Istanbul’s famous pickle shops
A lot of pickle shops used to be in side streets of Istanbul in the good old days when viscera were bought from offal shops, desserts from pastry shops and pickles from pickle shops.
Now you can count the pickle shops on one hand. We knocked on the doors of surviving pickle shops. When the summer season ends and the schools are opened a variety of colorful pickles are exhibited in pickle shops. Varying from cabbage to cucumber, green pepper to sugar beet, delicious-tasting pickles are prepared as soon as they are harvested from gardens and farms. Preparation process starts as soon as schools are closed and goes on during the whole summer and when September comes pickles are in the shops for sale. Pickles, which were the ornaments of Ottoman cuisine for many years, have an important role in our kitchen. For centuries pickles have been prepared both by housewives and the pickle shop owners. It is often said that pickles utilize the excess production of vegetables and fruits, and in addition to make seasonal vegetables available year round. Its history is as old as the usage of salt and vinegar. A lot of pickle shops used to be in the side streets of Istanbul in the past when viscera were bought from offal shops, desserts from pastry shops and pickles from pickle shops. Having been located especially around Cemberlitas, Laleli and Fatih suburbs, these pickle shops couldn’t survive because of hard financial conditions that came with competition. Old pickle shops like Cemberlitas Tursucusu (pickle shop), Tursucu Sukru (Sukru the Pickle Seller) and Meraklı Tursucusu (Meraklı Pickleshop) have closed down. But there are still surviving pickle shops that continue their historical profession. Ozcan Tursuları in Kadıkoy’s Fish Market, Soydan Tursuları across from the Beşiktaş Fish Market, Uludağ Tursuları in Fatih and Pelit Tursuları in Kurtulus are some of these. We knocked on their doors one by one, sharing our thoughts and feelings about pickles. We asked each of them the question: how is the best pickle prepared? With lemon juice or with vinegar?
Petek Tursulari is run by Halil Arı of Konya origins, and has been serving the Beyoglu Fish Market for 35 years. He used to be a partner of Pelit Tursulari, now he is continuing his profession alone. Kadir Topbas, Çetin Atlan, Mehmet Agar, Bulent Ersoy, Sibel Can, Ata Demirer are famous customers of this shop. In addition to classical pickles, egg, mushroom, plum, okra, apple, pomegranate, corn and melon skin pickles are his specialties. Halil Bey (Mr.Halil) tells us that pickles can be made both with vinegar and lemon juice, plus the salt. For example, with gherkin, tomato and Cengelkoy-type cucumber pickles both vinegar and lemon juice are used. But for cabbage and green pepper pickles only salt should be added. Since they are preparing pickles in terms of tons Halil Bey says that it is not possible to obtain the same taste in house preparation and he advises housewives who want to prepare their own pickles at home to use only salt and adds: “They don’t need to prepare it by themselves. I invite them to buy from us’’
Ozcan Tursuları (Pickleshop) is one of the oldest shops in Kadikoy’s Fishmarket. Established in 1956 and having been run by three brothers that inherited this profession from their father after long years of being his apprentices. The oldest one of three brothers, Bahattin Bey, tells us that once upon a time in Kadikoy, Hakkı Usta (Master Hakkı) and Mardif Usta (Master Mardif) used to be the best pickle shop owners in Kadıkoy. In this shop, there are even 6-7 types of pepper pickles- plus banana peppers, thin green peppers, Albanian peppers and others. For the preparation of the pickles, both lemon juice and vinegar can be used but the one prepared with lemon juice is for summer. Especially Cengelkoy-style cucumber should be made with lemon juice, tomatoes with a little vinegar and the carrot without either vinegar or lemon juice. Since cabbage changes color, vinegar is never applied- only salt is added. In the past, young and raw grape pickles used to be prepared in earthenware jars and were buried in the soil in gardens for protection. He insists that homemade pickles will not taste as good as his and he adds: “I can not cook as well as a housewife and the housewives can not prepare pickles as good as I do”. Pickles are prepared from fruit and vegetables that are specially grown for pickle preparation. Therefore, pickles can and should not be prepared from the fruit and vegetables that are bought from green grocers, especially not from the ones grown in greenhouses.
Soydan Tursuları (Pickleshop) has been serving for four generations in its shop located across from Besiktas Fishmarket. Cetin Bey has been running his business for eight years. When the family migrated from Karabuk to Istanbul, they started their pickle profession in Ortakoy, and then they moved their shop to Besiktas. As their specialties, they have pickles made from peach, young and raw melon, plum and cauliflower. They prepare sweet pickles made to customer specifications. The reason for that is the expiry date of sweet pickles is shorter than the standard ones because when the salt and vinegar is added to sweet pickles it turns sour more rapidly. Soydan brand pickles have foreign customers from Germany and United Kingdom. Famous customers of Soydan pickles are Arif Susam, Mustafa Erdogan, Tugba Ozay, Ahu Turkpence and the football players of Besiktas Football Team. Çetin Bey tells us that the pickles that can survive a very long time during the winter season but must be consumed in a maximum of one month in the summer season. In natural pickles, the top surface of the container contains a special layer that is formed by the passing time and it is called kaymak (cream). This layer formation does not cause the pickles to be ruined, it is only the salt inside the mixture that has floated to the surface. Therefore mixing the top layer of the pickle jar with a spoon is recommended.
Uludag Pickleshop, serving since 1950-1955 , is one of the oldest surviving pickleshops of the Fatih district, and is located in Yavuzselim Street. This is the second generation of pickle makers and they follow the master and apprentice tradition. With the arrival and growth of supermarkets in the pickle market, pre-packed pickles have been started to be preferred by consumers and their sector has been weakened, says Mehmet Gokkaya. He adds that there is a great difference between the tastes of their pickles and the ones prepared in factories. Ready-made ones are pasteurized and are prepared in a single day. In the factories, the vegetables are prepared in boiling water and placed in vinegar, quickly becoming pickles, but the pickles prepared by Uludag need at least one month preservation. Uludag Tursuları receives different types of vegetables and fruits from different cities. They buy their vegetables from Izmir, Afyon, Tekirdag and Bursa. In the pickles, they apply vinegar for the pickle preparation but he adds onşy the amount of lemon juice that is requested by the customer. The recipe for the preparation of cabbage pickle:
Cabbage Pickle: Cabbage is one of the easiest vegetables for pickle preparation. Approximately 1 kilogram of cabbage is sliced. To one liter of water add 800 grams of rock salt. And upon your wish one fistful of chickpea can be added.
Pelit Tursuları has been running since 1968 in the main street of Kurtulus. The preparation site of the pickles used to be in Eyup-Nisancılar, but since the climate and water were more suitable, they moved the preparation site to Gedelek Village. Metin Kurucay has been working for Pelit Pickleshop that has dealer shops in Kocamustafapasa, Ferikoy and Besiktas for approximately 10 years. Run and presented by Oktay Pelit, in Pelit Pickleshop there are 35 types of pickles. Okra, cauliflower, apple, pear and watermelon pickles are their specialities. Metin Bey tells us that pickles are to be consumed in a shorter time period are prepared with lemon juice and the ones that need longer are prepared with vinegar. Stating that Cemil İpekci, Bülent Ersoy and Savas Ay are some of their famous customers, he adds that the day after a movie named Neseli Gunler (Happy Days) was on TV a lot of people rushed into their shops to buy pickles. Today the traditional way to prepare pickles is slowly dying. Hypermarkets, delicatessen and the cheap pickles prepared in factories are the main reasons for that. But for the followers that have the taste of true pickles prepared with totally natural ingredients, pickle shops will survive.
Cucumber pickles from Haci Abdullah Restaurant
Located on a side street near the Aga Camii (Mosque) on Istiklal Street, Hacı Abdullah restaurant has been operating since 1888 and is one of the most famous restaurants in Istanbul. This restaurant is famous for its Ottoman Cuisine, which is represented in its shop window, and serves marvelous types of pickles to its customers. They prepare their own pickles with the vegetables they have been purchasing from the same supplier for approximately 70 years. From cardoon to oak acorn, gherkin and eggplant, they have various kinds of pickles. Being in the restaurant sector for more than 45 years, Abdullah Bey tells us that there used to be very famous pickle shops in every suburb of Istanbul in the past. Şükrü in Carsıkapı and Tahir in Besiktas are the pickle shop owners he remembers immediately. Abdullah Bey insists that the taste of the pickles that our mothers used to prepare at home can never be replaced by the shop pickles and told us the formula of preparing the type of pickle that we couldn’t get at the other pickle shops.
Cucumber pickle: 1 kilograms of cucumber is washed. 750 grams of vinegar, a number of garlic cloves are then added. Considering the season, leaves of celeriac or if not available some parsley can be added. After you add a fistful of chickpeas, 400 to 450 grams of rock salt is added and the cap of the glass jar is closed. After waiting for 15 to 20 days, the pickle is ready to be served.