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Viking Food and Diet

Meat and fish constituted the bulk of Vikings foods. The Viking diet was simple and reflected both the farming and fishing cultures. The livestock they kept (cattle, horses, sheep, pigs, goats and hens) was complemented with game and wild birds. Both meat and fish would be smoked, dried and salted during summer and autumn months to ensure there would enough food for the long winter months.

Meat was primarily boiled in hand-crafted clay or soapstone bowls. These bowls would sit directly in fire or they would hang from over the fire on iron chains. Iron hooks would be used to fish pieces of meat up out of the boiling liquid. Occasional a very tender piece of meat would be grilled on spears. 

The Vikings baked bread from barley, rye and wheat. Rye was the most common type of cereal in the Viking World. The flour was hand milled on round grindstones. These grindstones have been found in great numbers throughout the Viking World, but especially in Southern Scandinavia. These grindstones are often made of lava stone which would have been imported from the Rhineland. The bread was unleavened and was baked over the fire on flat iron or stone plates. These plates would produce a thick pancake style bread.

Vegetables were grown in nearby fields. Berries and fruit would have been gathered in nearby forests or even imported. Some of what we know about Viking food was learned by examining trash dumps from the Viking villages. Evidence of plum stones have been discovered in a Viking Age trash heap in Hedeby, Northern Germany. These plums would have come from central Europe. This tells us that the Vikings imported foods from other locations.

Cheese was made from cows, goats and sheep's milk. The milk from all of these animals was most certainly drunk, and some historians believe that cheese production would have been primarily a method of using the surplus milk.

Meals would have been washed down with large quantities of beer brewed from barley and mead. Mead is made from fermented honey and water. Another popular Viking Age drink was ‘Bjorr’, a strong liquor which was produced from fermented juice.