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This Is How Iceland Really Does Skyr - Food Culture

This Is How Iceland Really Does Skyr - Food Culture
From The Kitchn - September 2, 2017

Earlier this year, I traveled to the volcanic island of Iceland to explore its famously dramatic landscapes. Besides natural wonders like ice caves and geysers, I learned the country also has plenty to offer when it comes to culinary delights like fresh seafood, grass-fed meats, and rich dairy products.

The most well-known of these dairy products is skyr, that cultured dairy product with a creamy texture and tart flavor. I had tossed a few containers into my grocery cart while perusing the yogurt section over the years, but I did not fully understand skyr's important role in Icelanders' daily life until I visited the country.

I had my first taste of true Icelandic skyr at Gamla fjsi, an unassuming restaurant housed in a former cow shed in the shadow of a volcanic glacier. Still a bit damp from visiting the Seljalandsfoss waterfall just down the road, I tried a savory bite of beef carpaccio with arugula and blueberry skyr sauce.

But the most memorable dish was the dessertan artful plating of a single scoop of skyr beside a pool of thick cream dotted with crumbled ginger snaps, fresh blueberries, and cherry jam. The textures of the luscious skyr and velvety cream contrasted with each other, while the fruit components offered just the right touch of tart flavors and sweetness to cut through the richness. Until then, I had assumed skyr was just a type of glorified yogurt that sounded like a boring ingredient for a dessert. Boy, was I wrong.

What Is Skyr Exactly?

Skyr, available in grocery stores under brands like Siggi's, Smri Organics, Icelandic Provisions, and others, is indeed marketed to Americans as a type of yogurt. During my travels in Iceland, though, I realized that it's so much more than that.

The cultured dairy product could be considered the national food of Iceland, where it's been a part of the culture for more than 1100 years. Vikings originally brought skyr to the island from Norway. Although the tradition eventually died out there, it thrived in Iceland. The writers of the medieval Icelandic Sagas mention skyr, and three Viking-era jars containing skyr residue are on display at the National Museum. More recently, a crowd of protestors voiced their anger with the prime minister last year by pelting Parliament with skyr instead of tomatoes.

Iceland's early Viking settlers relied on skyr to survive living just below the Arctic circle. "When skyr was brought over here, it was a way of preserving protein that could keep for six months or longer," explains Einar Siggurdson, a former CEO of MS Iceland Dairies, the largest skyr producer in Iceland. The whey, a byproduct of the skyr-making process, was used for meat preservation purposes.

This Is How Skyr Is Made

How Icelanders Eat Skyr

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