Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Making skyr: Is it really worth the trouble?

I like skyr (pron. skeer). It's that Icelandic cheese that looks, tastes and feels like really thick yogurt, and comes in various different flavors. It's easily found at Whole Foods, but not many other places outside of Iceland.

The new episode of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern has him exploring the culinary delights of Iceland. Among these is homemade skyr, which he says trumps the store brand easily, even though it's all organic and stuff. And it's not easy to make. But I thought, "What the hell, why not investigate?"

So I did. You need three ingredients to make skyr: lots and lots of skim milk (not whole), a small bit of rennet, and, strangely enough, skyr (or buttermilk if none is around). An authentic substitute for skyr is something called þéttir (þ, or "thorn", sounds like the th as in, well, thorn), but I'm really not sure what that is.

Apparently it takes an entire day to make skyr, including bringing skim milk to a boil, letting it cool gradually for two hours, then letting it sit for 5 hours. Not 4 1/2. Not 5 1/2. 5. But you have to seal the pot by wrapping it in a towel, and so on. And that's before the cheesecloth even comes into the equation, after which you wit another 12 to 24 hours. After all that, you have 20 servings that last 5 days in your fridge.


I don't know how much free time the Vikings had to stop and make this stuff, what with raping and pillaging and all. I mean it sure is time consuming. I just have no patience for this sort of thing. So forgive me, but even though it's not nearly as good as móðir* used to make, I'm just going to buy my skyr at Whole Foods.

*That is in fact pronounced mother, with ð (eth) pronounced like th as in mother.


diningdish said...

Aaah, today the comment section is working for me.

You are too funny for words.

John said...

Hee hee hee :)

Nanc Twop said...

''don't know how much free time the Vikings had to stop and make this stuff''

Having just read this month's Smithsonian mag: Vikings went from Maine to Turkey I'm thinkin' not a lot.

So, as a descendant of the Vikings, I'm guessing we just had our Icelandic serfs make the stuff for us. Do you have any Baltimore serfs handy? ;-)

John said...

I'm my own serf, of course. Though in Maryland's not-so-free past, indentured servants would have done it when the English first got here in the 1630's, then slaves from the mid-1600's through the end of the Civil War. After that it's pretty much low-paid immigrant labor and the poor. I keep scratching my head that they call Maryland the "Free State".

Anonymous said...

"So, as a descendant of the Vikings, I'm guessing we just had our Icelandic serfs make the stuff for us."

Slaves/servants were referred to as thralls, actually. :)

Barbara said...

This post was terribly amusing :D

It's not actually pronounced mother though, it's more like moe-thir with a long o sound and the i sounds like the i in thick. Found this while searching for skyr recipes, I brought some back from Iceland so I can start making my own. No Whole Foods around here and it is totally worth it to make my own.

Anonymous said...

The name for Viking serf's is Wo-me-n! : )