Food

The Tsakhur diet has been shaped over hundreds of years through their traditional practices as well as by the natural and geographical conditions of their surroundings.

The harsh climate and meagre fertile land in Dagestan means more physical work is required and as sheep breeding is the typical industry, the predominant diet tends to be hearty, hot dishes made from meat and flour.

The Tsakhur in Azerbaijan have a more varied diet. They use a wide range of products in their cooking including fruits, meat, vegetables and nuts. Many dishes are made from wheat and cornflour or rice, and fruit, vegetables and edible herbs are regularly eaten. Nuts are used in making a local delicacy known as halva.

There are two different ways of baking bread, each using a specific type of oven. The tandoor is a circular oven about one metre high which may be built above ground or underground in a pit. The kulba is rectangular and about 1.5 metres high. The ovens are usually found outside in the courtyards of homes. The choice of oven depends on the type of flour used and the consistency of the dough. Typically, bread is round or oval in shape and is a staple at all meals. Meat plays an important role in the Tsakhur diet. Slaughtering takes place in November after which the carcass is spread out and thinned with the meatiest parts being removed. Cuts are made between the ribs, and the carcass is salted and left to brine for a couple of days. After this it is hung in the open air to dry, producing a dried meat similar to jerky. A number of different types of dried sausage are also prepared during winter.

Milk products such as cottage cheese, gatykh, sour milk and ayran are common and the Tsakhur are highly skilled in making cheese from both sheep's and cows' milk. Their sheep's cheese is famous throughout the Caucasus. Butter is prepared in a special wooden churn called 'belek`an' using traditional methods. The churns are traditionally passed down from generation to generation. It is made from a sealed hollow log and suspended on ropes.