Skyr, fresh cheese made from sour cow’s milk, has very ancient origins: more than a thousand years ago, in fact, it was an integral part of the diet of the first settlements in Iceland and has been produced since time immemorial in all the families of the country. The cheese is mentioned in medieval literature, traces have been found in the archaeological excavations of various farms of that time.
At one time Skyr was produced with both sheep and cow’s milk, but starting from the beginning of the 20th century, cow’s milk began to be used almost exclusively. This is because sheep were farmed above all for meat and the tradition of using fresh milk has almost been lost. Outside of Iceland, however, Skyr is a little known product and is often confused with yogurt, though, it is a full-fledged cheese.
The traditional recipe is complex. The milk is heated to 85 ° C for at least 5 minutes so that the fat and casein rise to the surface. A small amount of skyr from a previous batch is then added, which acts as a starter culture, and calf rennet, if the curd hasn’t coagulated well. Everything is left to cool to promote coagulation and the achievement of the optimal pH. The whey is then separated from the curd by straining it through a cloth. Unlike the industrial version, traditional skyr should not be pasteurized, and the cultures must come from a previous batch of Skyr, not from yogurt.
It is precisely the use of these bacteria and the respect of preparation times that differentiate traditional Skyr from the industrial version.
Skyr is produced for the most part during the summer, but the challenge for producers is to keep the cultures alive during the winter in order to restart production in the next season. In a process similar to sourdough, cultures from the previous day’s skyr are used to maintain regular production.
Traditionally eaten on its own, today it is now common to sweeten skyr with sugar, and have it at breakfast or as a snack with the addition of cream or milk.
The nutritional qualities of Skyr are exceptional: it is very nutritious, fat free and with a high protein content. For this reason, this cheese is suitable fo different culinary uses and is found on the dessert menus of many Icelandic restaurants.
There are various types of industrial Skyr on the market, and its consumption is very widespread.
The Presidium’s aim is to preserve and promote the traditional recipe, and make it rediscovered and revive its popularity amongst Icelandic consumers. The Presidium wants to promote and protect small-scale producers and breeders, involving them in the new development of Iceland’s rural economy. Through the rediscover of the traditional recipe, the Presidium also wants to encourage the development of enogastronomic tourism focused on the ancient food traditions still found around the Icelandic territory.
At the moment the two producers belonging to the Presidium are located as follows: one on the east coast and a young family of producers on the west coast (near Reykjavik). However, it is a product that can actually be produced all over Iceland as the weather conditions are quite similar.
Rjómabúið Erpsstaðir, Thorgrimur E. Gudbjartsson, IS – 371 – Búðardalur, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fjóshornið, Baldur Gauti Gunnarsson/Eyrún Hrefna Helgadóttir, Egilsstaðabú, IS – 700 – Egilsstaðir