Kazakh Dairy Products
Kazakh dairy products, which are often referred to as “ak as” (white food), have been central to local cuisine from time immemorial. Since the harsh conditions of traditional nomadic life often made it impossible to store fresh milk, Kazakh cuisine is rife with fermented milk products.
Kumys (kymyz) is a frothy drink made from mare's milk whose sweet and sour taste is obtained through fermentation. Kumys is divided into subsets, the main ones being strong (with a high alcohol content) and weak, or saumal (used for therapeutic and prophylactic purposes). Other subsets include uyz, a thick kumys made after the first milking; besty (besti), made from fermenting the kumys for 4-5 days; and sary, a yellow autumn kumys which is very healthful.
Kazakh kumys is made in special leather or wooden barrels and should be stirred for 1-2 days with a special stick. It is customary to drink kumys immediately after preparation since it loses its beneficial properties over time. True kumys has nothing added to it, even water.
Kumys has many benefits and is used to treat tuberculosis, gastritis, anemia, typhoid, cardiovascular diseases and pancreatic problems. However, it should not be drunk if the gastrointestinal tract has already reached an acute stage of disease.
Shubat is a fatty drink made from sour camel milk. It should be drunk with caution as it is mildly intoxicating. Shubat is made in special leather, wooden or ceramic containers and is most delicious after having sat for 2-3 days. In South Kazakhstan shubat is called kymyran and in East Kazakhstan, tuye kymyz (camel kumys).
Kurt are dried sour balls made from cow or sheep milk. To make kurt, sour milk is poured into a wooden barrel. After a curdled cottage cheese has formed it is poured into a pot, brought to a boil and stirred constantly until it is very thick. After the mass has cooled it is transferred to a clean bag so that the excess liquid can be drained. Balls 2-5 centimeters in diameter are then rolled from the sour milk product and dried. Kurt is a favorite among children and can be stored for long periods of time.
Irimshik is another dried dairy product of Kazakhstan, a slightly sweet cottage cheese made from cow, sheep or goat milk. Ak (white) irimshik is made from fresh cottage cheese and butter and has a short shelf life. Kyzyl (red) irimshik is obtained by cooking the product for longer and then drying it in the sun so that it can be stored for a long time.
Katyk is a thick fermented milk product of Kazakhstan made from sheep, cow or goat milk. After the milk has boiled, sourdough is mixed in and the product is set for several hours in a warm place.
Ayran is a type of kefir made from the milk of a mare, sheep or goat. To prepare it you need to boil the milk, add leaven, shake the product and let it sit for a couple of hours. To receive the full impact of its beneficial properties, it is believed that ayran should be drunk within 24 hours after preparation.
The Kazakh dairy products koyyrtpak and shalap are variations of ayran, shubat and kumys. Koyyrtpak is diluted with milk in a 1:1 ratio. Shalap is diluted with water in equal proportions and includes the addition of salt and herbs.