Reykjavik photo from Adobe Stock/Mandritoiu
Traditional Icelandic Food: Dairy
The calcium-rich diet relies heavily on dairy and is a large part of Icelandic cooking. Recipes liberally use butter, milk, cream and buttermilk. Skyr is an Icelandic product that has been prevalent for over 1,000 years, the dates back to the Viking settlers. Skyr is similar to Greek yogurt but has a milder flavor and is technically a soft form of cheese. It was traditionally served cold with a topping of milk and sugar. It can be eaten plain as yogurt, as a topping for oatmeal, or mixed with fruit as a dessert. The thick consistency also makes it good for smoothies.
The whey left over from skyr-making was often used to make Mysuostur, a very sweet, soft brown cheese. Mysuostur was typically used as a topping on bread. It is not common today and can be found only in specialty stores.
Photo from Adobe Stock/Antony McAulay
A traditional sweet soft brown cheese. The flavor is a bit like caramel with a texture similar to peanut butter. This sweet spread is a perfect topping for Icelandic black bread. “The Mysuostur is quite interesting and a challenging undertaking to make the original version. It fell out of favor for a while and was quite difficult to find, but has started to see a resurgence in stores,” Heidi Herman says.
Yield: approximately 2 cups
Ingredients & Instruction I (Traditional)
- 1 1/2 gallons of liquid whey
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons cream
- Pour whey into large pan or stockpot, add salt and cover. Gradually bring to a full boil and remove cover. Boil uncovered until mixture has reduced by two-thirds, about 5-6 hours. Remove from heat.
- Add the butter and cream and mix well. Add sugar and stir until blended. Return to heat and bring to a full boil, stirring constantly. Lower heat to medium and boil, stirring occasionally, for 45-60 minutes or until cheese begins to thicken and turn a light golden brown. Remove from heat, stir vigorously and let cool. When cooled, it should be the consistency of creamy peanut butter.
- Refrigerate in jars or a bowl.
Ingredients & Instruction II (Powdered Whey)
- 1 cup water
- 3/4 cup canola oil
- 1 1/2 cups powdered milk
- 2 cups unflavored powdered whey
- 1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
- 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- In large saucepan for double boiler, blend the water, canola oil, and powdered milk until smooth, using wire whisk or electric mixer.
- Add powdered whey and nutmeg then mix well.
- Gradually add the brown sugar, lemon juice and baking soda, mixing until the texture is smooth.
- Set saucepan in double boiler over low heat for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Cook until mixture resembles smooth peanut butter.
- Remove from heat, beat well and cool.
- Store in jar or covered bowl in refrigerator.
Mysuostur photo from Homestyle Icelandic Cooking for American Kitchens
Ingredients & Instructions III (Quick Copycat)
- 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- Lightly caramelize the brown sugar in butter, taking care not to burn it.
- Cool slightly.
- In a small bowl, place cream cheese and add the sugar mixture.
- Beat until creamy.
Alternatives & Substitutions
Powdered (unflavored) whey can be bought at most health food stores. Liquid whey is more uncommon; the best option may be a small local cheese producer.
Also from Homestyle Icelandic Cooking for American Kitchens:
Reprinted with permission from Homestyle Icelandic Cooking for American Kitchens by Heidi Herman and Íeda Jónasdóttir Herman and published by Hekla Publishing LLC, 2016.