Homemade Tzatziki

wpid-CAM01832.jpgGrowing up in a Greek household, tzatziki was eaten somewhat regularly and always prepared by my mother fresh, never purchased pre-made.  My mother learned to make it from her mother and her from her mother and so on.  When I started taking a liking to cooking, my mother was eager to teach me, her son, to make tzatziki as well.

When I originally learned to make it, there wasn’t this explosion of Greek yogurt options available at  grocery stores like we see today.  At that time, the rest of the world had not yet caught on to the fact that yogurt in Greece tastes better.  My mother used Astro Balkan Style plain yogurt to make her tzatziki, as it was the closest in consistency and taste that she was used to.  That brand still exists today, and still works well for tzatziki.

Now, like almost any Greek recipe, there really isn’t a “recipe” that is readily available to share with other family members.  Greek mothers simply “know” how to make things and use things like small generic glasses or spoons to measure things, or better yet tell you “a little” or “a lot” to describe the amount.  As a result, I don’t really know how much of each ingredient goes into my tzatziki, I simply make it and taste it as I go, making adjustments along the way.  That said, I have tried to somewhat estimate the amount of each ingredient I use, as a guideline for your tzatziki.

Here’s the ingredients you’ll need and the general amount you’ll need of each:

500g Container of Plain Greek Yogurt
Around 1/3 to 1/2 of an English Cucumber
Around 1/2 a Cup of Fresh Dill
2 Cloves of Garlic
Around 1 tsp of Salt
Around 2 to 3 tbs of Olive Oil

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Pour the yogurt into a mixing bowl large enough that you can freely mix the tzatziki in.  I tend to use Liberté Méditerranée 10% Plain yogurt because it’s simply the best tasting yogurt I’ve come across, but you can use any plain yogurt you’d like.  Never use any flavoured yogurt for this recipe.  If the yogurt seems too watery, let it drain in a strainer for around 5 to 10 minutes first.  Peel the cucumber and coarsely grate the cucumber into a separate plate or bowl.  Using your hands, squeeze out as much of the juice as you can, leaving a mound of drained cucumber.  Peel the garlic cloves and finely grate them, leaving no large chunks of garlic.  I found grating the garlic works better than mincing it to release its flavour.  Roughly chop the dill and combine it, along with the garlic and cucumber with the yogurt.  Give the yogurt a good stirring to combine all the ingredients you’ve added so far.  Finally, add the olive oil and salt to the mix and stir again.  The oil is there to smooth it all out and add some flavour.  I usually add it little by little and stop when it looks “right” because some yogurts tend to need to more than others.  There shouldn’t be enough oil added that its sitting on top of the tzatziki after you stir it.

After you stir it well, give it a taste.  It should be a little on the salty side but not too much.  If it needs more garlic, add more.  If you want more dill flavour, add more as well.  I find that the cucumber is somewhat the unsung hero of tzatziki, so if you can’t taste it at all, add some more of it as well.  The point I’m trying to make is that these ingredients can be adjusted to your own personal liking.  Some people don’t like it too strong on the garlic, so sometimes when I’m making it I only put in only one garlic clove and it still tastes great.

So next time you’re at the grocery store to buy tzatziki, buy these simple ingredients instead and make it at home.  I think you’ll find the taste difference is dramatically better and you’ll get to customize the flavour to your liking.  Opa!

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