Raw materials available to the Vikings
At that time, in general, families were self-sufficient and fed on the products they were able to produce on their own in their fields and farms, gathering or hunting in the woods and fishing in the rivers and the sea.
At that time, for most of the population, the daily menu consisted of barley or oatmeal porridge, rye bread, butter and cheese. As hot foods we can highlight mainly soups and stews of meat, fish and vegetables, seasoned with aromatic herbs that they cultivated themselves or collected in the woods.
The most important main foods that the Vikings ate are:
- Meat : the farms consumed pigs, sheep, horses, goats, poultry, such as chickens and geese, and their eggs. They come from hunting deer, hare, wild boar, wild birds and, especially in northern Scandinavia, reindeer, seals and whales.
- Fish : herring, salmon, cod, mussels and oysters.
- Vegetables, fruits and berries : peas, cabbage, onions, garlic and leeks grown by themselves. They also gathered roots, stalks, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries… The fruits they had available were apples, rose hips, sloes, plums, cherries and elderberries.
- Cereals : They mainly cultivated barley, rye and barley. Wheat was rarer, but they also knew it.
- Dairy products : milk, butter, cheese and whey.
- Culinary Herbs : They planted watercress, cumin and mustard and harvested marsh myrtle, thyme, yarrow, angelica, and juniper.
- Other products : Although difficult to obtain, they used honey as a sweetener. They imported salt from the Baltic countries or produced it by evaporating seawater.
- Alcoholic beverages : They also produced various alcoholic beverages such as mead or mead , obtained from the fermentation of honey, and beer made from barley and flavored with hops. The image of the Vikings ingesting these drinks served with hollowed out horns is typical . They also knew about wine, even if they did not produce it, they had to import it from other territories and it was quite scarce.
Preparation and cooking of the food that the Vikings ate
Thanks to the kitchen utensils that the Vikings had in their homes and that archaeological finds have uncovered, we can get an idea of how they made their dishes.
The Vikings had containers of wood, leather and clay and stone and iron pots for roasting or boiling food. They also had tools for grinding and sieving wheat seeds, for whisking butter, and boards for kneading cheese. And of course a good assortment of bowls, spoons and ladles, axes and knives. What they didn’t have were forks, so they ate solid food with their hands.
The way to cook was to roast or boil food over an open fire, in an oven or to heat stones over the fire and place them in the wooden, leather or clay containers where the soup was cooked.
Preparation of provisions
The colder times of the year had no harvest and it was difficult to get food from hunting or gathering. The cattle were slaughtered because they couldn’t get enough fodder to support them all winter. They stored all that amount of meat to feed on during the long winter months. One of the most used techniques to keep food in good condition was drying, using the heat of the summer sun or inside the houses next to the heat of the houses. They also smoked meat or fish for storage. They also knew the salting technique, but it was less common because they had no natural deposits of this mineral.They had no choice but to extract the salt from the evaporation of seawater or import it from other countries.