THE PRODUCE AND THE TRADITIONS
Icelandic food traditions were characterized by high consumption of animal products and peculiar storage methods, the municipalities Þingeyjarsveit and Skútustaðahreppur are no exception. Residents are known for their excellent smoking methods, whether it is fish or meat. Agriculture is important to the region and geothermal energy is used to grow vegetables in greenhouses.
The sheep are kept in houses during the winter, but in the spring, when the weather allows, they are let out with their newborn lambs. Icelandic lambs therefore roam freely through mountains, valleys and pastures on Icelandic heaths, grazing wild plants and other nutritious vegetation. You can easily recognize the Icelandic lamb meat from its delicious taste, as the lamb has a brilliant taste. It always chooses the best, looks for new plants, fresh herbs and clean water. They move up to the mountains during the summer, until they are herded home in the autumn. Prior to freezing, meat was salted, smoked and pickled. Even the lamb shanks were pickled and are still a very popular dish. There is a lot of agriculture in the municipalities and a large supply of various kind of lamb meat.
TROUT & SALMON
Farm access to trout lakes and rivers has always been a great privilege and often a matter of life and death. If you ask a local near Lake Mývatn what was the most traditional dinner during their childhood, the answer is “trout and trout again; dried, salted and smoked ". The answers are probably similar among the neighbors by Vestmannsvatn Lake and Laxá River. Smoking huts are very common in the area and locals are true experts in smoking salmon and trout.
It can be said that smoked trout on hot-baked rye bread is the national dish of Mývatn.
THE UNDERGROUND BAKERY
The shortage of grain and firewood centuries ago led to bread making in a completely different way than is known today. Our ancestors used the geothermal energy that was available to bake rye bread underground, and this tradition has been maintained by the locals around lake Mývatn. The geysir bread as we call it is baked for 24 hours underground in Bjarnarflag and there is nothing like lukewarm bread with a thick pinch of butter. You can get the bread at all the main restaurants and cafés and most likely at the kitchen table by hospitable locals.
The Icelandic cow breed is the same as was moved here during the settlement and is therefore related to the Norwegian cow population. It is probably one of few species in the world that has remained this pure for so long.
Dry aged beef, fat-blasted is a gentleman's food and it is important not to over-cook the meat so that it almost melts inside your mouth. Some people like the cow meat better, but there is no specially labeled cow meat in stores. You can also get delicious veal meat and it is good to know a farmer who grows veals because it is rarely available in stores.
The Icelandic cow provides the country with milk and other dairy products. Skyr is probably the best known product and one of the most national dishes imaginable.
MOUNTAIN GRASS PORRIDGE
Icelanders had to make food out of as little as possible. A good example of this is the mountain grass porridge.
Milk is heated slowly until boiling. Buttermilk is added to thicken the milk. The mountain grass and sugar are then added. In some places it was customary to add rice. This turns into porridge that does not look particularly good but tastes much better!
Mountain grass porridge used to be considered a health remedy.
Egg-picking was and is extensive in Mývatn and the surrounding area, but the locals process duck and goose eggs in a very special way. The eggs are placed in ash and stored there for one to two years while they ferment and rot. After storing the eggs in the ashes, the eggs are boiled. The eggs are reminiscent of blue cheese both in texture and taste.
Rotten eggs were common here before but nowadays they are only pulled out of the ashes for special occasions such as Þorrablót, an Icelandic midwinter festival where people gather, tell stories, sing and eat selection of foods that were once common in the countryside.