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Health Food of the month - Skyr

March 2020

Glass dishes with skyr desert
Skyr can be used in some exciting new recipes

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Diet & Supplements Index

When we were kids, yoghurt was probably only just coming in as part of a normal everyday diet. Today the market for yoghurt has grown so big that entire shelves in supermarkets are filled with a huge variety of yoghurts. Low fat, different flavours, the variety of yoghurts we can buy now is incredible.

Now there is a new name on the block.  Skyr (pronounced skeer) has gradually been creeping into shops and supermarkets as people discover it and find it a great alternative to traditional yoghurt.

Many think skyr is just a new form of Greek yoghurt. It is already being marketed as Icelandic yoghurt and it can be consumed like yoghurt, but the word is actually incorrect. Skyr is an Icelandic cultured dairy product that is more correctly classified as a fresh sour milk cheese than yoghurt.

It is very traditionally Icelandic and has been made and enjoyed in the country for centuries. The word skyr relates to cutting, or how dairy is split into liquid whey and thick skyr.  It was likely brought into Iceland by Scandinavian Norsemen who settled the land in the late ninth century. Certainly skyr is mentioned in some of Iceland’s famous ancient sagas.  In the past, skyr was produced in fairly thick slabs and piled into trays where they continued to drain. It was quite sour compared with modern skyr.

Today skyr is always made from skimmed milk which is brought to just below boiling point and then cooled down to 37 °C (99 °F). A small portion of a previous batch is then added to this warm milk which introduces bacteria. Rennet is also added at this time and the milk starts to curdle. It is then left for around five hours before being cooled down further, this time to 18 °C (64 °F).  After this, it is pasteurised and strained through fabric to remove the whey.

Because skyr is always made from low fat milk, it is a low fat product but also high in protein. Unflavoured commercial skyr is today around 13% protein, 4% carbohydrates and 0.2% fat. Nutrient content can vary by brand but generally an unflavoured skyr will offer some good nutrients including of course the high protein plus phosphorus, calcium, riboflavin, potassium and vitamin B12. Commercial products which include fruit and other flavourings could also have a high level of sugar. With its live and active cultures, skyr may help to maintain digestive health and contribute towards lower bad cholesterol.

In Iceland, the traditional way to eat skyr was with porridge, when it was mixed in equal amounts. Today it is generally eaten like yoghurts. There are several different brands now coming into the shops and definitely this ancient Icelandic food is growing in popularity.

There are also some good recipes around now using skyr in various dishes including cakes:


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