Turkish Ice Cream huh?? There’s nothing more satisfying than an ice-cream cone on a hot summer’s day; it’s true bliss.
History of Turkish Ice Cream
- But to fully appreciate ice cream, we should try to imagine what summers were like in the days before refrigeration and modern ice cream machines, So let’s take a look at the fascinating history of ice cream in Turkey, beginning with the ice itself.
- At one time, it was almost impossible to get one’s hands on the ice, or any chilled food or drink for that matter, in the heat of summer ice (in the form of snow) could be harvested during the winter, or, in the warmer months, collected from high up in the mountains.
- From there, it was transported to towns and cities, wrapped in layers of felt and straw,
where it was stored in underground chambers called “snow wells“ or “ice houses” In Istanbul (or Constantinople, as it was known then), storing snow for the summer months required meticulous planning and a lot of hard work.
- The Ottomans were obsessed with cold drinks, sherbets, and chilled desserts, thus ensuring a steady demand for ice.
- During the imperial period, snow harvesting and ice delivery were serious professions that functioned under the auspices of the Karhane-i Amire, roughly translated as the “Royal Snow Authority” Istanbul had several sources of snow, including the city itself.
Preservation of Turkish Ice Cream in the ancient period
- Whenever it snowed the frosty white powder was hastily shoveled into snow wells and compressed.
- It was then covered over with multiple layers of insulation to prevent melting.
- This way, snow could be preserved well into the warmest days of summer.
- Another reliable source for snow was the Gemlik region near Katurli Daği, not far from the southern coast of the Sea of Marmara.
- From here, however, it was a long journey to Istanbul Snow would be gathered in early spring from the hills south of the Marmara Sea.
- It was then brought to the port of Mudanya, where it was temporarily stored in ice houses before being transported to the capital The purest ice was cut from the frozen lakes of Uludağ, the ancient Mount Olympus, in Bursa.
Transportation of Turkish Ice Cream
- Transportation was always done at night, with the ice being delivered to merchants or wealthy households early the following day.
- Carriers would be sure to remain on the shadier side of the streets so as not to lose any of their precious cargo Once delivered, the snow was stored in cool basements or cellars, covered with straw, hay, sackcloth or thick sheets of felt.
- In this way, it could be kept for months, and carved into chunks to chill food and beverages when needed.
- Wealthier households used special glass-blown flasks (karik) that had pockets, in which lumps of ice could be put to cool beverages without diluting them.
- These devices also prevented contamination from ice that had been stored for long periods of time.
- There are also accounts of ice blocks being carved into bowls, in which fruit could be
chilled before serving to guests.
Conversion of Ice to Turkish Ice Cream
Crushed ice and snow weren’t only used to chill beverages and desserts. It was also used to make ice cream-or dondurma as it’s known in Turkish.
Metal buckets filled with all the components of ice cream would be placed inside wooden barrels filled with crushed ice or snow mixed with saltpeter to bring the temperature to below the freezing point.
The contents of the buckets were beaten and churned until the mixture achieved the right consistency.
Varieties of Turkish Ice Cream flavor
When talking about Turkish ice cream, one must be sure to differentiate between fruit-based and milk-based varieties.
- Generally, fruit-based ice creams don’t contain milk or cream, making them similar to sorbet, which exemplifies the Aegean tradition of fruity desserts centering around shaved ice.
- Favorite flavors include lemon (Limon), sour cherry (uisne), black mulberry (karadut),
muskmelon (kavun), apricot (kayst), peach(seftali), and strawberry (çlek).
- The latter flavor was sometimes made with the addition of cream, but this innovation came considerably later.
- It can be argued, therefore, that traditional fruit-based ice creams were originally a variety of sorbet.
- Milk-based ice creams, by contrast, typically contain kaymak, thick-clotted buffalo milk cream.
- Aside from this, however, they generally don’t contain eggs, cream, or other emulsifiers, with the sole exception of salep.
- Salep is a starchy substance obtained by boiling, drying and powdering tubers of certain wild orchid flowers.
- Due to its mucilaginous properties, it is used as a thickener in traditional Turkish ice cream, to which it lends a chewy, stretchy texture.
- It also helps to forestall melting. Salep is also a very popular winter drink. Served piping hot, it has been described as “eggnog without the egg.”
- The inclusion of salep gives body to the milk; without it, ice cream would be more like a milk sorbet.
- Most ice-cream vendors resort to selling hot salep during the wintertime.
KARSAMBAC : Anatolia Grantia
- When we examine the origins of fruity ice creams, we must return again to the mountains.
- Back then, one who gathered snow was known as a karcı.
- The luxury of having access to snow or ice during the summer wasn’t confined to the capital: towns and villages across Anatolia enjoyed their share of the frosty commodity from the nearby mountains.
- Especially in the Aegean and Mediterranean regions, a favorite treat, still sold in local markets today, is karsambaç, which can be described as a prototypical form of ice cream.
- Its origins trace back to kar helvasi(snow halwa), a rural Anatolian wintertime treat consisting of pure snow drizzled with grape or white mulberry molasses or honey.
- Karsambaç resembles a modern slushie, or a grainy sorbetto, not unlike a Sicilian granita and it always pulls a crowd when hawked by street vendors.
- A large block of ice is placed on a stand, while a range of fruit sherbets (syrups) in flasks are displayed.
ICE Fusion: Where Kaesambac meets BICI BICI
- The Alaf Restaurant’s Chef Deniz Temel is of Yörük origin.
- His family hails from Anamur, between the Taurus Mountain Range and the Mediterranean.
- Karsambaç is still a popular tradition during Anamur’s hot summer months The Yörüks, a nomadic people once carried blocks of ice -by mule-from the mountains to the coastal settlements below.
- lce is now delivered by truck, but the tradition remains as popular as ever Chef Deniz offers his own take on karsambaç, which he combines with Adana’s bici bici, successfully fusing two Mediterranean summer favorites.
- Unique to Adana, bici bici consists of milk-pudding cubes topped with pyramids of shaved ice and generous drizzling of red syrup.
- The chef’s version involves an elaborate performance in which he shaves the ice over a custard cream, to which is added a fruity compóte-the the perfect antidote to the heat and humidity of summer.
- The karsambaç vendor lures passersby with distinctive chants while rattling a metal tong against the flasks.
- Upon receiving an order, the vendor swiftly shaves off some of the ice, stults it in a cup, pours one’s choice of sherbet all over it, and hands it with a spoon to the eagerly awaiting customer.
- A favorite flavor is black mulberry syrup. especially in Tire Market [???), one of Turkey’s most remarkable marketplaces, where the black mulberries are legendary.
- The exquisite dessert also illustrates how sherbet gradually evolved into sorbet. We
can read accounts by foreign travelers of the time who describe the process in considerable detail.
- French botanist Pierre Belon, for example, who lived in Turkey from 1546 to 1551, provides excellent descriptions of Turkish ice houses, expressing the hope that the concept might be introduced to France.
- He also wrote fondly of the many sherbets he sampled made from fresh and fragrant fruits of all kinds.
- “The sherbet-maker mixes snow or ice with them, to cool them, for otherwise there would be no pleasure in drinking them,” Belon wrote.
- Similarly, German physician and botanist Leonhart Rauwolff, who traveled in Syria and southeastern Turkey from 1573 to 1576, described the delectable sherbets and baskets of snow-sold in the local bazaars that he visited.
- At the end of the day, the line between sherbet, karsambaç. granitas and sorbets (not to mention the modern-day slushiel is quite blurry.
- The relative size of the ice particles involved is important, often determining whether the dessert in question should be eaten with a spoon or simply guzzled down although countless satisfied customers have no doubt done both.
MASTIC: The secret ingredient of Turkish Ice Cream
One important ingredient of Turkish milk-based ice cream is mastic, the chewy resin of a certain variety of pistachio trees.
- Some attribute the chewy quality of Turkish ice cream(especially the celebrated Maras
kind) to the inclusion of mastic.
- This, however, is not the case. Rather, mastic is used to enhance the flavor of milk-based desserts. It is salep that gives Turkish ice cream its particular texture by preventing large ice crystals from forming (along with the ice-cream maker’s practice of vigorously pounding the mixture).
- The Turkish word for mastic is sakiz, which also means chewing gum-this goes some way in explaining the confusion.
- In the old days, people would chew mastic resin mixed with beeswax, a prototypical version of modern-day chewing gum.