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What did Vikings eat?

The Vikings ate a fairly healthy diet that consisted of meat, fish and vegetables. However, the harsh Scandinavian weather made it difficult for Vikings to raise animals and grow crop in the winter months, limiting their winter meals to predominantly pickled meat and vegetables. This lack of local food resources was a key reason for invading other European countries, where they found the land much more apt for farming. 

Typical Viking Meal

Typically a Viking family would eat twice a day, once an hour after rising and then again in the evening after a day's work on the land. The first meal, the "dagmal" (day meal) would likely be leftover stew from the night before served with bread and pickled or dried fruit. In the evening, the "nattmal" (night meal) could be fish or meat, stewed with vegetables and served with ale or mead. 

Vikings-feast

Viking Feast

While the Vikings ate a relatively simple diet, they did enjoy feasts. Feasts celebrated seasonal events such as Winter Nights and Jul, harvest festivals like Mabon and religious rituals. Personal occasions such as weddings, successful raidings and births often also called for feasts. Foods in feasts varied, and would usually depend on the wealth of the host. For more humble hosts, feasts would usually involve the typical Viking meal food mentioned above, but plenty more of it.

Whereas wealthier feast hosts would commonly offer roasted and boiled meats, buttered root vegetables, nuts, fruits and plenty of strong ales and mead. The food they served was also an opportunity to show off their successful European raids, as any of their more exotic foods would have been raided. 

Viking Recipes

Unfortunately there aren't any exact Viking recipes known, but archeological evidence and records give us plenty of ideas of the type of dishes they made.

Here a few Vikings recipes worth trying: 

Rye bread

The Vikings were skilled breadmakers, and one of their most commonly made bread was rye bread, a popular bread that still exists today.

Rye-bread

Image source: Flahertywines.com

Ingredients:

  • 200g rye flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 200g strong white or wholemeal flour
  • 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
  • ½ tsp fine salt
  • 1 tbsp honey

Directions

1. Add the flours, yeast and salt into a bowl. Then mix the honey with 250ml warm water, pour the liquid into the bowl and mix to form a dough. Tip out onto your work surface and knead for 10 mins until smooth. 

2. Place the dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1-2 hrs and until it has roughly doubled in size. Dust a 2lb/900g loaf tin with flour.

3. Shape the dough into a smooth oval loaf and pop into your tin. Cover the tin with oiled cling film and leave to rise somewhere warm for a further 1 – 1.5 hr, or until doubled in size.

4. Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Remove the cling film and dust the surface of the loaf with rye flour. Bake for 30 mins until dark brown and hollow sounding when tapped.

5. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and leave to cool for at least 20 mins before serving.

Meatballs 

Swedish meatballs aren't just from Ikea, they were also a popular Viking dish. 

Swedish-meatballs

Image source: Thevikingshift.blogspot.com

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of bread
  • 25g heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2/3 pound ground beef
  • 1/3 pound ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 12.5g chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 1/2 container of sour cream
  • Desired spices (we suggest nutmeg and ground ginger)

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). 

2. Mix in the cream with breadcrumbs in a bowl, set aside for about ten minutes. 

3. Melt 1 teaspoon of butter over medium heat and stir in the onion until it turns a light brown. This should take around 10 minutes. 

4. Place the onion in a mixing bowl, mix with the ground beef, ground pork, egg, salt, black pepper and spices. 

5. Add the bread crumbs with cream

6. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Form the meat mix into balls and add them to the skillet. Cook until they are brown, which should take about 5 minutes.

7. Put the meatballs into a baking dish, add the chicken broth and cover with foil.

8. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.