People often associate the country of Iceland with ice, volcanoes, financial crises, cold, sheep, horses, northern lights . . . Skyr does not automatically come to mind, unless you’ve actually been to Iceland or know someone who has returned from a visit to Iceland exhibiting symptoms of skyr withdrawal.
As near as I can tell, skyr is similar to, but not the same as, yogurt or quark. Now I am the last person in the world who should be writing about skyr, yogurt, or quark, because frankly, I can’t stand them. Nor do I like—gasp—frozen yogurt. But I confess that I did try Icelandic ice cream and Icelandic cheesecake, which I’m afraid probably both started out as skyr. (Yes, both were delicious.)
So what is this mystery product? I’ve had a devil of a time actually nailing down a reliable definition of it, but this is my best guess. Skyr is a traditional Icelandic cultured milk product harking back to the days of medieval sagas, aka, Icelandic history. Skyr is smooth and creamy, very high in protein, low in fat, and high in calcium and beneficial bacteria. It has a consistency similar to that of Greek Yogurt, but according to those who know the difference, it tastes different—slightly sweeter, I think.
Skyr is everywhere in Iceland, from the city to the farm, from the little this ‘n that store to the specialty grocery store, on menus and in food. It is eaten plain, right out of the dish, and like yogurt, it can be flavored with berries or chocolate, mixed into porridge and other breakfast cereals, made into cakes, savory toppings, and desserts. I’m not sure a native Icelander could live a day without some form of skyr.
In Iceland, the product is found mostly by its brand name, Skyr.
I believe the cute little squiggle above the name of the product is the symbol of MS Iceland Dairies (Mjólkursamsalan). Over 700 family dairies participate in the national cooperative that produces, packages, and sells dairy products across the country and exports Skyr to Europe and the states.
In the states, a homesick expat Icelandic man, desperate for a skyr fix, began making his own skyr. His operation has expanded into the Siggi’s skyr products which are sold in grocery stores around the country.