What’s simply called rye bread (or hverabrauð) by Icelanders is also known as lava, volcanic or hot spring bread. The process starts with a dough of dark rye and whole wheat flour, buttermilk, golden syrup, baking powder, baking soda and a little salt. The dough is enclosed in a metal container—even an old can with a lid will do, before it’s sealed and buried in the ground to bake for 24 hours. Ours was not buried in the ground but enclosed in a steam vent near our guesthouse. We went for a short hike where Herdis explained the process and carefully opened the lid to reveal ours along with some other packages of bread in recycled metal containers. Hiking back and within minutes, we were eating some of the best bread I’ve ever had in my life!
What makes it taste so great? The dense bread has precisely the right amount of sponginess and a hint of caramel, thanks to the golden syrup. Best served hot, it’s even better with a little butter. It was truly beautiful to taste—fresh and warm like it had just come out of an oven, but incredibly moist and slightly sweet, almost like the consistency of a cake.
Our visit with Hulda Brynjólfsdóttir at UppSpuni Mini Mill was fantastic! She walked us through their wool processing, from the raw wool, to cleaning and preparing the first thread, and then joining two or three threads to create soft warm wool yarn. Then we visited and shopped in her beautiful yarn boutique.
Our workshop with Guðrún Bjarnadóttir at Hespa had us involved in hands on dyeing of wool with the natural flora and fauna of Iceland. Guðrún was so kind to welcome us to her lovely studio and to share with us her story of naturally dyed Icelandic yarn.
“I only have to walk outside of my house to get most of my coloring plants and meet the sheep from the next farm. Some plants I have to go further to collect like the lichens and Cow parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris). Coloring with plants is seasonal. In Iceland we have a short summer, 3-4 months, and I have to collect plants in autumn so I can color in the winter. We can not get blue and good red from our nature so we have for centuries imported indigo and Madder root for those colors so that is according to our tradition. I color with the same process as people did in the old days but I have electricity and better dyepots (Stainless steel) and I also use household cleaning ammonium instead of old cow urine as people did in the old days. Same methods, same chemistry but easier and cleaner process.” (pulled from Fillory Yarn interview)
Kerid crater lake is a 3,000 year old volcanic crater lake, which is relatively shallow, about 10-14 meters deep. The water is a unique and strikingly vivid aquamarine shade of blue surrounded by rare red volcanic rock. We took a quick and easy hike around and enjoyed the spectacular view!
One evening we had share with us his unedited video clips of the annual réttir—the nationwide roundup where people on foot, ATVs or Icelandic horses retrieve their sheep from the mountains and valleys, aided by trusty sheepdogs. The grueling endeavor sometimes requires days in the saddle!