In Mongolia, people speak several different dialects of the Mongolian language. The language itself, in a way to form the words by vowel harmony and the structure of "Subject+Object+Verb", was categorized into the Altaic Language group which includes Turkic, Mongolian, and Tungusic.
Airag (mare’s fermented milk), is one of the national pride and highly appreciated beverage in Mongolia. Airag -mildly alcoholic white beverage is the unique drink derived from traditional techniques and knowledge that inherited from ancient times to the different ethnic groups of Mongol nation and being used and served as a main and holy drink during various fests and in making offerings and ritual blessings.
It could be considered that the entire Mongolian nation is concerned with this tradition but main bearers and practitioners of this element now are Khalkha Mongol herders who mostly live in the central part of Mongolia. These nomadic people are the true custodians of the traditional knowledge and skills regarding the unique technique of making fermented mare’s milk - Airag in Khokhuur (cowhide vessel or bag) and also making the khokhuur. Those families who bear the traditional knowledge and skills of khokhuur making also concern with this group of people. A variety of socio-cultural entities such as local communities and co-operations of herders, airag makers, horse trainers, associations of long song singers, Morin khuur (horse-head fiddle) players, schools and others also are involved in and support airag making and transmit this national tradition.
Mongolians make the Airag in summer and autumn seasons. Airag is being one of the main food products of Mongolians in summertime, and besides this, it is being used as a treatment product. Foaming tasty airag has a unique dietetic value and is an important part of the daily diet of Mongolians. It is a nutritious and easily digestible beverage that contains different proteins, fat, minerals, A, C and some B vitamins and a sufficient amount of amino acids essential for the human body. In addition, scientific studies reveal that it is very effective for curing various diseases such as tuberculosis, neurosis, anemia, arteriosclerosis and the decrease of gastric acid secretion and etc. Therefore, this medical beverage is today included in the menus of the numerous health resorts of the country. The first Airag treatment hospitals and nursing places were opened in Mongolian in 1946.
The milking season for horses traditionally runs from mid-June to early October. Daily milk yield of mares varies from 3 to 6 liters.
The basic traditional technique of making mare’s airag consists of milking mares and cooling freshly milked milk, and repeatedly churning milk in a khokhuur with starter left inside to assist its fermentation. The liquid must be churned 5000 and more times to make a good fermented blend of airag. Mare’s milk undergoes fermentation by lactobacilli and lactic acid streptococci, producing ethanol, lactic acids, and carbon dioxide. The airag - mildly alcoholic white beverage emits a delicious smell and its pleasant taste can make your mouth watery.
For making the khokhuur, first, the cowhide is soaked and hide’s filament is removed, then it is dehydrated in the wind and fumigated. In such a process, the cowhide turns to white flexible leather. The khokhuur is made from this white leather and consists of mouth (orifice) neck, corner, body and cords. The buluur is a long-handled wooden paddle that is used for churning airag in khokhuur and furnished with the bored blade of the board at the end. Khokhuur can hold 40 to 100 liters of airag.
Airag is used and served as a main and holy drink during various feasts and in making offerings and ritual blessings.
Mongolians have a strong connection with their horses, and this tradition is observed from the traditional technique of making Airag in khokhuur and its associated customs. Airag is one of the respecting and welcoming expressions to the guests. Therefore, Mongolian people often say as "If there is no horse, it means there is no Airag, and if there is no Airag, it means there is no joy".