Noma may have raised the profile of Scandinavian food overall, but when it comes to the cuisine of Iceland, few people know it from a hole in the ground. In fact, many people still associate Icelandic food primarily with the putrefied shark meat that comes from a hole in the ground. Anthony Bourdain, he no like. In truth, most Icelanders don’t actually make a habit of dining on rot-cured shark. But one thing they do eat a lot of is another Viking-age favorite: skyr.
Skyr is a cultured dairy product that is thick and creamy and tangy like Greek yogurt. Remember the first time you had Greek yogurt and couldn’t believe how the rich, dense cloud in your spoon could be related to the runny, bland yogurt you grew up on? Well, the feeling is familiar the first time you taste skyr, only perhaps magnified. It’s so thick you practically slice into it. How it manages to have 0% milk fat is beyond me.
Actually, skyr is not yogurt. It’s a fresh skim-milk cheese, strained to a whipped-custard consistency. Because it’s strained to such a density, it requires about three times more milk to produce than yogurt, meaning it’s higher in protein and calcium.
Skyr is said to date as far back as the 9th century, when Norwegian settlers first landed in Iceland. Nowadays, it’s sold in small containers much like yogurt is and comes in flavors like vanilla and blueberry. Up until a few years ago, you would have had to either go to Iceland to try it or buy the expensive imported stuff. Now, a New York company makes skyr, using milk from local dairy farmers.
So, what can you do with skyr once you’re done marveling at how it sticks to your spoon upside down and feels like velvety pudding in your mouth? Well, you can add fresh berries, a bit of apple juice and crushed ice to it in a blender for a smoothie. You can also top it with granola and fresh fruit for breakfast. I like replacing sour cream with skyr on my baked potato when I’m grilling a backyard meat-and-potatoes meal. The extra tart flavor of skyr also makes it perfect for homemade tzatziki and other dips.
At the risk of sounding skyr-crazy, I would also recommend tossing a dollop of it into your mashed potatoes, as well as using it to replace half the butter in just about any cake recipe. Or you might just cover the eyes of your go-to Greek yogurt as you drizzle honey over it and digging in. Don’t worry, Greek yogurt, we’ll be back. This Viking thing is just a fling.