Çerez Tarhana

Miscellaneous - Turkey

For about 250 years, Çerez tarhana has been produced in parts of western Turkey from a mixture of cracked wheat and yogurt. This traditional product arose from nomadic culture. When nomads were traveling from Domaniç to Muğla, they passed through the towns of cıpayam, Çavdır, Gölhisar, Yeşilova, Tefenni and Karamanlı in the provinces of Denizli and Burdur, and some people in these are still eating this snack today. There is even a saying in regards to this product: “Tarhana aşı tarlaya kadar, bulgur aşı öğleye kadar” (“Tarhana keeps you full until you arrive in field, bulgur keeps you full until noon.”) It means that life in the village starts early with tarhana and bulgur, which have always been typical poor or peasant foods of Anatolia.   Çerez tarhana is usually prepared with thick homemade goat’s milk yogurt or, if there is not enough goat milk to make yogurt, homemade cow’s milk yogurt can be also used. The highest quality wheat in the village is used for making çerez tarhana. First, wheat is washed with water and placed outdoors under the sun to make flour. Whole-wheat flour is cracked in traditional stone mills (taş değirmen.). The ground flour must be used within two days to prepare this tarhana. In some areas, producers also add çörek otu (a plant of the Nigella genus).  A large cauldron is filled with water, which is boiled. The whole-wheat flour is added and mixed until it has a thick consistency, and cooked down. Then, the dough is placed on to a cotton cloth and left to cool. The dough is then kneaded together with the yogurt and left ot rest again. The next day, the dough is formed into small balls and placed outdoors to dry. Çerez tarhana is prepared by the beginning of October as a winter food and usually eaten with walnuts or almonds as snack.   Producers make this tarhana for their own family use. Each home produces about 40 kg of çerez tarhana in a season. Some producers from village would like to sell it, but they do not have access to the market and this product is not well known by the potential customers. Younger generations do not want to prepare tarhana because it takes too much time, and so there is concern that there will be no one to continue this tradition. The populations of the villages where çerez tarhana is produced is in decline, and the culture of these villages is being lost. The people who move to cities do not have facilities to prepare this tarhana, and in cities there are many other options for snacks for sale as alternatives to tradional foods.