Airag: Once the colts are tied up, the mares will not leave. Sereeter brings the first mare’s colt to her and lets it drink for a few seconds. He needs all his strength to pull its mouth away while still holding the colt’s body against its mother’s. Hurriedly, Ayushjav bends to take the colt’s place, making the mare believe that her colt is still sucking. Ayushjav’s fingers are strong and she rapidly empties the two teats. Mare’s milk, available only during the two summer months, is one of the great pleasures of Mongolian cuisine. Once fermented it is called airag. Some is kept for the winter season, but most of the 45 litres produced each day are used up without difficulty.
Inside the ger, the mare’s milk sits in a tall plastic jar. It is one of the children’s tasks to beat the airag with a long, flat-ended stick. The milk needs 5,000 strokes to ferment. Gantsetseg starts counting. When she gets to 500 she passes the stick to her sister, who makes another face at this daily chore.