An endless variety of dairy products. While the variety of soups is amazing, the variety of cheeses in Turkish dishes is staggering. There are almost 200 distinctive cheeses in Turkey today. Trying to describe them is challenging, even for locals. We can cover the basics at least. Most cheeses in Turkey are made from sheep’s milk, are not aged extensively, and have a relatively low-fat content.
Depending on which region of Turkey one is in, there is are various special cheeses unique to that area. Only 8 out of 193 kinds of cheese are formally attributed to specific geography. Some examples of these well-known, official cheeses are the Kaskaval cheese varieties of Tulum or the Tulum with herbs that can be found in Ankara.
Most of the cheeses of the West have not only a counterpart in Turkish dishes but often a whole variety of similar cheeses. There is something quite similar to a mild Feta cheese. It is a briny cheese called Beyaz peynir, meaning “white cheese” and ranges in styles from fresh all the way to aged, which has quite a strong flavor. The varieties within this class vary according to the source of the milk, the region it comes from, and the production methods used to make it, (classic or cultured.). Two such examples are Thrace or Ezine.
It is usually eaten plain as part of a traditional Turkish breakfast, included in salads, or cooked in menemen, börek, and pride.
Another whole category of cheeses is Cökelek, which is dried cottage cheese. Some are eaten preserved, and some fresh. Some are stored in pottery jars, some in goatskin bags, or sun-dried, with each method of storage affecting the flavors.
Any cheese you can think of from Europe or the West has at least one counterpart in Turkish dishes. Turkey’s version of cheddar is called Kasar, which is found all over Turkey. It is a sheep cheese made in a whole variety of styles. Two popular types are Thrace and Kars.
There is a Turkish version of Parmesan found in most Turkish kitchens called kelle peyniri or mihalic peyniri. It is a hard sheep milk cheese that comes from Bursa province.
A yogurt-an Institution in Turkish Dishes.
In many parts of the West, yogurt is starting to gain popularity as a versatile and delicious part of a healthy diet. In Turkish cuisine, yogurt has been an essential part of the Turkish diet for 1000 years. In fact, the English word actually comes from the Turkish word. Yogurt often takes on roles in Turkish dishes that it does not in the West. For example, it often accompanies many meat dishes (kebabs, köfte), vegetable dishes like fried eggplant, spinach and mincemeat, and many other dishes.
Many foods are made with yogurt, including pastries, cakes, and soups. There are even solid foods made from dried yogurt called kes and korut. Yogurt is also the main ingredient in one of the most popular drinks in Turkish cuisine, ayran. For anyone who hasn’t tried ayran with a frothy head of foam doesn’t know what they are missing.