Chalap is more a beverage than a yogurt, but it is still a dairy product, as it is made out of fermented milk. The base of chalap is qatiq, a think drink made out of fermented milk, which we will discuss in the following lines. To this base, salt is added for taste and, as a habit brought in by the modern times, carbonated water can be added, for a more refreshing beverage. In the cuisine of Uzbekistan, vegetables are added to chalap, which starts to resemble more like a cold soup in this case. It is a beverage that can be commonly met in Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan, where companies even produce and bottle it, just like a brand of soda, selling it in stores or at street corners.
This is a fermented product that was initially produced by the people who lived in the Central Asia steppes, which were nomadic people. Made out of raw mare’s milk, kumis still remain an important dairy product for these people, although it is produced in a modern manner as well, being bottled and sold to anyone that is looking to appreciate it. When it comes to texture, kumis looks very much like kefir, although it has a slightly more liquefied consistency. This is due to the fact that a batch of kumis is made by using a liquid starter for the culture, in comparison with the “grains” of fermented milk that is used in the case of kefir. Another interesting detail about kumis is that it has a rather elevated level of alcohol in its composition, then in comparison with other fermented milk products. Of course, the amount of alcohol is still small so the beverage is only slightly alcoholic, but still, the difference is noticeable. This happens due to the fact that mare’s milk has more natural sugar in its composition, then milk coming from cows or goats. So when this milk ferments, more alcohol is created in the process.
To make kumis, raw mare milk is necessary, to which a starter is added in a proportion of 40%. The bacteria used as a starter are, in most cases, Lb. delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus and Candida kefir, for both the lactic and alcoholic fermentation. The ideal temperature that will start the fermentation process is between 26 and 28°C. As the fermentation takes places, the acidity of the product will increase, and the milk will be stirred periodically so that the protein particles don’t form clusters and remain dispersed throughout the liquid mass of the product. It is important for the fermentation process not to take for too long. Once the milk turns into a creamy, acidic, and sparkling product, the fermented kumis must be bottled and kept at cool temperatures, of 4 to 6°C, to stop the fermentation.
Mare milk is not something that can be found easily these days, so it is common for industrially-made kumis to use cow’s milk instead, which is easier to get. In order to obtain the same fermentation process that leads to kumis, the milk coming from cows is fortified by adding sucrose, to trigger a similar fermentation, or whey that was heat treated first is added to the milk. So, if you want to try authentic kumis, made out of mare’s milk, there are low chances to find it in stores, where you will mainly find the one made out of cow’s milk.