Traditional Foods of Trabzon
Dr. Mustafa Duman
The traditional culinary culture of Trabzon province exhibits differences in nearly every district. For this reason any work that aims to include all the districts would have to be quit voluminous. Here, we will address the foods of Trabzon the amount of space practical for an article, usually preferring definitions and short descriptions to detailed recipes.
Today, well known foods made throughout Turkey such as pilafs, vegetable dishes and various meat dishes are made in Trabzon as well. As they are well known, I have not included them in this article; instead, I have concentrated on the foodstuffs and dishes unique to the Trabzon region, most of which are no longer made and almost forgotten. In recent years, easy-to-prepare, practical dishes have become popular everywhere, and local dishes are gradually being forgotten. In this article I’ve tried to identify some of these dishes.
The dishes for which no source person is shown are those which I’ve collected and observed myself. Sources of quotations are provided in the footnotes. The basis for this article is one of my previously published articles, “Traditional Culinary Culture in Trabzon-Maçka between 1950-1960.”1
Breads and Pides
The following breads and pides baked in Trabzon and its provinces:
Beyaz Ekmek: This bread is made from top-quality flour. Large loaves are round and small ones are oblong. It used to be made in stone ovens; nowadays it is produced in electric ovens.
Vakfıkebir Ekmeği: This bread, produced in Vakfıkebir and Beşikdüzü, as well as in Maçka – Hamsiköy, ranges from 450 gr to 7.5 kilos in weight. It is known nearly everywhere in Turkey as “Vakfıkebir” or “Trabzon” bread. In addition to Trabson, it is especially produced in small towns along major highways. It is baked in a wood-fired stone oven, and is leavened with natural sourdough. Vakfıkebir bread is flavorful, has a long shelf life, and does not mold easily. When it goes stale it is still good. During recent years, companies producing Vakfıkebir bread have opened in large cities such as Istanbul and Ankara. As it’s cooked in stone ovens, it is also known as “Stone oven” (Taşfırın) bread. In some areas it is mistakenly called “wood bread” (odun ekmeği); what is meant is that the oven is wood-fired. A “Vakfıkebir Bread Festival” is held each year for the purpose of promoting this bread domestically and abroad.
Harcı Ekmek: This bread was made from second-grade flour. As the bran was not removed from the wheat before milling, the flour and consequently the bread, was brown. It was baked in rounds; today it is no longer produced.
Ramazan Pidesi: Produced especially during the month of Ramadan, this soft bread is made from white flour, and is brushed with an egg wash before baking.
Lavaş: Also made mostly during Ramadan, this bread differs in that it was made larger and thinner, with no egg wash. Today lavaş is made in very limited amounts.
Pide (butter, egg, cheese, ground meat, sucuk): These are the pides well-known today as “Trabzon pidesi.” The one known as yağlı pide is generously topped with butter before baking. The yumurtalı (egg) pide is the same with the addition of an egg, which is generally broken onto the dough and spread without much mixing. Peynirli pide is topped with a local cheese called “kolof cheese,” which resembles young kashar or mozzarella. (The name “kolof” here refers to a type of bread which this cheese outwardly resembles.) Ground meat and sucuk pides are less common. In Trabzon, as well as large cities such as Istanbul and Ankara, there are bakeries that produce this pide exclusively.
Home-Baked Breads and Pides of the Trabzon Region
Fırın Ekmeği (“oven bread”): Up until only 30 years ago some homes had their own stone ovens, especially those in villages near the towns. Large families met their bread needs with homemade bread baked in these ovens. The dough was either of cornmeal or a blend of corn and wheat. Those in the higher villages also made bread from barley flour. Those without their ovens would bake their bread in the neighbors’ ovens. Excess bread was baked into peksimet, a hard rusk, and stored; when it was to be eaten, it was softened in hot water. As families are smaller today, these ovens are no longer used, and peksimet is no longer made at all.
Ocak Ekmeği (“hearth bread”): Smaller families in the Trabzon region met their bread needs by baking “hearth bread” in the hearths of their homes. The first step was to heat the stone on the bottom of the hearth by lighting a fire. Then a raised dough made from corn, wheat or combined flour was shaped into a loaf and placed over chestnut leaves which were spread over the stone, and covered with a convex griddle. Fire was also lit on top of the griddle. The finished bread was then eaten fresh.
Pilekide Ekmek (“bread on the pileki”): In the old days, in the areas of Of and Çaykara especially, bread was baked in a wide vessel either hewn from soft stone or made of clay, called a pileki. The Pileki was inverted over the fire, supported on a three-footed pedestal, and heated, or put into the oven. When hot, it was filled with a corn meal dough, which was usually unleavened. The pileki was then covered with a sac, or convex griddle and the bread was baked by lighting a fire over the griddle.2
Bread Made in Wood Stoves with Ovens: The wood burning stoves used for heating throughout Turkey are known as soba. In the Trabzon region, sheet-metal sobas equipped with ovens are most popular. In order for the soba to burn efficiently and bake the bread well without smoking required good craftsmanship on the part of the soba maker. These sobas are used to heat the house as well as to bake bread, pide and sweets, and potatoes, as well as for boiling water, roasting hazelnuts etc. Bread baked in these ovens in round baking dishes known as kıylı met the family’s daily bread needs.
In the villages of Trabzon, hearths in either the center or one end of the kitchen were used to heat the home as well as to bake bread and cook. These hearths included a three-legged stand for the convex griddles known as sac, which are heated on this stand with fire underneath. Bread made from a leavened wheat or corn dough, rolled out to pide thickness and cooked on both sides on such griddles is known as bazlama. Bazlama is eaten hot spread with butter.
Tava Pidesi: Literally “frying pan pide,” this bread is made of leavened corn or corn-wheat dough and made in wide frying pans known as dönme tavası (lit. “flipping pan”). First the pan is heated on the iron stand, and in it, vegetable oil is heated. The dough is then rolled out to pide thickness and spread into the pan. After the bottom is browned, it is flipped in the pan with the help of the lid, and the other side is browned. These pides were also made with the addition of hamsi, a local small sardine-like fish, and lames, a dish of chard and pinto beans mixed with sautéed onions.
Çirihta: These are small pides made from spoonfuls of thin flour batter. They are cooked in a pan on both sides, then eaten either plain or sprinkled with sugar. In other parts of Anatolia they are made from a thicker dough and known as “lokma.”
Ekmek Kızartması (“fried bread”): Bread made from either white or wheat dough bought from commercial bakeries is known as çarşı ekmeği (market bread). This bread is cut into slices, which are then spread with a mixture of egg and flour and fried in oil in the dönme tavası. This was also made of other types of bread.
Sade Fırın Pidesi (plain baked pide): In Trabzon’s villages, the first bread to be made when the oven was lit was pide, of dough that had been left to rise. These pides were round and thin, and eaten fresh.
Lamesli Pide: This is a type of filled pide made on baking day in the villages. First the filling, lames, is made by boiling pinto beans and chard, and adding to onions sautéed in the frying pan. The finished lames was spread over the surface of the pide dough, then covered with another layer of dough before baking. Lamesli pide are eaten hot.
Hamsi Bread and Pide: These are described in more detail in the section on hamsi.
Plain, Egg and Sweet Kolof: Small oven baked breads are known as kolof or kolot. These may be made plain, with egg in the middle, or with sugar. As children especially like these, they often were put into shepherds’ packs.
Milk and milk products hold a very important place as regards nutrition in the Trabzon area. Cow’s milk is the most used, but sheep’s milk is also used for yogurt and cheese. Goat’s milk is less used. The following products are made from milk:
Kaymak: Cream, obtained by pouring milk in to a large flat tray and allowing it to stand; it is then collected with a spoon. Those who have a large number of cows use a “milk machine” to separate the cream, by turning a crank. The remaining milk is fat-free and is used in the making of certain cheeses and a type of yogurt called imansız (lit. “faithless). Cream is used in the making of butter and used fresh in some dishes and sweets.
Ağuz: This is made from colostrum, milked from cows that have just calved, for three days. The colostrums is strained, lightly salted, and put into a vessel which is covered and lowered into boiling water, where it thickens. It is checked several times, and when it has thickened sufficiently, it is removed from the heat and put in a cool place to stand overnight. This solidified milk product is called ağuz. It is eaten with sugar.
Peynir (Cheese): Milk separated from its cream either by standing or by machine is heated in a large kettle, but not boiled. Rennet is added, and within an hour, the rennet acts, and the curd is separated from the whey. The whey is rich in protein and is given to children so that they will grow quickly. The curd is put into cloth bags and drained well. These small cheeses, the size of small loves of bread, are then removed from the bags. In Maçka this cheese is called kolof as it resembles small loaves of bread by the same name.
Telli Peynir (String Cheese): The string cheese from Trabzon that is sold in the markets of Istanbul is made as follows: Finished kolof cheese is put into boiling water and sprinkled with a little salt. After boiling for a time, it is removed from the hot water, and when it has cooled, it kneaded and pulled out into strings. These are hung on nails to dry, and cut into 5-15 cm lengths. It is then mixed with salted minci (yogurt cheese) and packed into tins. This is fresh string cheese, and it is eaten for breakfast. The tins were once sealed and buried in the ground, which allowed the cheese to be stored for long periods. As the cream was partially removed from the milk when the kolof cheese was made, it is not a full-fat cheese.
Minci (Yogurt cheese): To make minci, yogurt is churned and after the butter has been removed, the remaining ayran is boiled in a kettle, where it separates. The kettle is then removed from the heat, and the curd is removed with a ladle and put into a cloth bag, where it drains. Sometimes the bag is placed between two stones in order to speed the draining process. The resulting cheese is called minci. It is used for making böreks, and is also fried with butter and eggs for a type of mıhlama. Salted, it can be stored for long periods, and is used like nonfat cheese. In the old days, string cheese was buried in tins in the ground interspersed with minci for storage.
Yogurt: Cow or sheep’s milk is poured into a pot, and heated just to the point of boiling. It is then put into a vessel which may be ceramic or metal. When the milk has cooled to lukewarm, a bit of sour yogurt or new yogurt starter is added. The vessel is then covered, wrapped in order to retain its warmth, and left overnight with no disturbance of any kind. In the morning it has changed to yogurt. Sometimes, if the fermentation does not go right or it is not done correctly, it does not become yogurt; instead, a liquid called “hulando” is produced. This liquid cannot be eaten like yogurt but if churned, its butter will still come out. The ayran from hulando is of good flavor. Yogurt is added to various foods and soups, and also eaten with cut up fresh cornbread.
Butter: To make butter, cow or sheep’s milk is collected in a wooden storage vessel called a külek. When the amount is sufficient, it is put into a suspended barrel called a yayık and churned. After churning for some time the butter begins to separate into clumps. At this point the yayık is taken down and the butter/milk mixture is emptied into a pot. The butter, which collects on the surface, is removed with a spoon and put into a pan. When all the butter is collected, it is washed until the water flows transparent. This is unsalted butter, and is generally eaten with breakfast. If it is to be stored for long periods, it must be appropriately salted. Salted butter is used in cooking. The best known is that from Vakfıkebir; it is much sought-after in the area.
In Trabzon, butter, tereyağin Turkish, is also known as sari yağ (yellow fat/oil). The liquid that remains after the butter is removed is known as taze ayran, or “fresh” ayran, ayran generally being the term applied to yogurt thinned with water. In time it ferments and becomes sour ayran.
In the old days, in the Trabzon region, men attached a silver, vessel called a yağdanlık (butter vessel) to their waists. This vessel was covered with leather. Butter was stored in this box, and when needed, it was used as a Bu yağdanlıklarda tereyağı saklanır, yeri geldikçe yumuşatıcı olarak kullanılırdı.
Ayran: The buttermilk left behind when butter is separated from milk is called ayran. At the same time, the product made by thinning yogurt with water is also called ayran. In time, ayran sours; this is known as ekşi ayran. It is drunk as a cooling drink, and is also eaten with pieces of bread mixed in.
Yarma mısır çorbası (cracked corn soup): Once, corn was one of the basic staples in Trabzon, as it was in other cities of the East Black Sea. Known as mısır in Turkish, it is also known as lazut in the area.
Mısır yarması, or cracked corn, is made by breaking up the corn kernels in a special mill for that purpose. To make yarma soup, equal parts cracked corn and pinto beans (or dried cranberry beans) are cooked in water until they are soft. Yogurt or ayran is then added. The soup is cooked with no oil or butter; it can also be eaten cold.
Süt Çorbası (Milk soup): Equal parts milk and water are mixed, and cooked with bulgur. The resulting soup is served hot.
Koliva Çorbası: Koliva is boiled corn kernels. For koliva soup, equal parts of dried corn kernels and pinto beans are cooked together, then a bit of wheat flour, mint and pepper is added. When it is done, onion sautéed in butter is mixed in, and it is served hot.
Kendime Çorbası: Kendime is barley which has been pounded to remove its hull. In the old days, villages close to sea level raised wheat, mid-elevation villages raised corn, and those at high elevations raised barley. Barley flour was also baked into bread. After cooking in water, kendime is added to onions sautéed in butter and served hot.
Bulgur çorbası (Bulgur Soup): Onion is sautéed with butter and then water is added and brought to a boil. When it boils, bulgur is added and cooked till soft, sometimes with the addition of pinto beans. It is served hot. There is also a similar version with half water, half milk.
Kara Lahana Çorbası (Kale Soup): Kale soup is made during the winter. There is a saying among the people that until it has snowed on the kale, its leaves are bitter. The kale leaves are washed and chopped. They are then boiled in a kettle, and corn meal and pinto beans are added. When it is cooked, caul fat or margarine is added, and it is served hot.
Çayır Lahanası Çorbası (Wild Cabbage Soup): This soup is known in the high villages and summer settlements of Maçka.Çayır lahanasıis a wild plant that grows in the meadows during summer. It has broad leaves that resemble those of cabbage, but it is softer. These leaves are gathered and cooked similarly as for kale soup.
Lihciya çorbası: Lihciya is another wild plant. It grows in cultivated fields and has rosettes of leaves. These leaves are cooked with bulgur or rice as a vegetable soup. The soup is garnished with sautéed onions and served hot.
Kuru Fasulye Çorbası (White Bean Boup): This basically the same as the kuru fasulye cooked in other parts of the country, but with more water added. It is made either plain or with meat on the bone. Sometimes garlic is added. It is eaten hot.
Kaygana is a think pide, almost a crepe, made by mixing various leafy vegetables with egg and flour and frying them. The most common types made in the Trabzon region are:
Comara (Tomara) kayganasi: Comara, or Tomara, is Trachystemon, a wild plant in the borage family, with large heart-shaped leaves. It grows in wooded and wet areas. The leaves are gathered and washed, then chopped and boiled. The boiled leaves are mixed with corn flour. The resulting dough is rolled out think in a frying pan with oil. A batter of egg and cornmeal is poured over the top. After it is fried on both sides, it is put into the frying pan cover or a copper pan called a kıylı and brought to the table.
Chard and scallion kaygana: Chard leaves are boiled and then prepared as for Tomara kaygana. For scallion kaygana, first fresh scallions are chopped. They are made into a kaygana dough with no boiling and spread into the frying pan, and topped with the egg and cornmeal batter. After frying they are brought to the table hot in the frying pan cover.
Karbar yaprağı kayganası: Karbar is the name of a small tree, from 1-2 m in height, that grows in the Trabzon region. As it has a thick pith in its stems and branches, these are made into whistles and a popping toy called a patlangoç. Its leaves, about the size of peach leaves, are chopped and boiled, and made into kaygana as above.