The minute you set foot in Iceland – perhaps even already on your flight, you will see it on every menu, and deal with overpacked shelves in the supermarkets. Once you’ve tried it, you won’t go back, it will become your favourite grab-and-go snack, whose unique taste will always remind you of Iceland. So, what is this skyr you keep hearing about? What is in this dairy product that is believed to help people overcome sometimes harsh living conditions and keep them strong? Is Icelandic skyr the new Greek yoghurt? We tell you everything!
A brief history of the Skyr
In the 9th century, the Vikings and early settlers began arriving in Iceland, and with them, such farm animals as horses, sheep, cattle were introduced to the island. Over the time, they brought along a wide variety of skills and knowledge, including the know-how for skyr, borrowed from Norway some 1.100 years ago. Although the tradition has long since disappeared in most of Scandinavia, it has survived time to become central in Iceland’s national diet today. Skyr is often mentioned in Icelandic sagas from the medieval era, including Egil's saga and Grettis saga, having a long history of delighting our taste buds! Jars dating from the Viking era with residue from skyr and wooden barrels that were used to store skyr aboard ships can also be seen at Reykjavik National Museum and Maritime Museum. For centuries, women prepared the skyr as it is today almost unchanged.
Production and Nutritional benefits
Skyr technically falls into the cheese category although it is often presented as a yoghurt. In practice, the milk is separated from the cream, before the skimmed milk is pasteurized. Original cultures of bacteria are introduced and left to ferment the pasteurized skimmed milk for over eight hours. The skyr is then filtered to remove the whey (mysa) and create a thick product, ready for flavouring. In the old days, the whey was used for meat preservation purposes.
The production requires three to four times more milk than typical yoghurts, resulting in a final product much richer in proteins, calcium and other vitamins and minerals present in dairies. One of the skyr’s main selling points is that it is fat-free by nature and oh! so tasty! Slightly sour yet it leaves a smooth feel in the mouth and a refreshing taste.
The nutritional benefits and “good-for-you” features of the skyr are vastly superior to those of its peers, earning it the title of superfood. Its important level of proteins has proven beneficial for weight management, by improving satiety and decreasing appetite, therefore preventing weight gain and obesity. The combination of high proteins and low carbs help lower blood pressure and regulate blood sugar, while calcium plays an essential role in improving bone health. Are you convinced yet?
A wide range of products and flavours
Over the recent years, skyr has been getting international recognition, being very well received by European and American consumers, curious about its nutritional values and concerned about what they eat. Sales of skyr are booming, exports are increasing, to the point that some countries are now producing their own version of skyr. But remember, there is only one Skyr! Skyr can be enjoyed plain but also comes in many flavours, from the classical blueberry, vanilla, strawberry to the more recent and equally successful crème brûlée, or baked apples. Local brands have managed to diversify their range by offering low carbs options along with lactose-free and organic to meet the consumers’ requirements. There are many other ways to eat the skyr besides as a snack or as a porridge for breakfast. Icelandic chefs keep reinventing the traditional skyr recipe, in the most creative manner. It can be used as an ingredient for refreshing smoothies or icecreams. It is also popular in a cheesecake, a skyr cake it is, but the locals might tell you the best way to enjoy it is simply to add freshly handpicked blueberries or topped with cream or sugar. Stock up at the grocery store and tell us how you prefer it!
Skyr cake recipe
Iceland has no shortage of rich berry grounds, and when comes the berry-picking season around August, Icelanders fill their baskets with blueberries and crowberries to eat fresh, or to use for jams and marmalades. Together with the creamy skyr, they make one of the most delicious Icelandic desserts and most treasured food. Try our skyr cake recipe at home and thank us later!
For the crust:
1/2 packet biscuits (e.g. cinnamon biscuits or whole grain butter biscuits), enough to cover the bottom of the baking tin.
For the filling:
250g plain skyr
250g vanilla skyr
500ml whipping cream
½ packet cinnamon biscuits
For the topping:
½ jar blueberry jam
• Crush the biscuits, melt the butter and mix together
• Put into a round 24cm cake tin
• Whip the cream
• Mix the skyr smoothly into the cream
• Pour the cream and skyr mix onto the biscuit crust
• Smooth the jam onto the cream and skyr mix and add the berries on top
• Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving
Josephine Malene Kofod - Icelandic skyr and blueberries cake © Atastylovestory.com