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THE SEARCH FOR SKYR | CULTURES FOR HEALTH JOURNAL



When I visited Iceland many years ago, I was thrilled by the amazing scenery–spouting geysers, raging waterfalls, black sand beaches. But of course, one of my fondest memories is of the food. At a charming restaurant in Reykjavik, Vi∂ Tjörnina (By the Pond), I enjoyed a thick, creamy dessert called skyr. Fast-forward to the present and I have now seen skyr products in the grocery store and know much more about fermentation, so I am curious. What is skyr, really? My search has led me to different definitions and a bit of confusion. When I read the ingredients on commercial skyr products, it appears to be a very thick strained yogurt, like Greek-style yogurt. But… Wikipedia tells me that skyr is a cultured dairy product similar to strained yogurt. Other sources call it a cheese curd product. A representative of one of the commercial products recently shared that skyr used to be a traditional cultured dairy product with its own unique culture, but that the art of making a true skyr culture in Iceland has been lost, and that skyr is now a yogurt product made by following a certain method of straining whey, rather than using a specific culture with bacteria indigenous to the island nation. I have researched the food history of my own ancestors, but my new quest is the food history of the Icelandic people. I feel sure that somewhere, in the remote areas of Iceland, there is someone making a traditional skyr culture who would be happy to share it with me, along with the extensive knowledge of local food.