i while back, when we were talking about my trip to turkey and how to make homemade yogurt i mentioned a drink called ayran.
since then i’ve come to make this slightly salty, refreshingly sour beverage about every other day. if you’ve not had one before, the taste will be out-of-the-ordinary upon it’s first unfamiliar wave across your tongue. don’t be fooled. it has the means to capture you – as simple, salty, and deeply nourishing as the aegean sea.
in the heat of our turkish travels, we enjoyed it glassed in fancy hotels, deep onto highways in roadside stalls set beneath the dueling smokes of grilled lamb and flatbreads. we picked it up in grocery stores, plastic wrapped in single-sized containers, their peel away tops adorned with swirly letters. we drank and loved them all, with their varying degrees of thickness, sour and salt.
and so i make them. and i think of turkey, and by variation, india, and even places i have never been. salted yogurt drinks have been nourishing peoples around the world since, it seems, the beginning of time (or at least since that shepherd left that goat milk sitting around too long in that skinned pouch on his travels).
salted yogurt drinks
making an ayran couldn’t be simpler. for convenience, i like to make mine in a pint sized jar. fill the jar half with yogurt and the other half with very cold water. give it a good pinch of salt – you’ll find the exact amount that works for you after a few tries. seal the jar tightly and shake vigorously. enjoy it right from the jar (i do) or pour into a glass.
even though it’s arguably been said that the turks invented the drink, others around the world have been in on the good merits of salted yogurt drinks for aeons. there’s persia, armenia, pakistan, india, syria, afghanistan, the balkans…i could go on.
instead, i’mma give you these:
if you happen to be sitting down at a table in rural persia anytime soon, hopefully you will be surrounded by pistachio trees, and probably you will be served a friendly glass of doogh with your midday meal. by the slim chance you’re not (in persia, at a table, nutty trees surrounding, drinking doogh) you can easily make it by repeating the steps for the ayran above. this time add a pinch of black pepper and/or a scant teaspoon of either dried crushed mint or dried crushed oregano. here’s what i love about the persian doogh - this part is for the daring westerner, so please try this once you get your palate whet for salted yogurt drinks: traditionally it’s left at room temperature for 2-3 days to let the ferment go all bubbly, until it taste slightly carbonated! remember then, to put it in the fridge to chill before drinking. doogh can be ‘with or without gas’ – maker’s choice.
last one from india – my home away from home. i know you know about the sweet lassi – the kind with mangos, sugar, et. al. but that is not the half of it. in fact the real definition of lassi is for the salted kind. lassis are traditional to the pakistan region, and the punjab state in the north of india, where buffalo milk flows like wine. its served either plain like the ayran above, or frequently with a hefty pinch of toasted and then ground cumin. a pinch of cayenne pepper and dried mint is sometimes added too. fresh cilantro, fresh ginger, and green chiles can also be used. it’s best to use a blender if adding any of these.
when using spices, go light as salted yogurt drinks are meant to be refreshing, and good for the digestion. you want to feel the soothing effects, and taste the gentle tang of dairy, not be knocked down heavy by the spice.
i love all the variations, and i like to experiment; a grind or two of nutmeg, a spot of toasted fennel. sometimes a little less than half water, sometimes a little more. if you find you develop a taste for salted yogurt drinks the possibilities are endless!
one last thing and then i gotz to go: i use yogurt most often just because i make it weekly. but cultured buttermilk will do just as nicely. in fact it more closely resembles the buffalo ‘curd’ used to make north indian lassis. it’s worth trying them both for variation.
ps: the winner of the tart and sweet give-away is liz from grasshopper handmade. liz, please contact me via email to receive your prize.