I was asked a while ago to make some “Viking snacks” for a vigil party (it’s an SCA thing) that’s coming up this weekend. The goal is stuff that can be eaten with fingers, and can be roundly divided into bite-sized thingies. I started on the cooking last night, and wanted to share both the thought process and “recipes”.
On the thought process side, it goes something like this:
- the Vikings didn’t use “recipes” as we understand them today, or if they did, they didn’t write them down, since most of them couldn’t write anyway.
- We do know from the archaeological record what cooking tools (and hence techniques) then had at their disposal
- we do know from the archaeological record what ingredients they cooked with, since there’s physical evidence
- nobody likes to eat food that’s gross
- we do know from the Sagas and from later written sources that the Vikings were fond of certain tastes (sour being big).
So what I made last night was:
- Some pea spread for putting on crackers/flat bread. Split peas (which are common from Viking digs) cooked until pasty, tempered with some walnut oil (walnuts also prevalent) and spiced with salt, fresh dill and horseradish. Essentially all the ingredients mentioned hereafter were common in the Viking context. For a great summary, see Thora Sharptooth’s Viking Age Foodstuffs. Most Viking hearth finds have been relatively large, open fire-pit style affairs, using pottery or the occasional metal pot that can be hung over the fire. This dish lends itself to that style.
- Two batches of soft cheese. There are a number of finds of cheese strainers from Viking digs. These basically look like flattish colanders, sometimes with the inclusion of a loosely nalbound “net” of horse hair or other coarse material. I used 1 gallon of milk, brought up to 185°, then mixed with 1/4 – 1/3 cup of vinegar. You can use just about any acid you want. I’m guessing they’d have used cider or malt vinegar, since those would most likely have been available. I used red wine vinegar, since it’s what I had. The resulting curds get placed in cheese cloth to drain until it’s as hard as you need. One batch I made for spreading on bread/crackers, and seasoned it (after cheese cloth but before draining) with salt, cumin and fresh dill. The other batch I mixed with a little sour cream and honey, to use in the following dish
- Stuffed prunes. I got some pitted prunes, and stuffed them with the honeyed cheese from above and some toasted hazelnuts. Prunes were very prevalent in the Viking context, both local and continental species, which suggests that they were importing prunes to meet demand. Hazelnuts are also very common. In some places hazelnut shells make up the largest component of food remains found. I could probably find the reference if anyone is interested.
More to follow as I continue to cook.