Meals & dishes III

May 31, 2010

As some finds indicate that peas may have been used within the Scandinavian peninsula during the Viking age – e.g. breads near Birka and similar finds – I decided to attempt to do a kind of pea soup as mentioned in Anglo Saxon sources. Although no description of how it was made survives, I chose to get some inspiration from a handful of medieval recipes. However, according to those the peas were supposed to be mashed through a sieve and lacking such an instrument made me skip that step.

After soaking the peas for the night I cooked them quite thoroughly until they were soft enough to be crushed by a spoon. I then took them out in order to mash them, returned them to the pot and added, some local chives (again this variety of onion my be difficult to date back to the Viking age), and some stock, and let it boil for quite some time. It turned out quite well, though looking rather like the ordinary Scandinavian pea soup. However looking closer at the medieval recipes made me realise that I perhaps should have poured of the liquid from the peas for use with some other dishes.

Interestingly enough for this area, peas where sometimes mentioned as the proper companion to Graspois, or salted whale. Would be an interesting combination to try out.


The hole on the side of the marrow-bone

The hole drilled at the short end

Based on the pictures seen in the article mentioned in my former marrow post, I decided to give the approach to boil the marrowbones another try. In this attempt I boiled and simmered the bones together with some of the meat that I cut from the bones for quite a while, in order to cook a meaty stock. As I was aimed at making stock the bones were put into the pot which was filled with cold water. After cooking the bones for well over two hours I took a bone from the pot, and started drilling using one of the smaller drills from the Mästermyr-finds. It was surprisingly easy to drill through the bones. Possibly the bones had lost enough collagen to make them easier to penetrate.

With two holes in the bone the question remained of the most efficient way of extracting the marrow. Although some kind of tool could have been used to scope out the marrow, or it could have been sucked from the bone, the most optimal way seemed to be to simply blow through the hole on the side aiming the other hole towards a bowl in which to collect the marrow. Although it was in no way conclusive that this would be the method used in the Faeroe islands, I find it quite plausible that the bones were drilled in order to extract marrow.

Meals & dishes II

May 29, 2010

In Lacnuga, an Anglo-Saxon medical text from the tenth or eleventh century, the following small cooking suggestion can be found “wyll in buteran þas wyrte 7 scearfa smale ado . . . beren mela 7 hwites sealtes fela wyl loncge 7 hatne ete” (boil [cropleek] in butter, and shred up . . . add . . . barley meal and plenty of white salt, boil for a long time and eat hot) (Hagen, Ann, 1992, p. 59).

For this possible dish I chose to use a handful of seiersløk (Allium victorialis) which grows outside in the garden (the question if this variety of onions would have been grown during the Viking age should perhaps be the post of another day.)

Anyway, I melted about 150 -200 grams of butter, chopped up the onion leaves and cooked them in the butter, after the mixture had cooked for awhile and the butter started to smell of garlic I added about six handfuls of barley flour. This was left to cook for quite some time. To start with it was rather floury and dry…but after it had cooked for 20 – 30 minutes the consistency started to change and it looked and felt like something between a wet beach and peanutbutter. While it had a slightly sweet smell…it was still somewhat bitter, mainly due to the fact that much of the onionleaves had carbonised during the long cooking.

When repeated I would probably use a bit less flour, remove the onions before adding the barley flour or at least reduce the heat so that it was only simmering. Perhaps some addition of salt would have been a good addition as well.

Meals & dishes I

May 29, 2010

The first meal cooked as part of the experiment can really be seen as an attempt to recreate the poor thralls meal as mentioned in the first stanzas in Rigstula. In this poem Heimdal is visiting the earth and sort of populates it by spending an evening and night with family of different classes. On the first day he visits the family of the thrall and is offered a coarse bread with chaffs and some broth of beef. As I was testing to cook bread on stones or directly in the embers I found this an excellent opportunity to recreate the thralls dinner. For the bread I chose a mixture of barley and linseeds, which gave the bread a certain taste and fullness. The broth or rather stock was based on some salted meat that I had to boil the other day. While rather simple it did turn out to be an acceptable lunch, well if one disregard the lack of ale or other drinks.

Milling II

May 29, 2010

Today I attempted to clock my proficiency at milling. I had done some minor milling exercises using the hand quern here, but despite claiming that milling with a hand quern was hard work that would only produce a limited amount of flour, I had no real experience of that myself. In order to get some more experience of this activity I decided to make a simple time observation exercise. I intended to mill 500 grams of barley seeds without hull.

Since the flour was nowhere near being fine enough to be baked after a single visit to the hand quern the grains had to be milled several times. This gave me the opportunity to make a sort of statistical observation of the time used to to mill this amount of barley. All in all I managed to mill all the grains in about 4 minutes, the first round taking about five minutes and the last one three.

(1st :5 min, 2nd : 4 min, 3rd : 4 min, 4th:3 min, 5th:6 min and 6th:3 min)

In order to get the grains fine enough to be possible to be baked into a bread I had to mill it six times and I was still thinking that it should could need another go in the quern. Still if I were to maintain this speed I should have been able to mill about 12 kg of barley on a 10-hour day, quite possibly enough to feed a rather large household. A person skilled at this craft and with the efficiency of a large-scale production could probably even double that amount. However, even for someone trained at this task and with a less frail body than mine such a long work session would prove rather cumbersome and difficult to maintain. And while 10 -20 kg of flour can seem as rather much, I would still maintain that this method cannot provide enough flour to support a food economy in which flour is milled rarely and the bread is stored for a rather long time. Such a strategy would not appear until the emergence of watermills and similar constructions.


May 26, 2010

Was feeling a bit exhausted today so I’ll just offer you a picture or two of Lofoten while I catch my breath again.

Smoking IV

May 25, 2010

The backside of the tongue

As I arrived to the hall I noticed that the tongue that we had hung up looked somewhat off, the More of the surface of the tongue

The tongue, the upper part

meaty part behind the tongue being almost blackish red, as if the blood had settled. For a moment I also thought that I could feel a subtle rancid smell, so I decided to take down the tongue. The side of lamb still looked quite ok, so I kept that up in the smoke. However, as I took down the tongue I noticed that I could not feel the expected smell of it. As we studied it closer, it was noted that the outer texture had an almost rubbery feel to it. In no place could one feel the sliminess that was to be expected if the meat had started to deteriorate. The conclusion draw was that the smoke had started to dry the outer layers of the meat to an extent that it would not start to rot. The subtle smell I could feel when entering the hall was presumably just a question of me being unused to the dried cod at my work place. The tongue was therefore hung up again with a hope that te smoke would dry it even further.

Marrow IV

May 24, 2010

As I was emptying the pot of yesterdays marrowextracting trials I noticed that the fat that was floating on the surface had a somewhat different consistancy than the fat I usually get when boiling stock. Could it be the marrow that had reconstituated itself? As I noticed this when I was pouring out the water it was a bit to late to really study the fat. Perhaps the last attempt should be redone.

Back home I managed to find an article on the web that mentions the Faeroean bones

Click to access SHD_2010.pdf

S Hamilton-Dyer
“Skriðuklaustur Monastery, Iceland”

Not the one I originally read, but at least it had a reference to the bones I was thinking of. Interesting to note that those bones would have been drilled in the “short end”

Marrow III

May 24, 2010

Realising the problems with extracting the marrow I decided to give it another go. Another batch of bones went into the pot, which I boiled thoroughly hoping that the marrow would melt and float to the surface. After a rather long time I could see no real change in the pot, it looked mainly as if I had been cooking a common stock, with just some fat on the surface.

Marrow II

May 24, 2010

While breaking the bone open in order to reach the marrow would be a valid method, it still did not fit the way marrow were supposed to have been reached. The method I were to try this day included putting the bones in the embers but further from the heat, and placing some within a soapstone vessel that was heated without any liquid. These bones where given a second hole in the other end in order to make have the marrow run through the bone easier.

The first case was still difficult to control and and the bone as well as the marrow was overly burnt

In the second case some marrow seemed to have seeped out at the bottom of the pot but far from enough.