Ayran is a highly appreciated and much-loved yogurt drink in Turkey, and if you’ve ever visited there, then you will probably have seen it everywhere, especially served with kebabs. Its present-day popularity goes back a long time into Turkish history when it was considered a delightful drink by the nomadic Turks of the Central Asian region.
Early on, these nomads discovered how to make yogurt much more pleasing to the palate, and far less bitter than its natural, cultured milk taste. Simply by diluting it with a little water and introducing a touch of salt, the very popular ayran was born, and it has survived practically unchanged for many centuries since then. Even though very few changes to the underlying mixture have occurred during all that time, in the thousands of years since its discovery, it has been flavored in many different ways. It has also become extremely popular in Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, the Balkans, and Azerbaijan, as well as its birthplace in Turkey.
Modern Ayran Preparations
Unlike the way yogurt is served in the Western world, i.e., with sugar, nuts, and berries, yogurt in Turkey is served pretty much plain, and frequently as part of a typical savory meal, without any of the extra Western touches. Ayran is also consumed as a stand-alone treat, very often during the very warmest days of summer. It is available from a great many vendors in the marketplace, but many people prefer to make their own version of it because it’s simple to prepare, it can be a thirst-quenching relief, and also because many people have developed their own favored versions of the drink.
When you’re making ayran, the way it turns out will be almost completely dependent on what kind of yogurt you are using. Ideally, it should be fresh, high-quality yogurt, which can be purchased from many vendors. If you choose to make the yogurt yourself, it’s not hard to do at all, and most people think it tastes better than the ready-made versions sold in stores.
Generally speaking, slightly runny yogurt is preferable for making ayran, as opposed to Greek yogurts which tend to be of a thicker consistency. It is possible to use the thicker Greek yogurts if that’s what you prefer, although you’ll probably have to add more water to achieve the right consistency for making ayran.
Plain or Foamy?
The ayran which is usually served and sold in most kebab restaurants has a layer of foam on top, with lots of air bubbles that are plainly visible. In fact, it’s these air bubbles which many Turks take great delight in, considering them the best feature of the whole concoction. Unfortunately, it’s challenging to duplicate this foam-and-bubbles topping on your homemade ayran mixture, unless you’re prepared to go through a lot more steps and a lot more preparation. There are also some additional ingredients you will have to purchase. One of the things that helps produce that desired foaminess is sparkling water, but that’s not always available, and it can alter the flavor of the ayran as well. Many traditionalists prefer plain ayran, although even they like to add in either fresh mint or some dried mint. These can be mixed right into the ayran itself or can be added as a garnish when thoroughly prepared.
Ingredients for Preparing Ayran
Keep in mind that this ingredient list is the bare-bones version of simple ayran yogurt and that if there’s any other way you care to add flavor or change the consistency, you’ll have to determine those personal tastes on your own. To make the traditional Turkish yogurt drink, you will need only the following:
- 300 mL of natural yogurt
- 300 mL of very cold water
- enough salt to accommodate your own taste
Traditional Method of Preparing Ayran
Add the yogurt, most of the water, and a touch of salt into a blender. A good starting point for the salt would be 1/4 teaspoon, but if you find that this is too much or too little, you can change that the next time you make your ayran.
Blend all these together until you see that there’s a little foam which has developed on the top of the mixture. This should take about one minute, but if you want more foam, then you can blend for a bit longer. At this point, you should check for the level of salt, and add more if you feel that it’s warranted.
If you feel the consistency isn’t quite right, you can add in either more yogurt or more water to get closer to the consistency that you prefer. When you reach this stage, the yogurt is basically fully prepared, so if you have any other additions you care to add to the mixture before serving, now is the time. If you’re not adding anything else, you can serve the ayran yogurt immediately, while it is still at its coldest.