I realized I’ve been a bit quiet here of late.  Not much to report.  The last few events we’ve been to have been hot, so nobody wanted to cook over the fire.  That means eating out of the cooler, which is a bit less Viking and a bit more convenient, as much as I hate to say it. 

In the mean time, I’ve been studying up on modern Scandinavian food.  While modern food certainly doesn’t tell us what Vikings ate, it can tell us something about environmental and cultural constraints.  Some of the features of modern Scandinavian cooking point to environmental constraints that would have applied to Viking Age Scandinavia as well.  For example, modern Scandinavian (and Icelandic) cooking tend to use a lot of sour flavors, probably due to historic constraints on the amount of salt available.  These sour flavors also develop well in cooler climates.  Bread tends to be heavier than in Southern Europe, and include a lot of barley, rye and oat flour because wheat doesn’t grow well in the North.  Fish is still very prevalent in the modern diet because it’s readily available.  And so on…

I’ve also been working on getting the hang of sourdough rye bread.  I’ve been baking a lot more lately, in part because the while idea of sourdough (and other fermentation) just tickles me, and because the kind of dense, flavorful rye bread so popular in Northern Europe (and perfect for smørrebrød) is very hard to get here so I’ve been making it myself.  I just finished a batch of this Danish rye, which came out really well, as well as a few batches of German Volkornbrot, and one of Russian Borodinski bread.  These breads take a bit of work, and somewhere between 2-4 days start to finish, but they keep really well, and are very tasty.  Just the thing for a nice open faced sandwich.  A little bread, a little herring, some pickles…