We visited the headquarters of MS Iceland Dairies, the largest Icelandic dairy company. Inside you'll find a museum-like display of all their products: smjor (butter), flavored smjor (like bacon, paprika), mjolk (milk!), koko mjolk (chocolate milk), and of course skyr, which also comes in drinkable form (drykkur).
Skyr and mini cow
That mini plastic cow represents an esteemed breed of Icelandic cattle that's been traced back to the Viking settlement years ago. Icelanders have a lot of pride in their cows, as they should. These cows produce milk with five times more omega-3 fatty acids than milk from any other Nordic country.
Driving to the skyr factory
Leaving the MS Iceland Dairies office, we hopped into a Jeep with export manager Agnar Friðriksson, to visit the town of Selfoss to see skyr-making in action. It's a breathtaking drive to get to the factory, through a mystical mountainous region that was all snow-blanketed during our March trip.
Here we are the skyr plant in Selfoss, first built in 1929. Outside there are eight tankers to collect milk from some of the 700 family-run farms that are part of the MS Iceland Dairies co-op.
On a much smaller scale
The basics of skyr-making can be shown on a small scale with a coffee filter set-up. Skim milk that's been fermented with active cultures gets filtered. All the whey is pushed out (drip drop, drip drop) while the skyr trapped above retains most of the calcium and protein goodness, and ends up having a ridiculously thick texture without any fat. They do this much faster and more efficiently via filtration machinery inside the factory...
Now the tour really begins
All hair-netted and ready to go, it's time to step inside the factory!
Our skyr guide Olafur
Meet our tour guide Olafur, a food scientist who constantly checks the consistency of skyr batches here. The man eats a lot of skyr.
Breathe in that skyr air
Take a few steps inside and your lungs fill up with all that creamy, skyr-scented air.
Milk delivered to the factory first gets separated into skim milk and cream. Skyr is always made from skim milk, so that fatty cream goes bye-bye, to be used in other dairy products.
Lots and lots of "mjolk" (yes you guessed it, milk) in that vat.
Here the skim milk gets pasteurized.
The pasteurized milk then ferments with a skyr culture for over eight hours.
In order to develop that ridiculously thick and creamy texture, the skyr has to be pressed through these filtering devices. All the whey liquid is pushed out through tiny holes.
Flavor Mixing Tank
The unflavored skyr gets mixed with various fruit compounds and flavorings in 500-kilo tanks. The factory makes several flavors, depending on the day: plain, vanilla, blueberry, strawberry, pear, passionfruit, or peach. On our visit it was vanilla day, which made the air smell especially amazing.
What does it sound like? Exactly how you'd imagine.. squooch, out the skyr squirts from the big nozzles into little cups.
Two by two
Out comes the freshest batch of skyr! The pairs of skyr pots travel down the conveyer belt, all sealed with mini plastic spoons and ready to be released into the world.
Factory workers monitor the conveyer belt.
So much skyr in one room!
Rows and rows of skyr ready to be shipped out. On our visit, they were packaging 19,000 vanilla skyr pots to Finland. Skyr has a 30-day shelf life, so it's quickly sent off and would be arriving in grocery stores a few days later.
Of all the skyr flavors we tried—and we tried just about all of them—pear was our favorite. It was kind of like biting into a juicy Bartlett, but with a spoon and much, much creamier.
The older packaging
You're looking at the older design being phased out this spring and replaced with the new packaging featured in the previous slide (the pear). The company is always testing out new innovations and flavors to keep the skyr market exciting.
Everywhere you look, skyr.
Goodbye in Iceandic is "bless bless." Hair-netted and blue footsied, we head out of the factory. We'll never forget how creamy-good it smelled in that skyr wonderland.