Skyr is a popular yogurt-like substance made in Iceland that has been part of the Icelandic diet since it was settled around 870 C.E. I’ve written about it in several stories, including Seiðman, but until this week I’d never actually tasted it.
I tried and failed to acquire some from a local market, which claimed to carry it (but lied), but finally my friend Claire picked some up in Maine and brought it over for me. Now at last, I know what it actually tastes like!
I have to say, I was a little disappointed. Not because it tasted bad. It tasted fine. But I was hoping for something unusual and what I got was something that tastes exactly like Greek yogurt to me. If you can’t find skyr locally, go to the supermarket and pick up some plain Greek yogurt (which is easy to find, these days) and you’ll pretty much know what skyr tastes like. It’s thicker and creamier than American yogurt.
On the plus side, my descriptions of it weren’t wrong. We don’t know for certain whether it was exactly the same in the Viking Age as it is in Iceland today, but it probably wasn’t radically different. They make it with skim milk today, and it would have been made with whole milk in the past, of course. Icelanders often mixed it with porridge to make something called hræringur (“stirred”) or ate it with cream and sugar on it. I gather that they still do, but now they add fruit to it, just like we do with our yogurt.
Also, it’s good to know that there is something in the Viking Age I would have been able to eat without wanting to hurl. The Viking Age Icelandic diet consisted of delicious items such as whale meat fermented in whale urine, beef fermented in whey until it practically disintegrated, and lichen. Mmm….