Iceland has the world’s third-highest per-capita consumption of cheese, but most of what is found in the supermarkets is industrial. The same goes for the country’s most typical dairy product, the ancient yogurt-like Skyr.
Only three “crazy” producers are resisting industrialization and still using the traditional recipe, explained Eirny Sigurdardottir affectionately. Their spokeswoman was at the Biodiversity House on Sunday, September 20 to present the Traditional Icelandic Skyr Presidium, which made its debut at this year’s Cheese.
Skyr is an acidic, creamy cheese with milky, grassy flavor, often eaten thinned with a little water, giving it a more liquid, yogurt-like texture.
Traditional Skyr is made only from the milk of Icelandic cows, the island’s only native cattle breed. A hardy animal, it requires little food and can live outdoors for most of the year.
After milking, the cream that rises to the top of the milk is used to make an excellent ice cream (an important source of additional income for these three small businesses). The skimmed milk is boiled, then mixed with a little of the previous day’s Skyr, which triggers fermentation. If necessary, a pinch of rennet is also added, but this tends to only be during colder, damper periods. When the curd is ready, it is gathered into a cloth and hung up to drain.
Skyr is eaten very fresh. It used to be served with meat, but now is usually sweetened and eaten with fruit, as a dessert.