Skyr – Odin’s Favorite Dairy Treat

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We have been bombarded for the last several years with the health benefits of Greek yogurt. It’s thicker and higher in protein than the typical commercial Dannon and Yoplait brands. When not sugared and flavored to high heaven it makes a great energy packed breakfast.

But a new, even healthier yogurt is making its way into the American domestic market from Iceland of all places.   It’s called skyr, and it’s been around in Scandinavia for over a millennium, brought to Iceland from Norway. It’s even thicker, supposedly three times, and higher in protein than Greek yogurt.

Traditionally, this former Viking treat, was made with raw sheep or cow’s milk after the cream was floated off to make butter, but now it is made with pasteurized skim milk.   A portion of skyr is added to the milk to introduce the right bacteria culture and left to coagulate.   The whey, or yellowy liquid portion, is strained out, and the milk solids are kept for skyr.   It has a slight sour taste, with a bit of natural sweetness.   The result, varying between brands, of unflavored skyr, is about 12% protein and only 3% carbohydrates.

Traditionally it is served with sugar and heavy cream, or with jam, berries, or granola for breakfast.   Men’s Health has recently jumped on it’s bandwagon, toting it’s high protein health benefits.   They recommend dropping sunflower seeds or almonds into a cup of skyr for a quick protein packed breakfast.   One domestic version is Siggi’s, made in Upstate New York, with milk from dairy farms who do not use bovine growth hormones on their herds.   They have nearly 20 different flavors, some sounding very Scandinavian, like lingonberry.

Other cultured dairy foods exist in other cultures. For example, there’s Mongolian Yak cheese, that Whole Foods probably won’t be getting any time soon.   There is also a Russian dairy treat known as tvorog, made by boiling buttermilk and letting the milk solids hang out for a while, but that has quite a pungent kick for most Middle Americans.   So, for now, going the way of the Vikings with skyr, is the hippest and healthiest way to get your yogurt.

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