Medieval texts colour our knowledge about Odin


Researchers disagree on the Viking Age conceptions of the god Odin. The source material is ambiguous and difficult to interpret.

Odin with his two ravens, Hugin and Munin (Illustration from a 19th century document. The Árni Magnússon Institute in Iceland)
Today, the general conception of Odin is that of the one-eyed chief of the Norse gods. However, when it comes to the general conception that was prevalent in the Viking age, researchers disagree.
Up until now, research history shows us that the method for understanding Odin has been wrong.
Annette Lassen says.
“Regarding medieval texts as a single, heathen text and extrapolating an image of Odin from this is not a viable option. The texts are very diverse,” she says.

According to Lassen, once the Christian way of thought has been identified, not much information is left about Odin in the old sources.

She says that while archaeologists and historians of religion may not necessarily agree with this, there is not likely to be anyone disagreeing that it is necessary to analyse the Christian additions, before starting to look into the original Viking Age conception of Odin.

“My aim with the book was to focus on the Medieval Odin figure, clarify the extent to which Christianity has shaped our ideas of heathenism and demonstrate that this calls for circumspection, but also to come up with a method that other researchers can use,” she says.

“Basing a thesis about the pre-Christian Odin on a series of elements from medieval texts about Odin presupposes an interest in whether those elements come from Christian ideas.

By: Irene Berg Sørensen

ScienceNordic

Whole Article: http://sciencenordic.com/medieval-texts-colour-our-knowledge-about-odin

Old Norse religion in long-term perspectives: Origins, Changes, Interaction


Just click and read!

http://www.google.com/books?id=gjq6rvoIRpAC&lpg=PT138&ots=dpn8js0DCl&dq=Sm%C3%A5l%C3%A4ndsk%20folklore&lr&hl=sv&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false

By: Anders Andrén,Kristina Jennbert,Catharina Raudvere

Halfdan’s Viking Mead Recipe


“Ale has too often been praised by poets.
The longer you drink, the less sense your mind makes of things.”

–Ancient Viking Hávamál Proverb

       Halfdan’s Viking Mead Recipe   

  Mead (Honey Wine) – 5 gallon recipe

 8-10 lbs pure raw honey (for light, delicate Mead) (or)
 12-13 " " " " (for medium sweet Mead) 
(or) 15-16 "" " " (for very sweet or alcoholic Mead)
 4-5 gallons purified spring water (not distilled)
 3 tsp. yeast nutrient (or 5 tablets)
 1 tsp. acid blend (combination malic/citric acid) 
5-7 oz. sliced fresh gingerroot (1 finger's length)
 1/4 tsp. fresh rosemary (optional, as desired) 
5-6 whole cloves (optional, asdesired) 
1-2 vanilla beans (optional, as desired)
 cinnamon/nutmeg (optional, as desired) 
lime/orange peels (optional, as desired) 
crushed fruit (peaches, strawberries, grapes, etc.) 
1 tsp. Irish Moss(to clarify Mead)
 1/2 tsp. clear gelatin (to clarify Mead) 
1 spotted newt's tail (optional, asdesired :) 
1 packet yeast (champagne or ale yeast) 

Heat spring water 10-15 minutes till boiling. Stir in honey, yeast nutrients, acid blend, and spices (rosemary, ginger, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, lemon peel). Boil for another 10-15 minutes, (overcooking removes too much honey flavor), skimming off foam as needed (2 to 3 times during last 15 minutes). After 15 minutes, add Irish Moss or clear gelatin to clarify. After last skimming, turn off heat, add crushed fruit, and let steep 15-30 minutes while allowing mead to cool and clarify. After mead begins to clear, strain off fruit with hand skimmer and pour mead through strainer funnel into 5 gallon glass carboy jug.

Let cool to room temperature about 24 hours. After 24 hours, warm up 1 cup of mead in microwave, stir in 1 packet “Red Star” Champagne, Montrechet, or Epernet yeast (or Ale yeast in order to make mead ale), and let sit for 5-15 minutes to allow yeast to begin to work. Add this mead/yeast mixture to carboy jug and swirl around to aerate, thereby adding oxygen to mead/yeast mixture.

Place run-off tube in stopper of bottle, with other end of tube in large bowl or bottle to capture “blow-off” froth. Let mead sit undisturbed 7 days in cool, dark area. After initial violent fermenting slows down and mead begins to settle, rack off (siphon off) good mead into clean sterilized jug, leaving all sediment in bottom of first jug. Attach airlock to this secondary carboy. After 4-6 months, mead will clear. During this time, if more sediment forms on bottom, good mead can be racked off again to another clean sterilized jug.

When bottling, in order to add carbonation, add either 1/4 tsp. white table sugar per 12 oz bottle, or stir in 1/2 to 1 lb raw honey per 5 gallons mead (by first dissolving honey with a small amount of mead or pure water in microwave).

Enjoy! Skål!Source: http://www.blue-n-gold.com/halfdan/meadrecp.htm

Preserved foods of the Viking Age


 Preserved foods of the Viking Age   Why food preservation is important While the urban population during the Viking age may have had access to frequent markets or food stalls, the majority of the (rural) Vikings population had to rely on food preservation to survive the winter.  Most Viking farmers had comparatively small holdings, and produced food mainly for the subsistence of their own families, rather than generating cash crops what would allow them to purchase food from external sources. Starving sucks In a subsistence farming economy, each farming household had to rely on the produce of their farm for the majority of their living.  Given the short growing season in the North, it was even more important to preserve the farm’s produce over the winter. No refrigeration Almost all of the techniques for food preservation that we rely upon today were unknown in the Viking Age.  There were no refrigerators, no canned food, and no freeze drying (at least as we know it today).  The Vikings had to rely on traditional methods of food preservation. Some vegetable foods can be preserved in their “raw” form over the winter, particularly in a cool climate.  Onions, root vegetables, and to some extent cabbages can be preserved by burying them in sand or loose soil, or storing them in hay in a cool place like a root cellar.  Since Viking cabbages were not headed cabbages like we have today, they probably didn’t hold up to such treatment as well as modern head cabbage. How was food preserved Drying Many different foods can be preserved by drying, including grain, meat and fish, vegetables and fruit.  Drying is well suited to the cold and often windy conditions prevalent in Northern Europe, and requires little in the way of resources.  Dried food can be kept for long periods of time as long as it is kept away from moisture.  Foods with a high fat content do not dry well without salt or other anti-bacterial agent. Pickling Many different foods can be pickled, either in vinegar, salt, or other acids such as soured whey.  In areas where salt was affordable, meat, vegetables and fish can be pickled in salt.  In areas where salt was more expensive or unavailable, the same foods could be preserved in vinegar or sour whey.  Soft vegetables, and fattier meats such as pork lend themselves well to pickling. Salting Some foods can be preserved in salt without liquids, such as some cheeses, smoked fish, or fatty meats like pork.  However, the farther north you go in the Viking world, the less likely it is that salt was readily available or affordable.  In Iceland salt was essentially absent, so pickling in acid or drying were much more practical.  In the South, such as parts of Denmark or the Danelaw in England, salt would have been more available and affordable, making things like bacon, ham, or smoked fish more popular. Fermentation There are a whole host of bacteria that can be employed to preserve food for human consumption.  Lactobacilli can pickle meat and vegetables by producing acid in liquids.  Cheese, soured milk, and other dairy ferments are all produced by bacteria as well.  Fermentation also produces alcohol, vinegar, and a wealth of other healthy and long-keeping foods. Smoking Smoking is particularly important in keeping food that has a high fat content and will not be kept in liquid, such as ham, bacon, smoked fish or smoked cheeses.  Smoking by itself is not sufficient, and smoked foods usually need to be salted as well.  Smoke was also used to preserve some foods on a day to day basis.  Dried breads were hung from a pole or string over the hearth, where the heat and smoke kept them dry and free from insects. What was preserved Grains Grains such as barley, rye and oats can be preserved for a limited time just by drying.  But grain in bins can only last so long.  There are several ways of making the calories from grain last longer. Bread Bread or crackers baked hard will keep longer than grain by itself.  Hard tack or crisp bread dried completely and stored in either waterproof containers or over the fire will keep nearly indefinitely.  They are easy to eat, easy to store, and easy to transport.  Thin dried bread (like modern rye crisps) can be eaten plain or with fish, cheese, or whatever you might have.  Hard tack is best soaked or cooked in liquid before eating.  You can break up hard tack for “porridge” or use it to thicken soups. Beer Calories from grain can also be preserved in the form of beer.  By converting some of the grain’s starch to alcohol, bacteria or other contaminants can’t grow, and the calories are preserved.  However, it is unclear how long the kind of beer made by the Vikings would really have kept.  Given the brewing techniques available, beer may have been comparatively perishable. Fruit The Vikings had access to a wide variety of fruits, and many of those are comparatively easy to store.  Some fruit can be dried, some pickled, and a few might keep in a cool place well into the Fall at least. Dried Several easily dried stone fruits, including cherries and plums of various kinds were known to the Vikings.  Apples can be dried as well, and some berries can be dried in a dry enough climate. Pickled Apples in particular are traditionally pickled all over Europe today, and lend themselves well to it. Frozen? It is traditional in Finland to store lingonberries in water, which then freezes during cold weather.  There’s no evidence (that I’ve seen) to suggest this was common in the Viking Age, but it’s not something that would be likely to show up in the archeological record. Vegetables Cold storage Some vegetables will keep for a long time in cold storage if properly packed and cared for, such as turnips, carrots, parsnips, onions, and garlic.  See above note on cabbages. Pickles The most likely way to preserve vegetables is by fermenting them.  Lactic acid pickles are easy to make, delicious and nutritious to eat, and contribute to a healthy digestive system (as modern science is rediscovering).  Sauerkraut and “kosher” or “sour” dill pickles are good modern examples, but other vegetables like turnips, carrots, celery and others can all be pickled this way.  Once you have a good bacterial culture, such pickles can be made with little to no salt, as it is primarily the lactic acid produced by the friendly bacteria that keep out the unfriendly ones. Meat Salt The most common way to preserve meats is with salt.  Salts of various types (sodium/potassium/etc.) keep unfriendly bacteria from getting into meat and allow it to be stored for long periods.  Smoking will help fattier meats keep longer than salt by itself, as will immersing them in liquid (brine) since the liquid helps keep oxygen away from the meat. Acid Acid solutions such as vinegar or soured whey can also be used to preserve meats.  Sausages in particular have traditionally been pickled in brine, in vinegar, in sourced whey, or by themselves.  In Iceland they still use sour whey to preserve sausages made at slaughtering time, and such was most likely the case in the Viking Age as well.  Some traditional (i.e. early modern) sausages are made with rye flour added to them.  When rye flour is left in water, it sours naturally, so the rye-laden sausages were placed in jars of water that soured and thus preserved the sausages.  Note: any such meat preserved in acid without salt is cooked first before being submerged. Fish Pickled Many oilier fish can be readily pickled.  Herring, sardines, anchovies and possibly mackerel-esque fishes can be pickled in salt or in a lactic acid solution.  The pickled herring that adorn the modern Scandinavian table are certainly different, since they tend to contain a fair amount of sugar and spices that were unavailable in the Viking period, but the overall effect would have been the same.  Chopped up bits or herring suspended in a sour solution, possibly with the addition of some salt if available. Dried One of the great mainstays and staple foods of the Viking world was dried cod.  Because cod contain almost no fat, they can be dried hard in the cold and windy Scandinavian climate, and will keep pretty much as long as they can be kept dry.  The Viking warriors who travelled overseas took dried cod with them, and in a pinch were known to gnaw on the dried fillets all by themselves.  In a more comfortable setting, the stockfish, or klipfisk, would have been soaked in liquid until they were soft(er) and made into soup or mixed into other dishes. Smoked If salt is available, oilier fish can be smoked.  Salmon, herring, haddock, and mackerel can be smoked and preserved for long periods, although not as long as cod. Dairy products Only a very few Scandinavians are lactose intolerant compared with rates in the rest of the world.  It has long been speculated that this is because dairy products are easy to produce and the keep in their climate, which makes the ability to digest milk into adulthood a survival characteristic.  Whether that is true or not, it is certainly true that milk and milk products have long played an integral role and source of nutrition in Scandinavia since well before the Viking Age.  Dairy products are one of the few food products mentioned in the sagas, so there is some good documentary evidence for milk and milk products in the Viking period. Sour milk If raw (unpasteurized) milk is left out in mild temperatures, it will naturally grow lactobacilli that cause it to sour.  Sour milk was commonly drunk as a beverage and probably used in cooking, baking, and in making cheese.  In early modern Sweden, sour milk was mixed with small beer both as a beverage and as a cooking medium.  If sour milk is heated, it will coagulate, and can then be drained to make a simple cheese to be eaten fresh, or preserved with salt or further bacterial action as cheese. Cheese The simplest fresh or “farmer’s” cheese can be made from soured milk or fresh milk which is heated and coagulated by the addition of soured milk or other acids. Milk can also be combined with rennet to create a whole variety of cheeses and cheese products.  If salted and dried, “hard” cheeses can be kept for very long periods of time without spoiling. Skyr Skyr is somewhere between a cultured milk and a cheese.  It is cultured with lactobacilli much like yogurt of buttermilk, but it also is coagulated with rennet.  Once the rennet causes it to set, the curds are drained, and the result is very similar to a drained yogurt.  It is mildly sour and quite dense, and contains a great deal of protein.  Skyr is traditionally made with skim milk, since the milk fat was used to make butter.  Skyr was a mainstay of the Icelandic diet, and was eaten by itself, with fruit, or mixed into porridge or other dishes to stretch them and to add additional protein. Butter The milk fat from cow’s milk is easily converted into butter, which has a much longer shelf life than fresh milk.  Also, since the Vikings tended to make butter from cultured or soured milk, the additional acid content would help preserve the butter. Other cultured milk products The documentary evidence speaks mainly of “sour” milk, but it is unclear if that means raw milk that sours naturally, or milk which was intentionally cultured.  In modern Scandinavia, there are a number of cultured milk products that are “traditional” (meaning at least early modern) but there is no telling how far they go back.  Piima, viili, and fil mjolk are all examples of modern Finnish or Swedish dairy cultures.  They are fairly easy to obtain and to propagate, and may come close to simulated the naturally soured milk that we can no longer achieve with pasteurized milk today. What evidence do we have? Unfortunately, fermented foods are difficult to distinguish in the archeological record.  Most food products decompose rapidly, and if anything is left it is the hard parts like seeds and bones, where it would be almost impossible to tell if they came from preserved foods or fresh.  There is some evidence from the sagas about butter, cheese, skyr and sour milk, as well as dried cod.  Several pieces of carbonized breads have been found in various Viking contexts, and good analysis has been done on their composition. Luckily, a few artifacts have survived that are linked to food preservation The bottom board from a rectangular cheese press made of wood, similar to those used in Aland in the early modern period Several wooden butter churns Curd strainers, both wooden and hair Vegetable matter from potsherds consistent with fermentation References Primary sources Hansson, Ann-Marie. On Plant Food in the Scandinavian Peninsula in Early Medieval Times.  Theses and Papers in Archaeology B:5. Stockholm: University of Stockholm. 1997. Isaksson, Sven.  The culture of food in Early Medieval Middle Sweden.  A pottery use perspective.Food and Rank in Early Medieval Time. Stockholm: University of Stockholm. 2000. Jørgensen, G. et al. Analyses of Medieval Plant Remains, Textiles and Wood from Medieval Svendborg. The Archaeology of Svendborg 4, Odense: Odense University Press. 1986. Early modern references Bringéus, Nils-Arvid. “A Swedish beer milk shake.”Milk and Milk Products from Medieval to Modern Times. ed. Patricia Lysaght, pp. 140-150.  Precedings of the Ninth International Conference on Ethnological Food Research.  Edinburgh: Conongate Academic, 1994. Gísladóttir, Hallgerður. “The use of whey in Icelandic households.” Milk and Milk Products from Medieval to Modern Times. ed. Patricia Lysaght, pp. 123-129.  Precedings of the Ninth International Conference on Ethnological Food Research.  Edinburgh: Conongate Academic, 1994. Modern works on food preservation Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Katz Truly Cultured, by Nancy Lee Bentley Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning, by the Gardeners and Farmers of Centre Terre Vivante Making sauerkraut and pickled vegetables at home, by Klaus Kaufmann Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn Resources Dairy cultures http://www.culturesforhealth.com/ in Oregon City has several dairy as well as vegetable cultures, and fermentation and cheese making equipment. http://gemcultures.com/ in Lakewood, WA has several dairy cultures. In the past I’ve gotten piima and fil mjolk cultures from www.fermentedtreasures.com, but their server seems to have gone kaplooey. http://www.kookoolanfarms.com in Yamhill has lots of cheese making supplies, as well as raw cow’s milk http://www.cheesemaking.com is Ricki Caroll’s excellent cheese making supply company.

 

Preserved foods of the Viking Age

Why food preservation is important

While the urban population during the Viking age may have had access to frequent markets or food stalls, the majority of the (rural) Vikings population had to rely on food preservation to survive the winter.  Most Viking farmers had comparatively small holdings, and produced food mainly for the subsistence of their own families, rather than generating cash crops what would allow them to purchase food from external sources.

Starving sucks

In a subsistence farming economy, each farming household had to rely on the produce of their farm for the majority of their living.  Given the short growing season in the North, it was even more important to preserve the farm’s produce over the winter.

No refrigeration

Almost all of the techniques for food preservation that we rely upon today were unknown in the Viking Age.  There were no refrigerators, no canned food, and no freeze drying (at least as we know it today).  The Vikings had to rely on traditional methods of food preservation.

Some vegetable foods can be preserved in their “raw” form over the winter, particularly in a cool climate.  Onions, root vegetables, and to some extent cabbages can be preserved by burying them in sand or loose soil, or storing them in hay in a cool place like a root cellar.  Since Viking cabbages were not headed cabbages like we have today, they probably didn’t hold up to such treatment as well as modern head cabbage.

How was food preserved

Drying

Many different foods can be preserved by drying, including grain, meat and fish, vegetables and fruit.  Drying is well suited to the cold and often windy conditions prevalent in Northern Europe, and requires little in the way of resources.  Dried food can be kept for long periods of time as long as it is kept away from moisture.  Foods with a high fat content do not dry well without salt or other anti-bacterial agent.

Pickling

Many different foods can be pickled, either in vinegar, salt, or other acids such as soured whey.  In areas where salt was affordable, meat, vegetables and fish can be pickled in salt.  In areas where salt was more expensive or unavailable, the same foods could be preserved in vinegar or sour whey.  Soft vegetables, and fattier meats such as pork lend themselves well to pickling.

Salting

Some foods can be preserved in salt without liquids, such as some cheeses, smoked fish, or fatty meats like pork.  However, the farther north you go in the Viking world, the less likely it is that salt was readily available or affordable.  In Iceland salt was essentially absent, so pickling in acid or drying were much more practical.  In the South, such as parts of Denmark or the Danelaw in England, salt would have been more available and affordable, making things like bacon, ham, or smoked fish more popular.

Fermentation

There are a whole host of bacteria that can be employed to preserve food for human consumption.  Lactobacilli can pickle meat and vegetables by producing acid in liquids.  Cheese, soured milk, and other dairy ferments are all produced by bacteria as well.  Fermentation also produces alcohol, vinegar, and a wealth of other healthy and long-keeping foods.

Smoking

Smoking is particularly important in keeping food that has a high fat content and will not be kept in liquid, such as ham, bacon, smoked fish or smoked cheeses.  Smoking by itself is not sufficient, and smoked foods usually need to be salted as well.  Smoke was also used to preserve some foods on a day to day basis.  Dried breads were hung from a pole or string over the hearth, where the heat and smoke kept them dry and free from insects.

What was preserved

Grains

Grains such as barley, rye and oats can be preserved for a limited time just by drying.  But grain in bins can only last so long.  There are several ways of making the calories from grain last longer.

Bread

Bread or crackers baked hard will keep longer than grain by itself.  Hard tack or crisp bread dried completely and stored in either waterproof containers or over the fire will keep nearly indefinitely.  They are easy to eat, easy to store, and easy to transport.  Thin dried bread (like modern rye crisps) can be eaten plain or with fish, cheese, or whatever you might have.  Hard tack is best soaked or cooked in liquid before eating.  You can break up hard tack for “porridge” or use it to thicken soups.

Beer

Calories from grain can also be preserved in the form of beer.  By converting some of the grain’s starch to alcohol, bacteria or other contaminants can’t grow, and the calories are preserved.  However, it is unclear how long the kind of beer made by the Vikings would really have kept.  Given the brewing techniques available, beer may have been comparatively perishable.

Fruit

The Vikings had access to a wide variety of fruits, and many of those are comparatively easy to store.  Some fruit can be dried, some pickled, and a few might keep in a cool place well into the Fall at least.

Dried

Several easily dried stone fruits, including cherries and plums of various kinds were known to the Vikings.  Apples can be dried as well, and some berries can be dried in a dry enough climate.

Pickled

Apples in particular are traditionally pickled all over Europe today, and lend themselves well to it.

Frozen?

It is traditional in Finland to store lingonberries in water, which then freezes during cold weather.  There’s no evidence (that I’ve seen) to suggest this was common in the Viking Age, but it’s not something that would be likely to show up in the archeological record.

Vegetables

Cold storage

Some vegetables will keep for a long time in cold storage if properly packed and cared for, such as turnips, carrots, parsnips, onions, and garlic.  See above note on cabbages.

Pickles

The most likely way to preserve vegetables is by fermenting them.  Lactic acid pickles are easy to make, delicious and nutritious to eat, and contribute to a healthy digestive system (as modern science is rediscovering).  Sauerkraut and “kosher” or “sour” dill pickles are good modern examples, but other vegetables like turnips, carrots, celery and others can all be pickled this way.  Once you have a good bacterial culture, such pickles can be made with little to no salt, as it is primarily the lactic acid produced by the friendly bacteria that keep out the unfriendly ones.

Meat

Salt

The most common way to preserve meats is with salt.  Salts of various types (sodium/potassium/etc.) keep unfriendly bacteria from getting into meat and allow it to be stored for long periods.  Smoking will help fattier meats keep longer than salt by itself, as will immersing them in liquid (brine) since the liquid helps keep oxygen away from the meat.

Acid

Acid solutions such as vinegar or soured whey can also be used to preserve meats.  Sausages in particular have traditionally been pickled in brine, in vinegar, in sourced whey, or by themselves.  In Iceland they still use sour whey to preserve sausages made at slaughtering time, and such was most likely the case in the Viking Age as well.  Some traditional (i.e. early modern) sausages are made with rye flour added to them.  When rye flour is left in water, it sours naturally, so the rye-laden sausages were placed in jars of water that soured and thus preserved the sausages.  Note: any such meat preserved in acid without salt is cooked first before being submerged.

Fish

Pickled

Many oilier fish can be readily pickled.  Herring, sardines, anchovies and possibly mackerel-esque fishes can be pickled in salt or in a lactic acid solution.  The pickled herring that adorn the modern Scandinavian table are certainly different, since they tend to contain a fair amount of sugar and spices that were unavailable in the Viking period, but the overall effect would have been the same.  Chopped up bits or herring suspended in a sour solution, possibly with the addition of some salt if available.

Dried

One of the great mainstays and staple foods of the Viking world was dried cod.  Because cod contain almost no fat, they can be dried hard in the cold and windy Scandinavian climate, and will keep pretty much as long as they can be kept dry.  The Viking warriors who travelled overseas took dried cod with them, and in a pinch were known to gnaw on the dried fillets all by themselves.  In a more comfortable setting, the stockfish, or klipfisk, would have been soaked in liquid until they were soft(er) and made into soup or mixed into other dishes.

Smoked

If salt is available, oilier fish can be smoked.  Salmon, herring, haddock, and mackerel can be smoked and preserved for long periods, although not as long as cod.

Dairy products

Only a very few Scandinavians are lactose intolerant compared with rates in the rest of the world.  It has long been speculated that this is because dairy products are easy to produce and the keep in their climate, which makes the ability to digest milk into adulthood a survival characteristic.  Whether that is true or not, it is certainly true that milk and milk products have long played an integral role and source of nutrition in Scandinavia since well before the Viking Age.  Dairy products are one of the few food products mentioned in the sagas, so there is some good documentary evidence for milk and milk products in the Viking period.

Sour milk

If raw (unpasteurized) milk is left out in mild temperatures, it will naturally grow lactobacilli that cause it to sour.  Sour milk was commonly drunk as a beverage and probably used in cooking, baking, and in making cheese.  In early modern Sweden, sour milk was mixed with small beer both as a beverage and as a cooking medium.  If sour milk is heated, it will coagulate, and can then be drained to make a simple cheese to be eaten fresh, or preserved with salt or further bacterial action as cheese.

Cheese

The simplest fresh or “farmer’s” cheese can be made from soured milk or fresh milk which is heated and coagulated by the addition of soured milk or other acids.

Milk can also be combined with rennet to create a whole variety of cheeses and cheese products.  If salted and dried, “hard” cheeses can be kept for very long periods of time without spoiling.

Skyr

Skyr is somewhere between a cultured milk and a cheese.  It is cultured with lactobacilli much like yogurt of buttermilk, but it also is coagulated with rennet.  Once the rennet causes it to set, the curds are drained, and the result is very similar to a drained yogurt.  It is mildly sour and quite dense, and contains a great deal of protein.  Skyr is traditionally made with skim milk, since the milk fat was used to make butter.  Skyr was a mainstay of the Icelandic diet, and was eaten by itself, with fruit, or mixed into porridge or other dishes to stretch them and to add additional protein.

Butter

The milk fat from cow’s milk is easily converted into butter, which has a much longer shelf life than fresh milk.  Also, since the Vikings tended to make butter from cultured or soured milk, the additional acid content would help preserve the butter.

Other cultured milk products

The documentary evidence speaks mainly of “sour” milk, but it is unclear if that means raw milk that sours naturally, or milk which was intentionally cultured.  In modern Scandinavia, there are a number of cultured milk products that are “traditional” (meaning at least early modern) but there is no telling how far they go back.  Piima, viili, and fil mjolk are all examples of modern Finnish or Swedish dairy cultures.  They are fairly easy to obtain and to propagate, and may come close to simulated the naturally soured milk that we can no longer achieve with pasteurized milk today.

What evidence do we have?

Unfortunately, fermented foods are difficult to distinguish in the archeological record.  Most food products decompose rapidly, and if anything is left it is the hard parts like seeds and bones, where it would be almost impossible to tell if they came from preserved foods or fresh.  There is some evidence from the sagas about butter, cheese, skyr and sour milk, as well as dried cod.  Several pieces of carbonized breads have been found in various Viking contexts, and good analysis has been done on their composition.

Luckily, a few artifacts have survived that are linked to food preservation

  • The bottom board from a rectangular cheese press made of wood, similar to those used in Aland in the early modern period
  • Several wooden butter churns
  • Curd strainers, both wooden and hair
  • Vegetable matter from potsherds consistent with fermentation

References

Primary sources

Hansson, Ann-Marie. On Plant Food in the Scandinavian Peninsula in Early Medieval Times.  Theses and Papers in Archaeology B:5. Stockholm: University of Stockholm. 1997.

Isaksson, Sven.  The culture of food in Early Medieval Middle Sweden.  A pottery use perspective.Food and Rank in Early Medieval Time. Stockholm: University of Stockholm. 2000.

Jørgensen, G. et al. Analyses of Medieval Plant Remains, Textiles and Wood from Medieval Svendborg. The Archaeology of Svendborg 4, Odense: Odense University Press. 1986.

Early modern references

Bringéus, Nils-Arvid. “A Swedish beer milk shake.”Milk and Milk Products from Medieval to Modern Times. ed. Patricia Lysaght, pp. 140-150.  Precedings of the Ninth International Conference on Ethnological Food Research.  Edinburgh: Conongate Academic, 1994.

Gísladóttir, Hallgerður. “The use of whey in Icelandic households.” Milk and Milk Products from Medieval to Modern Times. ed. Patricia Lysaght, pp. 123-129.  Precedings of the Ninth International Conference on Ethnological Food Research.  Edinburgh: Conongate Academic, 1994.

Modern works on food preservation

Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon

Wild Fermentation, by Sandor Katz

Truly Cultured, by Nancy Lee Bentley

Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning, by the Gardeners and Farmers of Centre Terre Vivante

Making sauerkraut and pickled vegetables at home, by Klaus Kaufmann

Charcuterie, by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn

Resources

Dairy cultures

http://www.culturesforhealth.com/ in Oregon City has several dairy as well as vegetable cultures, and fermentation and cheese making equipment.

http://gemcultures.com/ in Lakewood, WA has several dairy cultures.

In the past I’ve gotten piima and fil mjolk cultures from www.fermentedtreasures.com, but their server seems to have gone kaplooey.

http://www.kookoolanfarms.com in Yamhill has lots of cheese making supplies, as well as raw cow’s milk

http://www.cheesemaking.com is Ricki Caroll’s excellent cheese making supply company.

This work: http://vikingfoodguy.com/wordpress/preserved-foods-of-the-viking-age/

 

Viking Age – Farm and village


  Print In the middle of the world was a farm. The farm itself. The farmhouse and its land was in the center both in the daily reality and in people’s worldview. At the core of the house was warmth, and friends. In the open countryside around it was farmland, other farms and villages. But around it were large forests or oceans, and here the world ended for most people.  Reconstruction of a Viking house from 1000’s of High, Sweden. Living on a farm means to monitor the animals and the arable annual timetables.Ploughing, sowing, harvesting. The animals were to and from work. You have to store up food and feed for the winter. It was on the farm most of Viking life was lived. The farm in the middle The Norse mythology tells us that humans and gods lived in Middle Earth. It means “courtyard in the middle”. Middle Earth was in the mythology of the civilized world, and rather an urban landscape - a community - than an isolated farm. Outside Middle-earth was unknown land of monsters such as giants. Worldview and Rural This world is easily understandable by the light of the settlement pattern looked like in Scandinavia. There were many small agricultural regions (Middle Earth) which was separated by large undeveloped areas, often deep forests. The farm lands and most of all the farm itself was at the center is not surprising because this is where life was lived. Farm and village Farms could be alone or in villages. In densely populated major agricultural areas of the villages seems to have been the most common, while lonely farms was probably typical of the more sparsely populated areas. Farms appearance, construction method, and how many houses of different varieties they covered ranged from different areas. The most common was that it was a bit bigger houses surrounded by a few small houses. The house in Bjärred In a small village in Bjärred in western Skåne was in the 800s a house. It was 21 meters long and 6.5 meters wide. That means a living area of 136.5 square feet and does not seem so bad for a large family of perhaps 70-10 people. But the house would probably also hold some cattle. Even if you had a proper demarcation of stable part so you could not get out of animal smells and sounds. The frame of the house were two rows of sparsely covered large wooden posts. On these pillars rested the roof’s weight. A large number of wall poles had been knocked down on the takbärande poles. Between the wall poles intertwined branches which are then underlined with clay and perhaps fertilizer. So you had to own walls. In some places the walls were built entirely of wood or of stone and earth. The roof was a branch works as being covered with straw or reeds. In the middle of the house was the hearth and that was its main point. From there came light, heat, and it was here the food was cooked. Viking ceramic vessels from Köpingsvik,Köpings parish, Öland.Inventarienr: 25840:59:3:51. The furniture in a Viking houses were few. Along the walls were probably low benches. On the floor there were maybe some rough chairs, tables and benches. Coffins and baskets couldused for storage. Of course there were a lot of little things as tools, pots, ceramic cooking and storage, textiles of various kinds, wooden barrels to eat at. Textile equipment of various kinds shows that crafts such as spinning wool and weaving was done indoors. Grophus Outside the house in Bjärred was one yard. Here was a small house that’s been around a house. There was also a very small house, the floor lowered into the ground. Such houses, or rather earth huts, called grophus and is often circular with a diameter of like that two to three meters. Pit houses seem mostly to have been used for crafts. Many have been found in textile equipment. Some were tanks. Excavated by Many Viking houses and parts of the farms have been excavated by archaeologists. In Denmark, the whole village unearthed. The most famous was at Vorbasse in Jutland.From here you can get an impression of how a large Viking agricultural village looked like. Livestock and crops Wooden plows from Tibble, Björnlunda parish,Södermanland.Inventarienr 26022ndThe common was that they were involved in both livestock and agriculture. Pigs, cattle and sheep were ordinary domestic animals on farms. Plows were not, but the most important tool was årdret and it was used to loosen the soil, topsoil down the seed, remove weeds and break up the stubble after harvest. Årdret a traction tool that could be drawn by one or two oxen, cows, horses or people. Ardres was reinforced with iron in the lead - a årderbill. For reaping and mowing had scythes and sickles.

 

Print

In the middle of the world was a farm. The farm itself. The farmhouse and its land was in the center both in the daily reality and in people’s worldview. At the core of the house was warmth, and friends. In the open countryside around it was farmland, other farms and villages. But around it were large forests or oceans, and here the world ended for most people.

Husrekonstruktion
Reconstruction of a Viking house from 1000’s of High, Sweden.

Living on a farm means to monitor the animals and the arable annual timetables.Ploughing, sowing, harvesting. The animals were to and from work. You have to store up food and feed for the winter. It was on the farm most of Viking life was lived.

The farm in the middle

The Norse mythology tells us that humans and gods lived in Middle Earth. It means “courtyard in the middle”. Middle Earth was in the mythology of the civilized world, and rather an urban landscape – a community – than an isolated farm. Outside Middle-earth was unknown land of monsters such as giants.

Worldview and Rural

This world is easily understandable by the light of the settlement pattern looked like in Scandinavia. There were many small agricultural regions (Middle Earth) which was separated by large undeveloped areas, often deep forests. The farm lands and most of all the farm itself was at the center is not surprising because this is where life was lived.

Farm and village

Farms could be alone or in villages. In densely populated major agricultural areas of the villages seems to have been the most common, while lonely farms was probably typical of the more sparsely populated areas. Farms appearance, construction method, and how many houses of different varieties they covered ranged from different areas. The most common was that it was a bit bigger houses surrounded by a few small houses.

The house in Bjärred

In a small village in Bjärred in western Skåne was in the 800s a house. It was 21 meters long and 6.5 meters wide. That means a living area of 136.5 square feet and does not seem so bad for a large family of perhaps 70-10 people. But the house would probably also hold some cattle. Even if you had a proper demarcation of stable part so you could not get out of animal smells and sounds.

The frame of the house were two rows of sparsely covered large wooden posts. On these pillars rested the roof’s weight. A large number of wall poles had been knocked down on the takbärande poles. Between the wall poles intertwined branches which are then underlined with clay and perhaps fertilizer. So you had to own walls. In some places the walls were built entirely of wood or of stone and earth. The roof was a branch works as being covered with straw or reeds. In the middle of the house was the hearth and that was its main point. From there came light, heat, and it was here the food was cooked.

CROCK
Viking ceramic vessels from Köpingsvik,
Köpings parish, Öland.
Inventarienr: 25840:59:3:51.

The furniture in a Viking houses were few. Along the walls were probably low benches. On the floor there were maybe some rough chairs, tables and benches. Coffins and baskets couldused for storage. Of course there were a lot of little things as tools, pots, ceramic cooking and storage, textiles of various kinds, wooden barrels to eat at. Textile equipment of various kinds shows that crafts such as spinning wool and weaving was done indoors.

Grophus

Outside the house in Bjärred was one yard. Here was a small house that’s been around a house. There was also a very small house, the floor lowered into the ground. Such houses, or rather earth huts, called grophus and is often circular with a diameter of like that two to three meters. Pit houses seem mostly to have been used for crafts. Many have been found in textile equipment. Some were tanks.

Excavated by

Many Viking houses and parts of the farms have been excavated by archaeologists. In Denmark, the whole village unearthed. The most famous was at Vorbasse in Jutland.From here you can get an impression of how a large Viking agricultural village looked like.

Livestock and crops

Wooden plows
Wooden plows from Tibble, Björnlunda parish,
Södermanland.Inventarienr 26022ndThe common was that they were involved in both livestock and agriculture. Pigs, cattle and sheep were ordinary domestic animals on farms. Plows were not, but the most important tool was årdret and it was used to loosen the soil, topsoil down the seed, remove weeds and break up the stubble after harvest. Årdret a traction tool that could be drawn by one or two oxen, cows, horses or people. Ardres was reinforced with iron in the lead – a årderbill. For reaping and mowing had scythes and sickles.

 

How did Viking Age people really look?


I have tryed to gather pictures enough to give an idea of how viking age people dressed and equiped themselves. Note “viking age”  (since the term is used)”Viking” is a proffession, not the ethnicity witch is “Norse”.
Only a small percentage actually went in viking (about 7% of the population).

Norse man.

Norse woman

Wool and linnen where usual materials.

Often cloakes, brooches, glass beads and pendants where added for decoration.The sleeves on this one suggests that it´s a bit later.

(via wyrdsister)

 Viking womanby ~VendelRus  Model: Cajsa

Viking womanby ~VendelRus

Model: Cajsa

Research by archeologist Annika Larsson has shown that imported clothes and fabrics where in use among those few that could afford it.

Norse man and woan with clothes of foreign influence.

”They combined oriental features with Nordic styles. Their clothing was designed to be shown off indoors around the fire,” says textile researcher Annika Larsson, whose research at Uppsala University presents a new picture of the Viking Age.

Vikings. The one in the fron is probably wealthy since he owns a sword.

When it came to arms the typical armor would have been padding or leather, if you could afford it maille (mistakenly referred to as chain mail by some) and a helmet with a nose guard or a mask like protection.

Weapons where the spear and an axe called “bearded axe” who could also be used as a tool.

Swords where unusual and would have cost as much as a whole farm.Those that one usually let it become a family heirloom.

The swords had the shape called a “spatha” but longer and actually, most Europeans used rather similar swords at the time (so the term “Viking sword” is not entirely correct).

The shield was round with a buckle in the middle.

Typical viking age helmet.

From the movie “Skaldmöld”From the movie “Skaldmöld”

Håkan Norhjelm showing viking age fighting techniques.Håkan Norhjelm showing viking age fighting techniques.

This guy has all the equipment you can ask for. If you look at Norman knights

and knights in general, not much changes for hundreds of years with the armor.

 When people think of Viking age weapons, they usually think first of the battle axe, and the image that forms in their mind is a massive weapon that only a troll could wield. In reality, battle axes in the Viking age were light, fast, and well balanced, and were good for speedy, deadly attacks, as well as for a variety of nasty tricks.  The axe was often the choice of the poorest man in the Viking age. Even the lowliest farm had to have a wood axe (right) for cutting and splitting wood. In desperation, a poor man could pick up the farm axe and use it in a fight. Axes meant for battle were designed a bit differently than farm axes. The photo to the left shows two reproduction axes based on 10th century finds, while the photo on the right shows a historic 10th century axe head. Axe heads were made of iron and were single edged. A wide variety of axe head shapes were used in the Viking age. The sketch to the right shows three different 11th century axe heads, while the photo to the left shows three earlier axe heads. In the early part of the Viking era, the cutting edge was generally 7 to 15cm (3-6in) long, while later, axes became much larger. The cutting edge of the largest of the axe heads shown to the right is 22cm (9in) long. The edge of this axe is made of hardened steel welded to the iron head. The join line is clearly visible in the sketch and in the historical axe head. The steel permitted the axe to hold a better edge than iron would have allowed. Some axe heads were elaborately decorated with inlays of precious metals, notably the Mammen axe head. The head is decorated on every flat surface with inlays of gold and silver and was found in a rich grave that dates from the year 971.When people think of Viking age weapons, they usually think first of the battle axe, and the image that forms in their mind is a massive weapon that only a troll could wield. In reality, battle axes in the Viking age were light, fast, and well balanced, and were good for speedy, deadly attacks, as well as for a variety of nasty tricks.

The axe was often the choice of the poorest man in the Viking age. Even the lowliest farm had to have a wood axe (right) for cutting and splitting wood. In desperation, a poor man could pick up the farm axe and use it in a fight.

 The spear was the most commonly used weapon in the Viking age. It was often the choice of someone who was unable to afford a sword.  During the Viking age, spear heads took many forms. The photo to the left shows a modern reproduction, typical of the late Viking age. The top photo to the right shows an 11th century spearhead, while the bottom photo to the right shows a 10thcentury spearhead. Earlier spearheads were about 20cm (8in) long, while later ones were as long as 60cm (24in). In chapter 55 of Laxdæla saga, Helgi had a spear with a blade one ell long (about 50cm, or 20in). He thrust the blade through Bolli’s shield, and through Bolli. The photo below shows an assortment of Viking era spear heads, illustrating the variations in size and shape. The top-most spearhead in the photo is 38cm (15in) long, giving a sense of scale.  In chapter 8 of Króka-Refs saga, Refur made a spear for himself which could be used for cutting, thrusting, or hewing. Refur split Þorgils in two down to his shoulders with the spear. Some spear heads, including all those in the photo above, had “wings” on the head, useful for a variety of tricks. These are called krókspjót (barbed spear) in the stories. Grettir used a barbed spear with a blade so thin and long that he was able to pierce all the way through Þórir and into Ögmundur with a single thrust, right up to the wings. Both men were killed by the thrust, as is told in chapter 19 of Grettis saga. The spear was the most commonly used weapon in the Viking age. It was often the choice of someone who was unable to afford a sword.

During the Viking era, helmets typically were made from several pieces of iron riveted together , called a spangenhelm style of helm. It’s easier to make a helmet this way, requiring less labor, which may be why it was used.During the Viking era, helmets typically were made from several pieces of iron riveted together , called a spangenhelm style of helm. It’s easier to make a helmet this way, requiring less labor, which may be why it was used.

TViking Swords  More than anything else, the sword was the mark of a warrior in the Viking age. They were difficult to make, and therefore rare and expensive. The author of Fóstbræðra saga wrote in chapter 3 that in saga age Iceland, very few men were armed with swords. Of the 100+ weapons found in Viking age pagan burials in Iceland, only 16 are swords. A sword might be the most expensive item that a man owned. The one sword whose value is given in the sagas (given by King Hákon to Höskuldur in chapter 13 of Laxdæla saga)was said to be worth a half mark of gold. In saga age Iceland, that represented the value of sixteen milk-cows, a very substantial sum. Swords were heirlooms. They were given names and passed from father to son for generations. The loss of a sword was a catastrophe. Laxdæla saga (chapter 30) tells how Geirmundr planned to abandon his wife Þuríðr and their baby daughter in Iceland. Þuríðr boarded Geirmund’s ship at night while he slept. She took his sword, Fótbítr (Leg Biter) and left behind their baby. Þuríðr rowed away in her boat, but not before the baby’s cries woke Geirmundr. He called across the water to Þuríðr, begging her to return with the sword.  He told her to “take your daughter and whatever wealth you want.”She asked, “Do you mind the loss of your sword so much?”“I’d have to lose a great deal of money before I minded as much the loss of that sword.”   “Then you shall never have it, since you have treated me dishonorably.”  The photo to the left shows a reproduction of a Viking era sword. The original on which it is based was found in east Iceland and dates from the 10th century. The sketches to the right show some of the variations in size and shape that existed in Viking era blades and hilts. The photo below shows five Viking era sword hilts, illustrating the variations in guards and pommels that existed during the Viking age. The hilts are generally classified using a system devised by Jan Petersen and published in 1919. Since a given style was in use only during a given period, the hilt style can be used to help date a sword.  The crossguard of the middle hilt has been pulled up to reveal the details of the shoulder, where the blade narrows to form the tang. reproduction swordTViking Swords

More than anything else, the sword was the mark of a warrior in the Viking age. They were difficult to make, and therefore rare and expensive. The author of Fóstbræðra saga wrote in chapter 3 that in saga age Iceland, very few men were armed with swords. Of the 100+ weapons found in Viking age pagan burials in Iceland, only 16 are swords.

n the Viking age, fighting men used large, round, wooden shields gripped in the center from behind an iron boss. A reproduction shield is shown to the left, and a historical shield from the Oseberg ship to the right. Shields represent one of several instances where the literary sources and archaeological sources do not agree on how Viking weapons were constructed. The Norwegian Gulaþing and Frostaþing laws specify the construction of a shield. The shield should be made of wood with three iron bands and a handle fastened to the back side by iron nails. A later revision of the law says that the shield should be made of a double layer of boards (tvibyrðr), and the front should be painted red and white.  A few shields have survived from the Viking age, notably the shields from the Gokstad ship, which date from the 10th century. The ship was equipped with 32 shields, several of which survive intact. They were made from a single layer of planks butted together, with no iron bands, and the fronts were painted black and yellow. Typical Viking shields were 80-90cm (32-36 inches) in diameter. Some were larger, such as the Gokstad shields, which were 94cm (37in) across. Based on surviving remnants, some of the smaller shields appear to have been as small as 70cm (28in) in diameter. All the surviving examples are made from solid butted planks, although literary evidence, such as the 10th century Frankish poem Waltharius, and the Gulaþing laws, suggests that shields were made of laminated wood. No archaeological evidence supports this style of construction during the Viking era in Norse lands. Surviving shields are made from spruce, fir, or pine. Again, literary evidence contradicts and suggests that shields were made with linden wood (Tilia, commonly known as basswood in North America). The word lind (linden) is used to mean “shield” in poems such as Völuspá , and the term lindiskjöldr (linden shield) is used in some sagas. Linden certainly has advantages over other species of wood for shield use. It is lightweight and does not split as readily under impact as do other types of wood. The Gokstad shields were approximately 7mm (1/4in) thick near the center and were chamfered so they were thinner at the edges. Most surviving shields are in the range between 6mm (1/4in) and 12mm (1/2in) thick, although shields thicker than 30mm (1-1/8in) have been found. n the Viking age, fighting men used large, round, wooden shields gripped in the center from behind an iron boss.

I hope this has given a picture of the ancestors a bit clearer than that of the fantastic and romantic remnants of the Victorian era.

 

Our heritage, ANY heritage is worth preserving or understanding.

Without a past how can we navigate towards a future?

fuckyeahnorsemen:  Viking ship at Gudvangen, Norway (by scott photos)

Viking ship at Gudvangen, Norway (by scott photos)