Koumiss is a fermented dairy beverage made in central Asia. Its origins go back thousands of years. Normally a low alcohol drink, I have found and modified a recipe to boost the alcohol content while adding a twist to tradition. Normally made with mare's milk, we are instead using what is commercially available.
As we all know, cow's milk is largly unfermentable, therefore we start there.
You have two basic options:
1. Convert the lactose in organic milk to galactose & glucose
2. Use lacose free milk that has already been converted
For now we will be using the lactose free skim milk option. If anyone takes interest in this thread we will discuss the other in detail later. Skim milk is used for two reasons: it is closer to mare's milk in makeup and consistancy and it will reduce the ammount of fats and oils, thus reducing the size of the curd.
1 Gallon Recipe
What you will need:
2 quarts lactose free skim milk
1 Lb honey
2 Qts water
1 pkt champagne or dry mead yeast
1 pinch Yeast nutrient
Make a starter culture from your chosen yeast 24 hours in advance. You really only need 1/2 of what your dry yeast packet will produce, so I recommend brewing a small batch of grape or fruit wine the same day, so as to maximize the useage of your yeast.
Set the milk out, covered with foil or a paper towel and rubber band. Allow to come up to room temperature. This takes about 4 hours, so plan ahead.
So, we have available sugar alread in the lactose free milk. If we just fermented the milk by itself, we would end up with a very thin, fizzy yogurt-like drink with 2% alcohol or less. By adding the honey, we can boost our final alcohol percentage to five to seven percent ABV.
Boil 2 Qts water then pour off 1 Qt into a sterilized vessel and cool for use later to top off the primary fermentation vessel.
Dissolve 1 lb honey in the remaining quart of boiled water. (FYI, if you would like higher alcohol content, two lbs of honey can get near ten percent ABV.) If using unpasturized honey, boiling will kill any wild bugs you may have. However, don't worry if a few slip past, as this particular drink is quite forgiving and could possibly even benefit from many of them. Remove from heat and immersion chill down to 80 degrees F.
Pour your room temperature milk into the chilled container you boiled your honey and water in. Aerate the mixture vigorously for 60 seconds.
Pour your aerated must into the primary fermenter, pour in half of your 24 hour starter, then fill to the gallon mark with the boiled and chilled water that you set aside prior to making the honey must.
Due to the nature of our product it can handle some oddly high temperatures, as the galactose and remaining lactose prevents the formation of fusel alcohols.
7 day primary fermentation at 70-80 degrees F
Cap with foil for first 24 hours before fitting with an airlock and stopper. The forming of the curd (which is the first stage of fermentation) could plug up an airlock if it rises up on day one.
Agitate the vessel on day one and two.
Days 3-7 you will see the formation of the curd on top, your standard yeast sediment on the bottom, and a layer of golden "Milkmead" in the middle.
On the final day, carefully insert your racking device through the curd and siphon off the mead into a secondary vessel, leaving behind the curd cap and yeast sediment.
You can chill and eat the curd if you like. It is quite sweet and, as a bonus, is still loaded with alcohol!
Let set in secondary 5-7 more days, or until hydrometer readings are stable.
Despite what you started out with, you will now have a completely clear liquid!
You can bottle and degass as a normal mead, or you can carbonate it by adding 3 tablespoons of honey.
The end product is a semi-sweet to sweet mead that is quite different and very enjoyable. It will have the floral character and alcohol content of your standard mead, an extremely smooth sweetness from the unconverted lactose in the milk, and a distant nut character or whisp of fine cheese.
Serve it cold or warm, but be advised, it does need to be consumed within two years (I reccomend 6-18 months) and should likely be refrigerated after opening.
--recipe and information adapted from Lars D. H. Hedbor--