Skyr (pronounced ‘skeer’) is a traditional Icelandic dairy product made from pasteurised skim milk without omitting certain kinds of milk cultures and bacteria. The milk is generally heated to 90–100° C, and after a while a coagulating called rennet (which actually comes from enzymes in the cow’s stomach) is added to thicken the solution. The whey is then separated from the skyr through a straining fabric. The remainder from this process is called ‘mysa,’ which is also sold in stores as a popular drink. Skyr is often referred to as a kind of yoghurt with a much thicker consistency. However, because it tends to have similar bacteria types, unflavoured skyr actually has a taste similar to fresh cheese.
There are several companies that manufacture skyr: MS, KEA, and Húsavíkur jógúrt. Most manufacturers make skyr with added ingredients and fruit flavours. Each company has its own take on the dairy product, including the Skyr.is ‘Drykkur’ (or ‘Drink’), a kind of ‘floating skyr’ that is saturated with milk in order to make it drinkable.
It’s no wonder that skyr is a popular breakfast food for Icelanders, as it is loaded with protein, calcium and B-vitamins. However, be warned that even though it is touted as healthy and non-fat, many of the flavoured skyr products are loaded with artificial flavouring and sugar. To go with the more natural Skyr products, look for brands that have ‘án sykurs’ (without sugar) or ‘án sætuefna’ (without artificial sweeteners) printed on the label.
Taking advantage of 10-11’s ‘Skyr Bar’ for 418 ISK is an excellent introduction to the Icelandic dairy food. On top of offering 9 different types of skyr and yoghurt, the bars also boast 3 different kinds of fruit and 6 different types of cereal toppings. Skyr and granola or muesli is also very popular.