As many of you know by now, my neighbours own cows. Not a lot of them. Two neighbour couples. 4 cows. Total.
I am extremely lucky to be in their tight trading circle as there is not too much daily, fresh milk going around. More distant neighbours need to put orders in, but for me, luckily, there is always a litre or two.
Inflation has hit milk here. Firstly, the Turkish Lira dropped and the price of oil went up. All fuels went skyrocketing. Diesel, petrol, gas, oil. We all got touched. Consequently, every conceivable item you could possibly think to buy had a price hike and now it’s hit the milk. Even though no transport costs are involved with walking a litre of milk 50 metres to my door, they had to do it.
Before a litre of milk cost 2 tl but now it is 2.50 which is a 25% increase. It’s a little steep I have to say, but we decided long ago that it was very important to support the local community. One amazing thing that I love too, is the fact that I do not have to boil the milk. Yep, that’s right, it’s not pasteurised at any point. That’s our choice and we feel very comfortable with it. The dairy products I make are for our own personal consumption.
Both our neighbours care for their cows like babies. They guard every mouthful those cows eat. They will never go into fields if they think they have been polluted or sprayed in any way, but since we live so far away from anything anyway, it’s hardly an issue.
And so we drink raw milk. Once I learnt how much better it was for us. How much longer it kept in the fridge without spoiling. How much better my homemade cheeses would taste. How I did not have to add chemical additives in the cheese making process when I used raw milk, it was such a simple decision.
If there is a hint that their cows are not well, they will tell me. It’s a major subject for discussion – the health of their brew! May I mention here though, that if I need to buy fresh milk from the market, then I would always boil the milk.
And of course, from the milk, comes yogurt, cheese, butter and ayran (that salty drink).
BUT WEREN’T YOU GOING TO TELL US HOW TO MAKE BUTTER?
Where is this going you want to know? Well, I have wanted to know for a very long time, how they make butter. I knew it came from milk and I know about the old fashioned butter churns but in fact I have never seen it made and at last, was invited up to watch the process. I was quite fascinated because it was all much faster than I ever imagined and really not too difficult at all.
Mind you, without the machinery I would never bother doing it, but I certainly learnt a thing or two from seeing it made.
So here it is
HOW TO MAKE BUTTER
Gulay is my ‘Right at the Top of the Hill’ neighbour and has spent many hours teaching me various things and taking me on guided walks to show me edible ‘ot’ (weeds) etc. She always has a smile on her face and spends most of her time sharing the workload with her husband.
They are a really sweet couple. They cook together, they shepherd their cows together, the plant their vegetable patch together. I am not sure how common this is in Turkey, but I can say that it is exactly the same for our whole hill-top of 4 houses! Each couple works together in a very happy and dedicated manner. The neighbours are all related, (not in an inbred way!) so it’s quite honestly one big happy family.
Here she is churning 15kg of yoghurt, which she made directly in the churn the night before. Once it was set in the morning she could begin mixing it at high speed.
The butter has risen to the top quite quickly and she has now turned off the machine and is spooning it off and collecting it.
Gulay now has the butter in the pot and is continually pouring cold water onto the butter and stirring it hard, close to whipping it, squashing it, mashing it, working it, working it, working it.
Then she pours out the water and adds fresh mountain water. She repeats this process 10 times. She says she is getting out all the sour flavour from the butter and by washing it so many times, the butter will be able to stay fresh smelling and not have that sour, rancid smell that often occurs in Turkish butter a few days after purchase. This butter can keep fresh smelling for months in the fridge. She explains that many of the butter vendors are lazy and cannot be bothered to wash it as often as is necessary.
It may look like she is working in a dirty area, but actually this is her outside kitchen and she keeps it very clean and tidy. She has special shoes here and no animals are allowed to come near the area. The chooks adore the milky water and all hang around, waiting for it to drain down through the fence to them. Each time she makes butter, they seem to know before she even gets started.
Now the butter is made and she can empty the churn. What is left of the 15 kg of yogurt? Well, that is now ayran, ready for drinking. Just add salt! I was lucky enough to be given a bottle. It was very smooth and delicious. I was expecting it to be watery and lumpy but it was not and actually, on this occasion, we did not find it necessary to add salt either. It was quite delicious!
From this process, I now understand how butter is so much more expensive than the cooking cheeses or yogurt. From her 15 kg of yogurt, she would have been lucky to get a kilo of butter in the making. She did get about 14 litres of ayran, but that cannot sit around too long and needs to be drunk quite fast.
I hope you found this as interesting as I did. I enjoy very much writing about village life and love an excuse to annoy my Hill Top Neighbours. Any thoughts or questions regarding other processes etc will be warmly received and I will try my utmost to find answers for you.
The four Yaniklar cows having their last graze for the day before setting off back up the hill.
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