ayran is preferred. But the best of this unusual but simple drink is made in Susurluk, near Balikesir, who are so proud of their bubbled ayran that they have a local festival for it in the beginning of September.


Salgam

Ingredients: Water, violet carrot, turnip, salt, pounded wheat or bulgur flour.

A traditional Turkish drink (pronounced shal-gum) made from dark turnips and violet carrots and sira. It's served cold with pickles and available in Hot and Mild formulas. It's a very traditional drink in Adana province and in the GAP and South Eastern Anatolia, especially served with Kebab dishes. Some people drink it with Raki saying that it removes or softens the effects of alcohol. It has a dark red or purple color and a very strong soar taste.

Because it's a juice full of minerals and vitamin C, it's one of the most preferred drinks in the winter time for colder climates. It also contains Thiamin (B1) and Riboflavin (B2) vitamins, and is rich in Calcium, Potassium and iron.

Preparation:
it's made of the essence of violet carrots. First, bulgur rice flour is left for lactic acid fermentation for a week until it gets very soar, than put in wooden barrels made of mulberry tree. After well cleaning and boiling violet carrots, it's put in these barrels together with dark turnips (Brassica Napus in Latin). After another week in these barrels salt is added. When Salgam gets mature in these barrels like a wine does, at the end the fermentation period it's filtered and ready to drink. For people who prefer it hot and spicy, hot sauce obtained from red paprika is added in as well. The total processing time to prepare it is between 2-4 weeks.

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