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Kayseri Province, Develi District: Examples of Traditional Cuisine

Hülya Yilmaz

In Kayseri Province, representatives of various different Turkish tribes lived together. As a result nearly every district of the province has its own unique culinary culture.

Develi is situated on a fertile plane at the foot of Mt. Erciyes. The climate and geography is suitable for animal husbandry, which has affected the development of local eating habits; pastırma and sucuk have a significant share in Develi’s economy. Grains and dry legumes also have an important place in the cooking of Develi. While in many parts of Anatolia bulgur is the main grain product, in Develi we see that flour-based foods are more consumed. Thus man, a ravioli-like dish, is a very common item in Develi cuisine. Mantı is prepared in several different ways, including boiling, frying in oil and baking in the oven. Every different type of mantı has its own name and way of folding. Cheese mantı is folded in a triangular shape while beli bükme (pinched waist) is made in a bow-tie shape; and üzengi mantı is folded over diagonally, and for oven-baked mantı, the dough is folded up vertically around the filling like a wall.

Another important group of foods is the various types of pide, which may be made with sucuk, tahini, pastırma, ground meat and cheese. This are among the favorite foods for holidays and other special occasions, as well as during the month of Ramadan.

One job that keeps the women of Develi very busy is winter preparations. Chief among these are the preparation of pastırma, sucuk, kavurma, hand cut noodles, grape and mulberry molasses, köfte, pickles and yufka bread, which is dried for winter use. Other jobs are the boiling and preparation of bulgur, gendime and kucu, and the drying of vegetables.

Customs and Traditions of Develi

Certain customs and traditions are unique to Develi. The mother’s mother has an important place in the family. The tradition of mutual aid and the sharing of work are notable. The people of Develi love guests, and present an excellent example of Anatolian hospitality.

A. Wedding Ceremonies and Foods

Wedding ceremonies are among the most important of the living traditions of Develi. Still to be seen in the district capitals of Develi and their surrounding villages, traditional wedding ceremonies take place in several stages. These include şerbet içme, çit yüzük, pırtı görme, düğün törenlerinin başlaması, kına gecesi, gelinbaşı, güveybaşı and gerdek gecesi, havala. 1

Şerbet içme (Drinking of sherbet): The groom sends dye for sherbets, cigarettes, cologne, pastries and candy for guests to the bride’s home. At the bride’s home, a drink called “şerbet” is prepared with water, sugar and sherbet dye, and served to the guests. In addition, a “şerbet sürahisi” (sherbet pitcher) is prepared for the groom and his friends. Two glasses are placed in a pan, and into the pans, two handkerchiefs. 1

Çit yüzük (Engagement): At the sherbet ceremony, it is decided what gold pieces (jewelry etc.) will be pinned to the bride, and the engagement gifts are bought. During the engagement ceremony, the ring is put on, and sherbet is also served. In addition, halvahs made from semolina and wheat starch are made. Nowadays the şerbet içme and the çit yüzük ceremonies are held at the same time. 1

Pırtı görme (Seeing the clothes): Before the wedding, all the things the marrying couple needs are bought. Their friends gather together to sew all the alman pırtıları in time for the wedding day.

A few days before the wedding day, a few people known as “okuyucu” (news givers/criers) go from house to house inviting those on a list they’ve been given. At every house they visit, they are given money, nuts and fruit.

Beginning of the wedding ceremonies: The wedding ceremonies last three days. The first day is usually Friday. A flag is flown on the roof of the groom’s house. Oranges, lemons and other fruits are hung on the flagpole. 1

After Friday prayers, the groom gives a feast for friends and family and the poor. This feast is called the “samak.” The samak includes dishes such as yahni, pilaf, baklava, okra, fruit compote (grape, apricot, plum), su böreği, salad and rice pudding.

Gelin başı (Preparation of the bride): On Saturday morning, a close friend of the bride comes and takes the bride to her home. There the relatives and friends of the bride gather and prepare her, and celebrate. 1

Kına gecesi (Henna night): Saturday afternoon the “henna night” begins, during which the bride’s hands are bound with henna. The women and men celebrate separately. The guests are served çerez (various nuts and dry fruits which here include roasted chickpeas, Russian olive fruits, raisins, peanuts and candies).

Gelin alayı (Bridal procession): Late Sunday morning the bridal procession comes to take the bride to the groom’s house. When she arrives at the house, her mother-in-law throws a clay pot from the roof of the house and breaks it, so that the bride will bring good luck to the home. When the bride comes to the door, her new mother-in-law spreads butter on the middle of her palm, and feeds her a spoonful of honey. This are done so that the bride’s tongue will be sweet and that she will be mild-mannered.

Güvey başı: On Sunday afternoon, the groom’s close friends take him to the hamam. Then they gather at one of their homes and celebrate with live music. Towards evening, there is a feast, which consists of soup, okra with meat, a vegetable dish made with in-season or dried vegetables, pilaf, compote, fruit and baklava. After the meal, the celebration continues. After the evening prayers, they take the groom home.

Havala: On Monday, a party is held at the grooms house for guests coming from his side of the family, and the mevlit is chanted. The bride serves yufka to the guests. The guests bring guests to the head of the wedding. These gifts are called “sungu” and the celebration is known as “havala.”

Funeral Ceremonies and Foods

Any time there is a death in a home, the relatives and close friends gather there. For 15 – 20 days, no food is cooked in that house; all food is brought by close friends and neighbors. They serve the people in the house and the guests, and help with the housework. They prepare three meals. Breakfast consists of cheese, olives, preserves, molasses, tahini, çörek, el böreği, muska böreği and bazlama. The midday and evening meals may include yahni, pilaf, mantı, su böreği, and various vegetable dishes and sweets according to the season. On the 40- and 50-day anniversaries of the death, the mevlit is read. After the mevlit, the guests are served, but today this meal has been replaced by simply a pide with ground meat called cıvıklı. 3

Bayram Meals

“Bayram” is the collective name for the two major holidays of Islam, the feast following Ramadan and the Feast of the Sacrifice. On the morning of the Bayram, the family gathers at an elderly relative’s house. Foods for Bayram include mantı, yahni, pilaf, an okra dish, su böreği, kavurma with apricots, and figs stuffed with walnuts. On the day before, people make börek and çöreks and distribute them to the neighbors and the poor. 3

Mevlid Dishes

The Mevlid is an Ottoman religious literary work recounting the life of the Prophet Mohammed, which is chanted for several special occasions. Traditionally a meal consisting of mantı, yahni, pilaf, vegetable dishes, baklava and su böreği was served, but today this has been replaced by easy-to-prepare cıvıklı, a pide with ground meat. 3.

Kandil Dishes

Kandils are holidays celebrated mostly in Turkey, which commemorate the five major events in the life of the Prophet: his conception, birth, inspiration with the Koran, his ascent to Heaven and his death. The foods served for Kandil include baklava, semolina halvah and a type of syrup-soaked cake based on yogurt. 3

Hamam Foods

Traditionally the weekly trip to the hamam, or Turkish bath, was a “women’s day out” and they made the most of it, packing food and staying for hours. Typical foods were dolma, pide with tahini and walnuts, börek, çörek and fruits. 3

Hidirellez Foods

Hıdırellez is a springtime holiday celebrated in several regions of Turkey. Typically families go on picnics, taking dolma and various types of pide, börek and çöreks. 3

Grape Harvest Celebrations, Boiling of the Grapes

The grape harvest begins in the autumn when the grapes have become quite ripe. It is usually begun on a Sunday. That day, the people gather in the vineyards to prepare for the harvest, preparing the fireplaces, roasting lamb and eating in celebration. After the celebrations, the first bunch of grapes is cut. The bunches of grapes are hauled in baskets to a flat part of the vineyard. The grapes are then taken to the şirahane, where they are crushed. The şira (must) and şif (pressed skins and stems) are separated. The must is then boiled in large cauldrons to make molasses. The molasses are used either thick or watered down in various dishes with eggplants, squash, apples and quinces. The must is also mixed with wheat starch and spices, and boiled into köfter. This thickened must is then spread over sheets to dry, and when it has dried, it is peeled off and placed in clay pots to ripen. The tops are sealed tightly, and after a time, a whitish sweet flour-like bloom indicates that it is ready. The same mixture is also used to coat strings of walnuts, and the resulting candy is known as köfter sucuğu or “köfter sausage.” The carrying out of all these jobs is known collectively as kaynatma, or simply “boiling.”

Making of Yufka Bread

Almost every home has enough bread made to meet the needs of the family. The bread is made in an area called the ekmek evi, literally the “bread house.” In the ekmek evi is a large tandır, or pit oven. The first preparation is to gather a pile of saçma (dried manure mixed with straw), and brush, which will be burned in the tandır.

Bread baking is a group effort, and the bread makers are known by different names including “hamurcu” (dough kneader), “evirici” (yufka cook), or “ekmekçi” (roller of yufka). The baking begins with the morning prayers, and if it continues until evening, it is called başlı ekmek. The flour required to prevent the dough sticking while it’s being rolled is called ura. On the day before the bread is to be baked, the hamurcu goes into the ekmek evi and kneads a large portion of dough, a topak. This sits overnight, and following prayers the next morning, the breadmaking begins. The ekmekçis eat fresh or dried fruit or nuts for energy and to dispel their sleep. The eviricis stack the finished bread in a flat basket next to them.

When the work is finished, the breadmakers are treated to a meal by the homeowner. When they leave, it is traditional for them to receive one lightly cooked, hot piece of yufka folded in fourths. 1

Cutting of Erişte - Noodles

The dough for noodles and erişte is made of flour, oil, eggs and water. After kneading into a stiff dough, it is divided into small balls. These are rolled out thin and left to dry somewhat. After they have dried and firmed up, they are stacked several at once and cut into 4-cm strips. These are then cut crosswise into 3-mm noodles, known as erişte. These are spread out to dry, and are then baked in the oven to harden. When the same dough is rolled and cut into 1 cm squares, it is called “makarna” (noodles/macaroni).

Cured Meat, Pastirma and Sucuk Making

The making of cured meat, pastırma and sucuk are major activities in Develi. The meat of a slaughtered animal is divided into pieces. One portion is cubed, and another portion is used for ground meat and pastırma. The cubed and ground meat are heavily salted and sautéed in their fat and put into containers to congeal. The product thus made from the cubed meat is called sızgıt. In addition to this, the internal and tail fat is rendered and stored for later use. The feet, head, stomach and bones of the animal are salted and dried.

The meat destined for pastırma is first salted, and stacked, then left for one night. The meat is then washed well and hung on hooks and left to dry without touching each other. The drying process takes 10-15 days. When the meat has turned dark red and firmed up, it is then put into a press to remove the salt and blood. After sitting one more day, it is then laid in çemen. Çemen is a mixture of red pepper, hot pepper, garlic and other spices, especially fenugreek. After lying in the çemen for 4-5 days, the pastırma is brought into the sun to dry further, and is ready to eat.

The ground meat prepared earlier is mixed with spices such as garlic, hot red pepper and cumin to make the stuffing for the sausages known as sucuk. The mixture is left to rest for at least one day, and is known as irişkilik. The irişkilik is then stuffed into the small intestine of a steer. This is twisted at intervals and left to dry. When they have partially dried, they are flattened by pressing with a rolling pin, and then left to dry completely. 1

Storage of Milk and Milk Products

Kış yoğurdu – Winter yogurt: The yogurt is drained of some of its water and a generous amount of salt is added. It is then put into containers and sealed with melted butter; when the butter has hardened it is stored in a cool place. Yogurt prepared this way can be used throughout the winter. This is usually made from sheep’s milk.

Durak peyniri – yogurt cheese: Well-drained yogurt is generously salted and put into a cloth bag, and the opening is twisted tightly. It is then hung in a breezy, shady place to dry. After it dries, it is sliced with a knife for serving.

Tulum peyniri – Animal skin cheese: Milk is curdled with rennet and then poured into cloth bags. After the liquid has dripped out, the curd is salted and cooked in a copper kettle. At this point the cheese becomes stringy. The curd is then packed into clay pots or animal skins. The mouth of the bag is placed on ashes and it is stored in a cool place.

Salamur peyniri – brine cheese: The fresh cheese is sliced and covered with salt, and left a night in a basin. It is then packed into containers with salt and water. 5

Kaymak, Kuru Kaymak – Clotted cream, dry clotted cream: Sheep’s milk is boiled, and poured into a broad basin. Two dowels are placed over the basin and this is covered with a thick piece of cloth. The basin is then placed on low heat to simmer and the cloth is lifted occasionally to ventilate. The cream rises to the top, after which it is allowed to cool and harden. It is then cut into strips.

As sheep’s milk is not available during the winter, the hardened kaymak is removed by inserting a long thin rolling pin called an oklava under the kaymak to remove it. This is left to dry. When it is to be used, the dry kaymak is sprinkled with milk.

Tereyağı – clarified butter: Butter is melted and heated, and a foamy brown substance forms on the top. This is called kef. The kef is removed with a slotted spoon and the clear oil that remains is salted and stored in a cool place. The kef is eaten for breakfast with the addition of cheese or eggs.

Storage of Vegetables and Fruits

Because of Develi’s climate and geography, fresh vegetables and fruits are not available throughout the year. For this reason, they are dried during the summer for winter use.

Vegetables: Okra is strung on threads, green beans are cut into several pieces or sliced, zucchini and eggplants are hollowed and strung, and “sivri” peppers and stuffing peppers are strung and dried as they are.

Fruits: apricots, plums, grapes and morello cherries are dried. 4


Bostan turşusu – watermelon pickles: Small unripe watermelons are washed well, then pierced all over and packed into glazed pots, which are then filled with vinegar, water and salt. The tops of the pots are sealed with vine leaves.

Pancar turşusu – beet pickles: Beets are washed and peeled, then sliced very thinly. After boiling, they are packed into glazed clay pots, covered with vinegar, water and salt and left to mature.

Gilaboru turşusu – pickled gilaboru: Gilaboru (Viburnum opulus) is a large shrub with cranberry-sized red fruit in clusters; it is also known as “European cranberry bush” though it is not related to true cranberries. For pickling, the berries are gathered when ripe, and packed into glazed pots. To these, 1 kg of wheat is added, and they pots are filled with water. The wheat ferments and pickles the fruits, which are used in the winter.


1. Ahmet Gürlek, Memleketim Develi (Develi, my Home), İzmir, 1975.
2. Doç. Dr. Neşet Arslan, Kayseri’nin Vatan Köyü’nde Yenen Yabani Bitkiler (Wild Plants Eaten in the Village of Vatan, Kayseri), 1985,


1. Dudu Yılmaz, 1954, grade school, housewife.
2. Asiye Yılmaz, 1960, grade school, housewife.
3. Ayşe Yılmaz, 83 years old, literate, housewife.
4. Hayriye Yılmaz, 56 years old, literate, housewife.
5. Memet Yılmaz, 48 years old, literate, farmer.

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