It is difficult to determine the exact diet of Vikings as there is little recorded evidence to understand what the Vikings ate or how they cooked their food. However, based on archaeological research, it could be noted that the Viking diet was probably determined by the climate and available resources at that time and place. Hence, it could be said that the Vikings were a very adjustable community towards food for survival. Much of the following information was learned from a Viking expert who specialises in visiting UK schools.
Types of Viking Foods
As farmers, it would be safe to conclude that the Vikings ate the produce of their land. The rearing of animals would provide their intake of meat from pigs, goats, cattle, sheep, horses, and poultry while their grains offered cereals that include oats, barley and rye. Dairy produce could be from their cattle to enjoy milk, cheese and butter which would be lavish in their food preparations. The fertile lands of their settlements would produce a variety of vegetables that include beans, peas, cabbage, onions and different types of herbs. It would not be wrong to assume their diet comprised wild fruits such as berries, cherries, apples and pears. Commonly consumed foods include corn and potatoes with wild honey as their only sweetener. Hard work as a diligent farmer would see the sprouting of leeks, carrots, onions, turnips and parsnips while a diligent scouting in the forests would gain wild nuts such as walnuts and hazelnuts as well as different types of berries. Most of the Viking foods would be prepared according to what was hunted or gathered for the day. Hence, it would be common for Vikings to hunt along coastal regions, rivers and lakes for fish and animals. Fishing was executed with a hook and line or nets using small boats. Viking communities that stayed near these sources would have fish as their staple diet. It would not be shocking to note that the Vikings could have killed whales using their raiding ships to enjoy a bountiful harvest for the whole community.
Vikings loved meat and fish which formed their staple diets. These were mainly preserved by smoking where many Viking farms had dedicated smokehouses to perform the task. It was common for the whole lamb to be smoked before hanging on kitchen beams for the next meal. The Vikings may not have meats cooked only when a meal was to be served. Most of the time meats would be cooked and preserved in sour whey. This would allow the Vikings to enjoy their meats at any time to serve unexpected guests dropping in. Large vats were usually found in Viking homes to preserve the meat and dairy products. Hence, large amounts of foods were stored to ensure sufficiency at any time. The most common cooking method for Vikings was boiling. The meats were boiled in a pit lined with wood and water. Hot stones were dropped in to raise the temperature to boiling while herbs and spices were added to season the meats. Roasting was another popular way to cook meats for the Vikings. A spit with an elaborate handle was usually used to roast the meat over fire resting on forked sticks to prevent falling into the fire.
Soapstone or iron cauldrons are common cooking apparatus for the Viking. The cauldron was constructed from many thin iron plates which were riveted to form the pot. It was a very heavy pot which allowed the heat to be more evenly spread for a tastier meal. The cauldron was popular amongst the Vikings to cook stews that comprise pork, leeks, cabbage and spices. Many Viking cauldrons include a skillet underneath to bake flatbread. The cauldron would be suspended over the fire pit placed at the centre of the longhouse handing from an overhead beam. The Vikings also made use of the iron tripod, although it was not a common household item. This cooking utensil was normally used when travelling as it was expensive to own. Many Vikings may make use of wooden saplings to form the tripod instead of using iron. The Vikings also made use of pot chains and kettles in their cooking and food preparation as well as for other daily necessities. These were normally placed above the bed in such an arrangement that would cause a cankering should intruders come into the home.