Skyr expanded

For centuries, Icelanders ate skyr mostly as it was, perhaps with some milk or water stirred in to make it go down more smoothly. In latter times it has usually been thinned with milk, sugar has been added and it has been served with cream or milk. If the season is right there might be bilberries or crowberries stirred in. If the skyr was the main course, a piece of rye bread with butter, or perhaps a piece of blood sausage or liver sausage would often be served on the side. Or it might be mixed 50/50 with cold porridge and served with cream.

But there are many other ways to serve or use it as an ingredient. I like it with half-and-half and brown sugar or maple syrup. The wife of the Icelandic president has declared that she loves it with honey. Some sprinkle muesli on it. Others prefer fruit.

You can get all sorts of flavours from the factory, besides the plain. The ones I can remember off the top of my head are:
  • Strawberry
  • Blueberry
  • Strawberry-blueberry
  • Peach
  • Vanilla
  • Raspberry
  • Banana
  • Apricot & vanilla
  • Melon-passion fruit
  • Cappuccino
  • Pear
  • Raspberry-peach

All of them are available in portion-sized containers, some with plastic spoons attached (depends on the producer). The flavoured types are best kept cool, but the plain variety will keep quite well for a couple of days at room temperature. I recommend the KEA brand.

You can even get skyr-drinks, which you should try if you like drinking yogurt.

You can also use skyr to make more elaborate dishes. Some time ago, a woman e-mailed me from the USA and told me about having eaten skyr brulée in a restaurant in Reykjavík. She liked it enough to ask me to find her a recipe for it. I still haven’t found a recipe, but I have been experimenting and will post the results here once I am happy with the recipe.

On my other food blog, Matarást, you can find a recipe for Moussaka made with skyr. The original called for using Greek yogurt in the topping, but plain skyr gives results that are just as good.

Skyr also makes an excellent ingredient in various kinds of tempting desserts. I don’t know who it was that first thought of using skyr in place of cream cheese in a cheese cake, but I salute them. Not only is it healthier than cream cheese by virtue of being fat-free, therefore reducing the fat content of the dessert considerably and hopefully the guilt of eating it as well, but it is also very, very tasty. The fresh, slightly tart flavour of skyr and its light texture make a nice alternative to the creamy taste and thick, heavy texture of cream cheese.

Some of the new (or new-ish) Icelandic recipes I am translating and testing for future inclusion on this blog include skyr desserts. I realise of course that if you don’t live in Iceland or in those areas of the USA where the Whole Foods Market chain is selling skyr, you will not have an opportunity to try these recipes (unless you know how to make skyr at home), but I would like to suggest using Greek yogurt, quark or fromage frais instead. It will not give you the exact flavour or texture of skyr, but you will get some idea of what the dishes are like.


la dilettante said...

I'm interested in fresh cheeses and have recently taken up making quark. What is the difference between skyr and quark? Quark (my recipe) uses a buttermilk starter and can be made with non-fat milk, so it's a mesophyllic culture. I'm curious mostly because I'd like to somehow try skyr if it's much different.

Nathan said...

I found your website last week and used your skyr recipe to make a great batch that I've been having for breakfast every day. One problem that I had was that I drained it too much, so mixed some of the whey back into it get it the right consistency.

Also, Whole foods is not carrying Icelandic produced skyr anymore, but does have a brand called "Siggy's Skyr" that is produced by an Icelander who moved to New York. It's organic, hormone and preservative free. I used it for my starter and it worked great!

Thanks so much for all your effort with the recipes. So much of what is traditional food in Iceland has been lost in the rest of the world.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone heard of using Icelandic sheep milk for making skyr? I have Icelandic sheep that I milk and currently make a greek styl strained yogurt from some of their milk...

Bibliophile said...

Anon, historically, skyr was made from both sheep's and cow's milk, sometimes a mixture of the two. The ewes used to be separated from the lambs and milked and the milk was used in all the same ways as cow's milk. So, yes, you could definitely use sheep's milk to make skyr and get a perfectly authentic product.

Anonymous said...

I fell in love with Skyr while in Iceland. I am in the US and yesterday bought Skyr at Whole Foods. Question: can you freeze skyr? Will this harm the product in any way?

Bibliophile said...

Anon, I have never tried freezing skyr, but I don't think it would do it any harm. It might release some whey when it thaws, but that can be stirred back in.

Amy said...

I too had that skyr brulee - at the Three Coats in Reyjkavik. Delicious! I'd be very interested in that recipe, as well.