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fd-Iceland-msg – 1/6/12

Food of medieval Iceland.

NOTE: See also the files: Iceland-msg, Norse-msg, fd-Norse-msg, Iceland-bib, Norse-food-art, N-drink-ves-msg, fish-msg, stockfish-msg.



This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.

This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org

I have done a limited amount of editing. Messages having to do with separate topics were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the message IDs were removed to save space and remove clutter.

The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make no claims as to the accuracy of the information given by the individual authors.

Please respect the time and efforts of those who have written these messages. The copyright status of these messages is unclear at this time. If information is published from these messages, please give credit to the originator(s).

Thank you,

    Mark S. Harris                 AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous

                                          Stefan at florilegium.org


Date: Tue, 23 Feb 1999 08:50:21 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC -  "bog butter"

><< And completely unsalted, >>

>On what basis do you make this statement?

In Iceland, butter was never salted until the 19th century. Neither was

fish, and meat rarely. We used other methods of preservation, as almost all

salt had to be imported and was simply too expensive for ordinary people.

Yet this butter was not only a great part of our diet (the usual allotment

for a working man was half a pound per day) but was also used for many

financial transactions. Rents were usually paid in butter, for instance.


Date: Sat, 15 May 1999 19:51:28 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - Lichen (Was "personal recipies" (long))

>Nanna, I asked- please post you lichen recipe.

The lichen we use is, as I said earlier, Iceland moss, called fjallagrös

(mountain grasses) in Icelandic but it is of course neither moss nor

grasses. It was widely used to supplement grains in our diet (grains had to

be imported and were expensive), but also added to skyr (curd) or sausages,

or boiled in a porridge or a soup, or used in practically anything that was

cooked here. I even have a recipe for Iceland moss candy, and there is a

company here that makes throat lozenges and other health stuff from it. I

think some European health food stores used to carry Iceland moss; don´t

know if they still do.

Anyway, here are a couple of recipes - the first one is for the bread I was

baking earlier today, an old handed down family recipe, centuries old but

probably made only with Iceland moss and rye or barley flour earlier, not

wheat. Another version of this bread, without the lichen, is far more common

nowadays. Both are produced commercially. Iceland moss is also used in

several modern bread recipes.

Icelandic Lichen Flatbread

1 packed cup Iceland moss (measured after soaking)

1 1/2 c rye flour

1/2 c stoneground whole wheat flour

a pinch of salt

boiling water as needed

(1 cup soaked Iceland moss is about 2 cups dried.) The Iceland moss is

soaked for a few minutes in lukewarm water to soften it, then drained and

chopped (I use a food processor). Mix it with rye flour, wheat flour and

salt, then gradually add boiling water and stir well, until you have a stiff

but pliable dough. Divide it into 12 equal pieces, roll them out thinly and

cut out a round cake, 7-8 inches in diameter. Prick them with a fork.

As for the baking - well, in the old days they were either baked directly on

the hot embers of the kitchen fire or on a large hot stone. I cook them

directly on one of the plates of my electrical cooker, as my mother did, but

I´m sure a good griddle would work as well. They are baked at high heat,

until black spots begin to appear. Then they are turned and cooked on the

other side. They should be stacked and covered at once, either with a damp

cloth or a plastic bag, else they dry out and become hard and brittle. They

will be rather chewy (the commercial ones I can buy here are softer but not

as tasty).

They are either eaten warm with lots of butter and maybe cheese, or cold

with butter and thin slices of smoked lamb.

Lichen Milk Soup

a large fistful of Iceland moss

1 litre (4 cups) milk

1 tbsp sugar or brown sugar


Wash the Iceland moss and dry it. Pour the milk into a saucepan and heat to

the boiling point. Add the Iceland moss and the sugar and simmer for 10

minutes. Add salt to taste and serve. In another version, the soup is

simmered for 2 hours, until somewhat gluey. Some versions add far more sugar

but that is not traditional.


Date: Sat, 15 May 1999 23:11:04 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - lichen

>We recently discussed seaweed as a possible ingredient in jellies. Is

>there any evidence of lichen being used in any period foods in period?

>Is it used anywhere for this today?

The earliest mention of Iceland moss as human food in an Icelandic written

source is from the early 14th century but since this is in a law text

dealing with land rights, they were probably used much earlier. They are

still used today but far less than they were.

Many types of lichen have been used for food all over the world - you can

find a list of them at this site (the lichens are sorted by type of use;

scroll down the list until you reach the category HUMAN FOOD:



P.S. Lichens were also used in jellies.

Date: Sun, 16 May 1999 11:23:14 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - whey preserved foods (long)

Stefan wrote:

>This sounds like it works on the same principle as storing things in

>honey - keeping air and microbes away for the food. But doesn't the

>whey itself go bad? Is this whey generally from goat's, sheep or cow's

>milk? What other foods were stored this way?

It is more like pickling, actually; the term used for fermented whey in

Icelandic, "s‡ra", actually means "acid" and today, vinegar is sometimes

used, even though the results are not as good.

The following are two loosely translated sections from my book, the section

on "súrmatur", literally "sour food", i.e. food preserved in whey, and the

section on "s‡ra" (fermented whey). There is some overlapping of the texts.

Any text in parantheses is not in the original; I´ve added it to explain

things an Icelander doesn´t need explained. I´ve removed the accent from the

y in s‡ra as it may not show up on your screen correctly.

"Pickling was one of the most used preservation methods in Iceland almost

from the Settlement, as salt was always lacking, and the liquid used for

pickling was fermented whey. Icelanders were by no means the only ones who

preserved their food by pickling but long-term preservation in whey is not

known to have been widely practised elsewhere. Whey accumulated as a

by-product of skyr-making during the summer (skyr: curds, made from ewes or

cows milk, a mainstay of Icelandic diet through the centuries) and was kept

in barrels, where a fermentation process began. It was then called syra.

Syra was either diluted with water and drunk, or used for the preservation

of food. Many kinds of food were preserved in this manner, such as blood

sausage, liver sausage, lundabaggar (a kind of Icelandic version of

faggots), sheep´s heads, lamb´s testicles, fatty meat, whale meat and

blubber, seal flippers and many other things. Dried or hard stuff, otherwise

quite inedible, for example bones and dried fish skin, were sometimes kept

for a long time in syra, until they softened. Food keeps very well in a

strong syra and loses relatively little of its nourishment value, but this

method has a great effect on the taste of the food. If a barrel was to be

kept undisturbed for many months, some mutton fat was usually rendered and

poured over the surface to seal it, but if the barrel was in constant use,

it was simply closed with a wooden lid. If the surface wasn´t either sealed

or disturbed daily, a mold might start to grow."

And from the chapter on syra:

"Syra, i.e. fermented whey, was the most common beverage of Icelanders for

many centuries and can in effect be said to have replaced ale, as lack of

grain prevented us from brewing much ale. The whey was poured into huge

barrels in the larder. These barrels were sometimes almost completely dug

into the floor, as was the case with the syra-barrel Earl Gissur hid in when

the farmhouse at Flugum‡ri was burned down (a famous and well-documented

incident from 13th century Icelandic history. The barrel was almost full of

ice-cold syra and there was another one on top of it, with a small space in

between. The earl (the only Icelandic nobleman ever) hid in the bottom

barrel while his enemies searched the burning farmhouse). There are also

several similarities between the making of syra and ale-brewing, and the

blanket that developed on the surface of a s‡ra barrel was called jastur,

which is the same word as yeast in English. Syra was used for a lot of

things besides drinking and preservation, for example to marinate food, and

according to Íslenskir ?jó›hættir (a 19th century book on folk customs and

more), better-off farmers frequently "let the meat lie in syra for a day or

two, before it was roasted, especially when a large feast was held". Bones

were also put in syra to soften them up and make them edible. It is said

that syra isn´t really mature until it is two years old. Then it was never

drunk undiluted, but mixed with water. Syra that was diluted by 11 parts of

water was called tólftarblanda (twelve-blend)."

>Does this storage technique only work in a cool climate, which I assume

>Iceland has even in summer? Or would it work in warmer regions such as

>the Mediteranean? Does anyone else have any evidence of this preservation

>technique being used elsewhere besides Iceland?

Don´t think so. Our top food historian says she has frequently asked

collegues from around the world if they know of this technique in other

cultures and no one has ever heard of it. - I´m not sure if this would work

in a warmer climate, maybe if the barrel was kept deep down in a cold

cellar. In summer, when I was a child, the syra was icy cold, never mind how

hot it was (not that it ever got very hot but it was the only cold drink

available before refrigeration).


Date: Sun, 16 May 1999 22:45:45 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - whey preserved foods (long)

Stefan wrote:

>You said though "are two loosely translated sections from my book".

>Please, what book? If you have mentioned this before I may have

>missed it in some of the digests I had to skip but will eventually get

>back to. Could you please give a complete biblographic referance? And

>perhaps where it might be purchased. There may be some here or elsewhere

>interested in getting a copy. I think I would like to, but if it is

>in Icelandic, which your "loosely translated" implies I'm afraid it

>won't be of much use to me in that form. Is it available in English? If

>not, please consider a translated version. Your English is certainly

>good enough.

Thank you. The book I mentioned is in Icelandic and hasn´t been translated.

It is called "Matarást" (Love of Food), published by I›unn, Reykjavík, 1998,

is a kind of encyclopedia on food and cooking (the first ever in my

language), is rather large (it weighs seven pounds (really)) and costs the

earth. It has quite a lot of historical information (though not as much as I

would have liked, but I had to listen to my publisher, who said "Well, you

know, Nanna, culinary history will not be the major selling point of this

work". So I added a lot of recipes instead. The book has been very well

received, was even shortlisted for the Icelandic Literary Prize, which it

unfortunately didn´t win.

And no, I´m not planning on translating it.

>Also, your header info comes through the digest to me as:

>> From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Yes, I know, that is the downside of speaking a language which hasn´t

changed that much for a thousand years, and has quite a lot of characters

that English doesn´t have. My name is Nanna Rögnvaldardóttir - or

Rognvaldardottir, if your computer can´t handle the Icelandic letters.


(at least I got an easy first name, even though English-speaking people

usually won´t believe it is my real name)

Date: Thu, 27 May 1999 02:31:12 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: SC - =?iso-8859-1?Q?Lamb=B4s_head?=

>>(And, it does have a sheep´s head recipe.)


>I just found it, and it looks good, but is it period? If we can find one

>that is period, I'd likely do that myself unless someone else REALLY wants

>to do it, but I want ALL the things we do with the lamb to be as done in

>period, and I don't mean borderline-up-to-1650.

I haven´t found any pre-1600 recipe (although I seem to remember having seen

at least one a long time ago, can´t remember where). A mention of a Roman

sheep´s head roasted with apples and with peaches marinated in Albanian

spirits, yes - but not an actual recipe. Quite a few 18th century recipes.

The traditional Icelandic and Norwegian method - certainly pre-1600 - is to

drive a stake into the head and hold it over an open fire to burn the wool

off, then scrape the skin with a knife. (This used to be a job for us kids

back on the farm, from the age of six onwards.) This is repeated until all

the wool has burned off and the skin is blackened. Then you split the head

in two and remove the brain, and wash the head in cold running water,

scraping it with a knife until the skin is brown and clean. Then the head is

boiled for an hour or so (or until meat begins to come off the bone) and

served hot or cold. In the 18th century and perhaps earlier, the head was

sometimes dipped in melted butter when cooked, then breaded and grilled.

This was done all over Scandinavia but I´m not sure how old that method is.

We serve the head with the eyeballs intact, and yes, we eat them. And until

maybe a few years ago, particular care was always taken to leave the ears

intact. There was a special reason for this. The ears of young lambs are cut

with special markings - every sheep farmer has his own distinct set of

markings and by looking at the ears of a sheep, you can instantly see whom

it belongs to (or look it up in a printed book if you don´t recognize the

markings). This has been done for hundreds of years. And if sheep´s heads

were served, or found in a farm kitchen, with the ears cut off, the farmer

and his wife were instantly suspected of having stolen the sheep and removed

the ears to hide the evidence. So, everybody served the heads with the ears

intact so that the markings would show that the animal indeed belonged to

them. This custom has survived, even though most people now buy their heads

in a supermarket and have no idea whom the markings on its ears belong to.

I am currently searching for old sheep´s head recipes and will let you know

if I find any pre-1600.


Date: Wed, 7 Jul 1999 01:35:42 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - Horsemeat, was Re: "cruel food"-

>Is there a particular breed that you prefer?  Have recipes?  I don't

>suppose eating horse is period, wouldn't they have been too expensive

>to raise for eating?

We only have one breed here, the Icelandic Horse - or pony, really.

According to the sagas and other sources, horseflesh was eaten by the

Vikings; they slaughtered horses as an offering to their gods, then feasted

on the meat. When the Icelanders decided to let themselves be converted to

Christianity at the Althing in the year 1000 (well, recent evidence shows

that it probably was in 999 but we are celebrating 1000 years of

Christianity next year anyway), they passed a law that the eating of

horsemeat should be a non-punishable offense, if done in secret. But that

probably only went on for a few decades. Later, the eating of horsemeat

meant excommunication and virtual exclusion from human society. There are

occasional accounts of horsemeat being eaten during famine years (no lack of

them here) but usually people would die of hunger rather than eat it. Which

was tragic, because horses were definitely not too expensive to raise for

eating, not here at least, as they were grazing in the wilderness all year

round, and cost nothing to raise. One of my ancestors (early 18th century)

had a flock of around 200 horses, and only a handful of them were actually

ever put to any use.

Despite all the taboos people seem to have believed in some special

qualities of horsemeat. Several very old buried treasure legends around the

country specify that no one can find the treasure, unless he was brought up

solely on horsemeat and mare´s milk until the age of 12 (which pretty much

guaranteed that no one would be able to seek it). In other legends,

horsemeat is the food of giants, or outlaws, and makes them very big and


People began to eat horsemeat again in the early 19th century. The first

"horseflesh-eaters" were very poor and they were derided, even shunned, by

their neighbors, but this gradually changed. By the turn of the century,

most people would eat horsemeat, regardless of their social status. During

most of this century, it has been far more common than beef (I suppose I ate

about six times as much horsemeat as beef in my childhood) but this has

changed during the last 3 decades or so; now we eat far more beef. You don´t

see many horsemeat recipes in Icelandic cookbooks, though, because we use

the meat in exactly the same way as beef. (Beef tenderloin costs about $40

per kilo here; steak is maybe $12-$15 per kilo.)


Date: Fri, 9 Jul 1999 00:32:18 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - Re:  my favorite dessert was horse recipe 1581

Helen wrote:

> What was your " favorite dessert"?  I am having trouble thinking of a blood


This is an old Icelandic regional speciality, mentioned and described in

17th century sources but I´ve never seen a printed recipe, except the one I

wrote down from my mother´s description. It has some curious names like

kálfadans (calves´ dance) and villibrá› (game) but the name used in my

family was bló›kássa (blood stew). It is simply a mixture of milk and blood,

thickened with flour and butter. You can find the recipe at:



Date: Fri, 9 Jul 1999 08:43:26 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - Re:  my favorite dessert was horse recipe 1581

><< It is simply a mixture of milk and blood,

> thickened with flour and butter. You can find the recipe at:


> http://www.bahnhof.se/~chimbis/tocb/recipes/index-fr.htm

>What is the name of the recipe, Nanna?

It is not listed as a pudding or dessert, but under Various. The name is

Bló›kássa (villibrá›). I haven´t had it for many years now, not since I

moved south, because you can´t buy calves blood (and anyway calves are

rarely slaughtered that young nowadays). But until a few years ago I could

still recall the taste very vividly. Now I only remember it is unlike

anything else I´ve ever tasted.

My mother says you can use lamb´s blood but it will not be as good. I´ve

been thinking of trying to make some this autumn, when I can buy blood in

the shops, and see what the outcome will be. But maybe the animal must be

very young; my mother stressed that the blood of an older calf can´t be


This was definitely not eaten as a savory dish; it is not sweetened but when

it was served, heaps of cinnamon and sugar were added.

The kalvdans mentioned by Ana is well known to me also under the name

ábrystir, in fact I cooked some only a few days ago, and have a bottle of

first milk (colostrum) waiting in my freezer. I was going to ask the list if

anyone knew of a recipe (period or otherwise) that makes use of first milk

but I better wait with that until I return from my vacation in 10 days or



Date: Tue, 20 Jul 1999 00:16:08 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - seals

Ras wrote:

>Although Aleut tribes eat the blubber from seals the meat itself is rather

>obnoxious being very stringy, tough and not a little fishy in flavor. SFAIK,

>no mention of seal is made in any of the currently available corpora of

>period recipes. Whale and dolphin were the sea mammals of choice during the

>middle ages.

I don´t recall any actual recipe but seals were certainly eaten in Iceland

and Greenland in period and probably in Norway as well. There are references

in 13th century Icelandic law texts (actually, this particular law is still

in force in Iceland and is printed in our current law collections) to

catching seals in nets (which seems to have been the preferred method here)

and to harpooning them. There are some references in the sagas also. But the

meat was never as popular as whale meat.

The meat can be quite good, I´m told by those who have a taste for it (I´ve

never liked it myself), if soaked in seawater or water mixed with salt or

vinegar overnight, to remove blood, and the fishy taste. Milk will also work

(it does with whale meat, at least, and I think the same goes for seal; most

recipes are interchangeable). The heads and flippers are eaten too (seared

in fire and boiled), and were considered a delicacy. I´m not sure how the

blubber was treated earlier but in later years, it was usually heavily

salted, then boiled.


Date: Tue, 27 Jul 1999 19:25:36 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - cod and parrottongues

Ana wrote:

>I found today a wonderful Scandinavian recipe for codtongues and I want

>make a comparison between the parrottongues dish and the codtongues


>By the way, if someone is interested in the codtongue recipe, I can try

>to translate it from Swedish. This is a dish popular in Sweden and

>Norway and I can guess Iceland, mylady Nanna?

Very popular. They were usually boiled, either fresh or salted, but there is

an abundance of modern recipes for them and they are cooked in any number of

ways now, as are cod´s cheeks. - But the "tongues" aren´t really tongues,

they are the throat muscles, arrow-headed muscles from underneath the jaw,

whose shape can be very like a tongue. They are cooked in various ways in

several European countries and are usually considered a delicacy. The

Basques, for instance, cook them in olive oil with garlic and some herbs.


Date: Wed, 28 Jul 1999 22:29:04 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - Big birds on the medieval plate

Bonne wrote:

>The fishiness was probably a "what you are used to" problem.  I've never had

>swan, but can't imagine a reason why it would be more fishy tasting than


Ducks that feed mostly on small fish and such tend to taste a bit fishy;

others do not. - Around here, swans are protected nowadays and killing them

can land you in jail. I´ve never tasted one but I have it on good authority

that a very young swan is quite good but an older bird requires at least 6

hours in the oven and still resembles shoe leather. Nevertheless, they were

frequently eaten in earlier times, as they are fairly easy to catch during

that period when they have lost their flying feathers and are growing new

ones (what is it called? molting?).

The swan has two names in Icelandic: Svanur and álft. No one I know would

dream of eating the former; it is a beautiful, graceful bird, the stuff of

legends, and it sings. Few people would have had any scruples about eating

the latter bird; it is a big bastard that destroys fields, and its croak is

very annoying. Yet they are one and the same. Both names are very old and I

think they were used in the same manner in Old Norse.

So, maybe the Ingalls family wouldn´t have been so sad if they had had

another name to call the swan by.


Date: Wed, 4 Aug 1999 01:48:35 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: Northern Foods was Re: SV: SC - Introducing Myself

Bonne wrote:

>I also wondered why on earth these people, who obviously had a fire burning

>on the hearth every day of the winter, went to such extremes to bake all

>their bread at once in the fall and subsist on staler and staler bread as

>the year passed by.

In Iceland, they never baked much bread anyway, as grain (barley mostly) was

difficult to grow, and no grain at all will ripen in many regions. (Later

on, when the Icelanders had destroyed all the woods, they didn´t have much

fuel either, but that´s another story.) Grain for bread mostly had to be

imported and was very expensive. So bread was not everyday food, unless

maybe for wealthy people. There is little or no tradition here of storing

bread for long periods of time and I can´t offhand recall any historical

references to storage of bread.

Very few homes had an oven (I believe that in the 18th century at least,

there wasn´t even one oven in the whole of Iceland - and no baker, either)

but if there was an oven, it was in a separate building. Most breads were

baked in the hearth (but, as I said, we are not talking about anything like

2 pounds per person per day here) and these were probably mostly

flatbreads - something like the lichen bread I posted a recipe for earlier.


Date: Wed, 25 Aug 1999 22:34:41 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - Butchering the lamb

Allison wrote:

>The dish that Tirza cooked to go with it was based on some of Nanna's

>comments last year on grain porridges, and on a friendly Viking's

>research that cranberries were grown in Iceland.

I´m not so sure about that. Cranberries (European variety) grow wild in

Scandinavia, not here. And I´m fairly certain they were never cultivated

here. The only edible berries that grow wild here are blueberries (a small

variety), crowberries (these two types in abundance), bilberries, stone

bramble and wild strawberries (rare).


Date: Fri, 27 Aug 1999 01:10:35 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - cranberries bogged me down


The few types of berries we have here in Iceland probably were much used

(there are no other fruits) and the mid-13th century law book Grágás states

that it is allowed to pick berries on Sundays but that people can only take

home as much as they can carry in their hands - which must mean that people

were bringing berries home to use them in cooking. They were - and still

are - often mixed with skyr (curds; delicious with cream and sugar) and

frequently also preserved throughout the winter in sour curds.


Date: Mon, 30 Aug 1999 13:31:13 -0000

From: nanna at idunn.is (Nanna Rognvaldardottir)

Subject: Re: SC - Dulce de leche

Also worth noting is the very old Scandinavian (Icelandic/Norwegian, at

least) method of "red-cooking" fresh or sour milk or whey, i.e. boiling it

until it begins to thicken and has a golden-brown color. No sugar or

flavoring is added. If you cook it even longer, it gets reddish-brown and so

thick it can be pressed into a mold and left to set. This is actually a kind

of cheese, with a bittersweet, rather unique taste, not very like commercial

versions of mysost (brown cheese). The softer version was eaten as a

breakfast or evening meal.

I would guess this dates back to Viking times, as the methods and the terms

used are similar in Iceland and Norway.


Date: Mon, 6 Sep 1999 13:36:09 -0000From: nanna at idunn.is (Nanna Rognvaldardottir)Subject: Re: SC - Russian Black BreadBear wrote:>Molasses is period, but I would expect it to be rather expensive in Russia,>and probably not used in the bread of the time for that reason.In Iceland, fairly dark rye bread was baked from rye and water - and nothingelse, no sugar, no salt, no yeast. The following passage describes how thistype of bread was made. The author (who, BTW, wrote the only Icelandic bookavailable on the foodstuffs of the Viking age) notes that he is describing avery old method that was still used when he was growing up in rural Icelandin around 1900:"In my childhood home it was done thus: coarse, homeground, unsifted rye wasmixed with water and kneaded into a smooth, stiff dough. It was then formedinto a round bread, 30-40 cm across and around 10 cm thick, with a flatbottom but the top was rounded. This big cake was then placed on a thicklayer of peat embers and a large metal pot was inverted over it. More peatembers were arranged around and on top of the pot, so it looked like amound, and a heavy, flat stone was placed on top and a cross sign made overit. The embers glowed under the ashes and the stone for a whole night andinto the next day. Then the mound was broken and the baked bread removed. Itwas much like rye bread is now. The dark red brown crust did have somecracks. The bottom was not burned at all, but smooth and evenly baked. Thesebreads were then cut in slices, just like rye bread. They were dark, malty,sweetish and moist. They were the best breads I have ever tasted."Those lucky enough to live close to a hot spring or in an area withgeothermal activity used another method. They placed their dough in a metalcontainer and buried it in the hot ground. Then it was dug up the next dayand was then baked (or steamed, rather). This is still done and you can buydark rye bread baked in hot earth in most supermarkets here. Now it usually(but not always) contains some form of sugar, though, and salt, and yeast.If you don´t have a hot spring at hand, you can also steam the bread in theoven or in a large pot on top of the stove - the longer the better. I havehere a recipe where rye bread is steamed in a 100 C (212 F) oven for 19hours. This produces a very moist, dark bread.I note that the label of the German pumpernickel bread (imported fromGermany) that my supermarked carries says just rye, water, salt, yeast. Nomolasses, or cocoa, or coffee, or anything else. And it is very dark.Nanna

Date: Wed, 22 Sep 1999 21:58:11 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - Margali butchers Rudolph the red nose reindeer

Angus wrote:

>I don't know about the rest of the world, but here in Sweden I think the most

>common form of raindeer is smoked (not sure if it's soaked in brine first), >but I'm a city dweller and don't live way up north in raindeer country.

In Iceland, reindeer is mostly eaten as venison (non-wild boar variety);

I´ve served Rudolph on Christmas Eve (really!) for several years, either

roasted leg or pan-fried loin. Won´t be doing it now, though; too expensive.

But for a really expensive reindeer delicacy (warning: NOT for the

squeamish), see:



Date: Thu, 23 Sep 1999 13:53:40 -0000

From: nanna at idunn.is (Nanna Rognvaldardottir)

Subject: Re: SC - Margali butchers Rudolph the red nose reindeer

Cadoc wrote:

>now there's something you don't see everyday...how popular is that

>particular cut of meat where you are?\

Not very popular - we prefer ram´s testicles stuffed in a sheep´s stomach,

boiled, and preserved in whey. In fact, I´ve only ever seen a reindeer´s

reproductive organ at The Icelandic Penis Museum.


Date: Thu, 23 Sep 1999 21:36:58 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - Icelandic Penis Museum

Cadoc wrote:

>>Not very popular - we prefer ram´s testicles stuffed in a sheep´s stomach,

>>boiled, and preserved in whey. In fact, I´ve only ever seen a reindeer´s

>>reproductive organ at The Icelandic Penis Museum.

>Hmm...I had pondered that part as well, I was envisioning a stomach

>stuffed with many. But no spices?   What would you normally serve with this?

>How is it cooked?

It is just boiled in salted water (I´m not sure how long because I always

buy it ready-made nowadays), then cooled and placed in fermented whey for a

couple of months. Or years. It takes on that sour taste peculiar to

whey-preserved foods, which doesn´t go well with spices anyway. It is

usually eaten as a part of a platter or buffet of similar traditional

Icelandic food (like sheep´s head and head cheese, whey-preserved meat and

blood and liver sausages, dried fish, whale blubber (but that is impossible

to get now), fermented shark and so on. Usually accompanied with lots of

Black Death (potent Icelandic schnapps) or vodka. Usually served at feasts

during the month of ?orri (Jan. 20th to Feb. 19th, Old Icelandic calendar).


Date: Fri, 8 Oct 1999 00:12:42 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - Food migration

Ras wrote:

>I had read somewhere that lichens were used as vegetables. Was this an error?

>And if not lichen recipes are always welcome. :-)

No, quite correct - they weren´t grown, however, but gathered. I was

referring to proper vegetables but a few wild plants were used as

vegetables - lichens, angelica stalks and roots, and a couple of others. But

thanks for reminding me - I´m in the middle of a grand haggis-making (have

been cutting and sewing up sheep stomachs all evening) and had almost

forgotten that I was going to add lichen to one batch. Now if I could only

find that Romanian haggis recipe I was planning to try out, I´d be very

happy ...

But anyway, here is a lichen recipe for you:

Lichen marmalade

Boil 5 dl (2 cups) of finely chopped Iceland moss in a small amount of water

for 3-5 minutes, until you have a fairly thick porridge. Add syrup or sugar

(1 part syrup to 2 parts lichen) and stir until blended. Pour into jars.

Keeps for many months and improves with age.


Date: Thu, 25 Nov 1999 14:52:46 -0000

From: nanna at idunn.is (Nanna Rognvaldardottir)

Subject: Re: SC - Thanksgiving & Cooking gifts

>What traditional meals do you eat? What

>were some "traditions" eaten in period?

Well, we don´t have Thanksgiving but at harvest festivals in the old days, a

thick milky porridge (barley or rice, sometimes cooked until the milk began

to caramelize) was frequently served, along with fresh boiled mutton and

mutton soup. And smoked boiled lamb, served hot or cold, has always been the

main feast food here in Iceland - still is; it is served at around 90% of

Icelandic homes either on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.


Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2000 08:40:44 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - fermented meats

And Faroese skerpikj¯t, wind-dried mutton which is said by connoisseurs to

be ready "about half an hour before the wife and kids can't stand the smell

any more and move out of the house". (No, I haven't tried to make it;

Icelandic mutton is no good, you got to have Faroese mutton for this to work



Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2000 15:08:18 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - A new project....

Seaumas wrote:

>I'd welcome recommendations and personal opinions on dishes that _might_

>have been served in the tenth and eleventh centuries up north. Lacking

>any substantial proof at this time, I'd settle for possible, probable,

>likely, and not incongruous dishes. Authentication is not a _primary_

>goal here, but if it's there, I'd love it more.

>I'm not out to win an A&S cooking contest, just provide suitable

>hospitality to a friend's guests.

>Oh, Nanna......? :)

Oh dear. Difficult. A vegan Icelander would soon have died of starvation any

time before the late 20th century, and people would have thought it served

him right (still would, I suspect). Once you leave out meat, seafood, and

dairy products from the Icelandic diet, what you have left is unleavend

bread - most of it barley - porridges (probably often made with butter or

milk) some herbs and berries (but these were probably usually mixed with

skyr or other dairy products anyway) and not much else.

The sagas and other primary sources sometimes mention k·l, which means

cabbage these days but may have meant just about any vegetable in the past,

so no one really knows if any vegetables were grown here or if the term is

being used for wild herbs and vegetables only. "Onion gardens" are also

mentioned but no one is sure what was grown in them - probably chives, at

least. In addition, garlic and red onions are mentioned in old sources. It

is known that some of the monasteries had vegetable gardens in the 12th

century and grew turnips, peas and beans, but there is no indication that

the cultivation spread beyond these monastery gardens.

Mushrooms might be an idea - there are several types of wild mushrooms here,

although there is no evidence they were eaten in the 10th century - the

earliest (mid 18th C) source says they are "not much eaten now", which may

mean they were much more popular earlier. And maybe some bread strips like

Maire is suggesting. Hummus is not precisely Icelandic but since peas and

beans were being grown in the 12th century, maybe some kind of dip made with

legumes is not too far-fetched. I guess you could use any spice known in

Northern and Western Europe at the time - those who went a-viking could

easily have brought a packet of spices home to Mother.

Maybe some small tartlets filled with blueberries? Anything made with honey

and nuts (imported but certainly available), probably some dried fruit ...

I'll think about this some more and try to come up with some ideas.

Now, if you could get hold of some dulse strips, that's your ideal finger

food. Definitely vegan, eminently documentable as a snack (Egill

SkallagrÌmsson was nibbling on them in the 10th century, or so the sagas

say) and quite tasty (at least if you are an Icelander and have been chewing

them since childhood).


Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2000 10:30:09 -0400

From: Lurking Girl <tori at panix.com>

Subject: Re: SC - A new project....

James F. Johnson wrote:

> A friend (and squire to one of 'Lainie's dearest friends) has asked me

> to come up with appropriate 'finger food' the eve before his being

> Pel'd. He's a tenth century Icelander, which makes documentable dishes

> and recipes practicably nil. On top of that, some, but not all, of his

> guests will be vegan. He made the request to at least avoid a

> preponderance of fish dishes.

I was given the exact same job for one of my teacher's apprentice's

Laurel vigil last year (part of what he was getting his Laurel for was

Icelandic research and persona stuff).  After much noodling around the

available sources, I came up with:

(cold) roast beef in Lord's Salt, in bite-size pieces

"Viking Barley Bagels" from Thora Sharptooth's web site--I'm not sure

  if they turned out as they should have (they were _damn_ hard)

  but the candidate liked them

Plum preserves


Dried cherries

Farmer's cheese

Smoked fish

Other people were bringing stuff, so I didn't go overboard--we didn't

have much space in the car.


Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2000 02:12:15 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - A new project....

Christianna wrote:

> Would lingonberry tarts be closer?   You can buy lingonberries here

>preserved in jars, I would think they would make good tart stuffings.

Not really traditional for Iceland, no - lingonberries do not grow here. But

I was actually thinking of bilberries and bog bilberries, not blueberries -

they all go by the same name here, more or less. But (wild) strawberries

would be OK too, or crowberries or stone bramble, which I doubt you will be

able to find - these are the only edible berries that grow here.

>Would Icelanders have

>observed Lenten restrictions, having such a meat-based diet?

Well, we’ve always eaten a lot of fish, and dairy products, but meat was

supposedly not eaten during Lent - with the exception of whalemeat, which

counted as fish (not sure about seal meat, though). And, well, things like

"hoofed salmon" are sometimes mentioned, so I guess not everybody followed

the Lenten restrictions equally rigidly.


Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2000 00:54:14 -0700

From: "James F. Johnson" <seumas at mind.net>

Subject: Re: SC - A new project....

Stefan li Rous wrote:

> But what are these "dulse strips"? Perhaps you have mentioned them

> before, but I'm afraid I don't remember. Is this the lichen?

An edible red seaweed (_Palmaria palmata_). I can get it in the local

health food store, and there is at least company on the east coast that

sells it mail order:



Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2000 12:14:16 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - A new project....

Stefan asked:

>But what are these "dulse strips"? Perhaps you have mentioned them

>before, but I'm afraid I don't remember. Is this the lichen?

No. Dulse, as Seumas says, is edible seaweed, Palmaria palmata or Rhodymenia

palmata (this botanical name most Icelanders would recognize because it is

also the name of a famous poem by our Nobel Prize-winning author HalldÛr

Laxness). The Icelandic name is sˆl; the Irish name is dillisk, I think.

Dulse is frequently mentioned in the sagas and other medieval writings and

seems to have been eaten widely, up until the late 19th century; now they

are mostly used as a snack. There was a famous incident a few years ago,

when a member of the Althing was taken to task by the Speaker for bringing

food into the meeting hall and eating it at his desk; he maintained that he

had not brought any food, just dulse, which wasn't food anyway - citing

Egill SkallagrÌmsson, who had chewed dulse when he was trying to starve

himself to death.

Dulse can be eaten raw but it can be rubbery (someone compared it to chewing

on a salted rubber band). Now it is usually dried (partially at least), cut

into strips or shreds and added to skyr or porridge, soups, stews, bread

and - well, just about anything. Or they were simply eaten with butter or

some kind of dipping liquid. In some regions, they were eaten fresh; then

they were boiled for some time, chopped and added to bread or soups. They

were so common in Southern and Western Iceland that August was often called

"dulse month" because that was the usual dulse harvesting time.

The Irish make dillisk sandwiches - a layer of dulse between two slices of

buttered bread.

>Were cattle raised in Iceland? Nanna? It just seems the terrain favors

>sheep over cattle, but maybe some were kept for milk and then became

>roast beef. But in that case, I would think that being old and probably

>stringy it would be boiled or stewed rather than roasted.

Sources seem to indicate that there were more cattle raised here in the

10th-14th centuries or so than later on, and that may have been the only

period (until late 20th century) when cattle was actually raised for meat.

Sources often mention bulls and oxen grazing in the wilderness; they

probably were semi-wild (the climate was milder then and the vegetation was

much different from what it became later). But even though the beef wasn't

that tough and stringy, it may well have been boiled anyway - in the 12th

century at least, boiling seems to have been the preferred cooking method

and sources mention meat being roasted only when there was no kettle or

cauldron available to boil the meat.


Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2000 08:51:37 -0400

From: margali <margali at 99main.com>

Subject: Re: SC - A new project....


Now, if you could get hold of some dulse strips, that's your ideal finger

food. Definitely vegan, eminently documentable as a snack (Egill

SkallagrÌmsson was nibbling on them in the 10th century, or so the sagas

say) and quite tasty (at least if you are an Icelander and have been

chewing them since childhood).



I know a source of dulse and other sea vegetables-

Gold Mine Natural Food Co



Dulse - 2 oz - $4.79, 1 lb - $26.95

applewood smoked dulse - 2 oz $4.99


Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2000 16:27:28 -0700

From: "James F. Johnson" <seumas at mind.net>

Subject: Re: SC - A new project....

Sue Clemenger wrote:

> Uh--what's "skyr?" Did I miss that part of the thread?

> --Maire

TTBOMK, it's curds from fresh or sour milk. The exact nature of it, and

how it might differ from cottage or ricotta cheeses as sold here in the

United States, I don't know yet. It could be tart like yogurt, or not,

AFAIK. Seems to be the primary consumed dairy product of early Iceland,

often with fruit mixed in. Am I correct, Nanna?

(enjoying the image of this tall ruddy Icelandr eating his 'fruit and


The acidic fermented whey, or syra, was drained off and used as a

pickling preservative, either long term or short term, and also diluted

with water (about one part to eleven of water) for a beverage.


Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 02:58:45 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - A new project....

Seumas wrote:

>TTBOMK, it's curds from fresh or sour milk. The exact nature of it, and

>how it might differ from cottage or ricotta cheeses as sold here in the

>United States, I don't know yet. It could be tart like yogurt, or not,

>AFAIK. Seems to be the primary consumed dairy product of early Iceland,

>often with fruit mixed in. Am I correct, Nanna?

From the Settlement right up until the 1980s, I’d say, and still very


Skyr is a cultured milk product - you use warmed milk, non-homogenized or

skimmed (cow's or ewe's milk, but these days it is always cow's milk), add

starter (a bacterial culture) and rennet, let it cool, then pour it into a

sieve and let it stand overnight, while the whey (s?ra) is draining away.

I'm not convinced you can make authentic skyr without a starter but there

are several recipes floating around the web somewhere that use a substitute.

You can see some photos of a school class making skyr here (the text and

recipe is in Icelandic, unfortunately, but basically it is 10 litres skimmed

milk, 6 drops of rennet, a heaped tablespoon of traditional skyr and two

tablespoons of cream (optional)).


Skyr is not much like cottage cheese or ricotta cheese. If anyone is

familiar with Greek yoghurt, then I find it comes reasonably close to

modern, fairly mild and smooth, versions of skyr (I freely substitute them

in recipes) but the traditional skyr is much more tart and and thicker, so

it can be cut with a knife - it is usually diluted with milk or water and

heavily sugared when eaten as a dessert or breakfast dish, which is what

most people do. I, however, use unsweetened traditional skyr for lots of

things - cakes, bread, dips and sauces, soups, stews - oh, and it is very

good as a topping for baked potatoes, as Alan Davidson and I discovered when

we were doing some culinary experiments with the skyr I brought him when I

visited him in London earlier this year. BTW, if anyone has the early issues

of PPC, there is an article on skyr-making there - issue 3 or 4, I believe.

>(enjoying the image of this tall ruddy Icelandr eating his 'fruit and


Berjaskyr - skyr mixed with bilberries and crowberries - is actually my

favorite food ever. And hrÊringur - skyr mixed with cold oatmeal

porridge -is one of the very few foods I really dislike. Unfortunately, my

mother served it about three times a week when I was a child. So did most

other housewifes in the region. I last ate it on 25 March, 1974, at 8.30 PM,

and I know that because I was so famished after the birth of my first child

that when the midwife went to get me some food and returned with a bowl of

hrÊringur, which was the only thing to be had in the kitchen at that hour, I

ate it greedily. But when I had my son a few years later, I took a packet of

cookies to the hospital just in case.


Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2000 21:14:05 -0700

From: "James F. Johnson" <seumas at mind.net>

Subject: Re: SC - A new project....

Thanks, Nanna, very informational and the sort of information I was

looking for.

I found one site with a skyr recipe at


She uses fresh buttermilk as the starter.

I noticed the similarity with making yogurt cheese, with the difference

that the yogurt is strained after culturing overnight, and it doesn't

separate into curds and whey.

Thanks for the flavour assessment (more tart than yogurt). That will

help me test it.

Could you comment on the flavour and appearance of bilberries and

crowberries? Ever picked them wild? What type of ground and climate do

they prefer?


Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 11:55:20 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - A new project....

/lfR wrote:

>Is the stuff sold in stores in Iceland live? Or can one purchase the

>culture in a more stable form? In other words, what ways would I have of

>obtaining a way to make the real thing?

Yes, it is, and no, you can't, as far as I know. Well, you could ask someone

who is going to Iceland to pick up some skyr for you ... Skyr was available

in Denmark in the 1970s and 80s but I don't think it is commercially made

there any more. Or if you think the Swedish postal/customs/whatever

authorities wouldn't mind, I can always try to mail you some. (Here in

Iceland, we hold the opinion that in Sweden, anything that is not

expressively allowed is forbidden by default.)

>One I saw -- and have used extensively -- was to use yoghurt (in Sweden

>yoghurt is like the Greek stuff, but with less fat -- 3% unless you buy

>the tasteless low fat versions -- and more pourable in consistency), and

>strain it overnight. The result has a consistency a bit like cream

>cheese, and have a tart, yoghurty, flavour. How close would this be?

Close enough to use in recipes, I’d say. To me, skyr has a pretty unique

taste but I’m not sure how others will find it. I've seen the sweetened,

modern versions likened to Indian shrikhand, which I can't remember having

tasted, but it is basically strained yoghurt, beaten and sweetened.

>Are you talking thick as in hard cheese, or as in cream cheese? Would it

>still be spreadable? Since t is mixed I presume the latter.

Yes, cream cheese is about right, but this type isn't available commercially

any more - not here in ReykjavÌk at least. The traditional skyr now sold is

somewhat softer and not quite as tart. But the modern, milder versions are

much more popular with the younger generations.

>Any period (or at least perioid) recipies featuring it? I recall

>mentions from the sagas of it being eaten, and of Grettir encountering a

>maid carrying a skin full of it, but never a recipie.

I can’t remember any recipes offhand but some sources seem to indicate that

unstrained skyr, Ûlekja, was drunk or eaten as a soup - we still make soup

from it and eat it with crushed rusks or even cornflakes. There are lots of

18th and 19th century recipes or descriptions of food that includes skyr but

I can't recall anything older than that. Except berjaskyr, and maybe

hrÊringur  - I'll try to look that up tomorrow.

>> Berjaskyr - skyr mixed with bilberries and crowberries - is actually my


>Crowberries as in Empetrum nigrum? I have a slight aversion to them

>after subsisting to a large extent on them and iceland lichen (Cetraria

>islandica) for a week a few years ago, but yes, the flavour could be

>nice here. And V. myrtillus is *nice* in such contexts. I need to pick

>some E. nigrum this summer and freeze. Definitely.

Yes, it is Empetrum nigrum. Well, as I’ve said, crowberries and bilberries

were the only berries I had tasted until I was a teenager, and I concede

that crowberries might not taste all that wonderful to someone used to a

much wider variety of wild berries.

>> favorite food ever. And hrÊringur - skyr mixed with cold oatmeal

>> porridge -is one of the very few foods I really dislike.


>This will have to be tried. It sounds interesting, and not nessesarilly

>bad at all. If it turns out well I can see a cold lunch in SCA camps (is

>it documentable? Pretty please with wildflower honey on top tell me it

>is?). Would other porridges than pure oatmeal ever be used?

Yes, orginally it would probably have been barley porridge, or maybe rye.

And it isn’t really that bad, I know quite a few people who like it. I’ll

try to find out if it is documentable.


Date: Mon, 24 Apr 2000 11:55:28 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - A new project....

Seumas wrote:

>I found one sight with a skyr recipe at



>She uses fresh buttermilk as the starter.

Yes, I've seen that too. Here, naturally soured milk might be used if a

starter wasn't available - sometimes mixed with an egg or egg white - but

the new skyr wasn't considered good enough until after you had made the skyr

several times, always taking a new starter from your latest batch.

>Thanks for the flavour assessment (more tart than yogurt). That will

>help me test it.

Another thing I forgot to mention is that you've got to be pretty careful

with the temperature of the milk. If you add the starter and rennet when it

is too hot you will get coarse, curdled skyr, called grahestaskyr (stallion

skyr). If it is too cold it will be thin, glundur (slop) and said to have a

"cold taste".

>Could you comment on the flavour and appearance of bilberries and

>crowberries? Ever picked them wild? What type of ground and climate do

>they prefer?

Have I picked them wild? Every other day during late August/early September

in my childhood, even more after we moved to a fishing village built

practically in the middle of a berryfield. Here in ReykjavÌk, you've got to

drive for 10-15 minutes to find crowberries and bog bilberries; true

bilberries mostly grow in the West and North.

They prefer cool climates; crowberries are rare south of

(Northern)Scandinavia but I understand they grow abundantly in Alaska and

Canada. They are small, pitch black and shiny, slightly tart and probably do

not taste wonderful to people used to a wide variety of berries and fruit.

Bilberries are dark blue, sometimes almost black, somewhat smaller than

American blueberries, and not very dissimilar in flavor (some will tell you

they are inferior to blueberries, others, including me, hold a different

opinion). They grow in Northern Europe, in Scotland and Ireland, and in New

England and perhaps other northerly regions as well; they are often called

whortleberries in America. The bog bilberry is fairly similar to the

bilberry but has the color of a blueberry. The difference in taste is

reflected in the Icelandic names; bog bilberry is bl·ber (blueberry),

bilberry is aalbl·ber (main blueberry).


Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2000 16:41:22 -0000

From: "Nanna Rognvaldardottir" <nanna at idunn.is>

Subject: Re: SC - Malaches (FoC 159)

/lfR wrote:

>Do you have a real recipie? Never having eaten it I could redact it from

>your description, but better would be a recipie. Is there a good

>Icelandic cookbook in any other scandinavian language (or English) that

>you know of? Far too many of the things you mention sounds yummy, and

>uses interesting parts of the animal.

Well, I'm currently writing such a book but for various reasons not making

quite as good progress as I had planned upon. Still, it should be available

in a year or so. Meanwhile, feel free to ask for any recipe that interests


This is my family recipe - my mother got it from her grandmother, who was

born in 1870. Rye was traditional at least from the 18th century onwards

(often mixed with chopped Iceland moss) but earlier, barley was probably the

most common grain.


(recipe may easily be halved)

a couple of lamb's stomachs

1 litre blood

2 dl water

1/2 tbsp coarse salt

200 g oatmeal

around 800 g coarse rye flour

5-800 g chopped lamb suet

First you should make the bags/pouches (or whatever to call them): Lay the

cleaned stomach flat on a board and cut it into 5-6 parts. Sew each part

with a soft cotton thread to make a bag but leave a small opening (6-8 cms).

Keep them in cold salted water while you make the stuffing: Mix blood, water

and salt in a big bowl. Add oatmeal, then stir in the rye flour gradually,

until the mixture is so thick that the spoon can almost stand unsupported in

the middle of the bowl. Add suet (my great-grandmother would probably have

used at least a kilo, I use not more than half that amount). At this stage,

I usually abandon the spoon and use my arm to stir the mixture (no, this is

not for the squemish). Stuff the stomach pouches with the mixture; they

should not be more than two-thirds full or even less. Sew them up or use

pins to close them. Place in boiling salted water, taking care not to crowd

them. Prick them thoroughly with a pin and let them simmer for around 2 1/2

hours, turning them occasionally.

This is often served hot with potatoes and mashed swedes (oops, sorry,

rutabagas) but frankly, these days I prefer to let it cool, then slice it up

and fry it in butter with some apples and demarera sugar (very

untraditional), OR just plain with a glass of milk, OR (best of all)

preserved in soured whey until really really sour, then eaten with a bowl of


To the basic recipe, you can add chopped soaked Iceland moss, or some

raisins (there are even modern recipes which substitute all the fat with

raisins), or some spices, like cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice.


Date: Sat, 9 Dec 2000 02:23:11 -0000

From: "=?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?=" <nannar at isholf.is>

Subject: Re: SC - Nanna's Smoked Lamb? was Dishes made by the whole family

Olaf wrote:

>    This brings up a question on when did the Norse start smoking food &

>how?  Also a request for you to share the recipie for Icelandic Smoked


I'd say in Iceland meat has been smoked since the Settlement but I'll look

into it and see if I can find anything further. It certainly was the main

preservation method for meat during the Middle Ages and up until the 19th


For a proper smoked leg of lamb, you need:

1) an old-style Icelandic kitchen, windowless but with a chimney-hole in the

roof (although these days people build separate sheds for smoking)

2) sheepdung as fuel (o.k. some people who don't know better use wood, such

as birch, but then the meat doesn't taste right)

3) at least three weeks (this is cold smoking and the fire should be lit for

a few hours each day). The meat gets better with time and I remember from my

childhood legs that had hung in smoke for months and were almost black, and

the best I've ever had. Of course, people from my home region also held

something like the world record for stomach cancer deaths. (Smoked meat was

everyday food then. A bite now and then won't kill you.) The wood-smoked

meat I mentioned earlier is usually only smoked for a few days, however.

I don't smoke meat myself, I can buy some very good traditionally smoked

lamb here. If you are serious about this project, I could dig up

instructions for you, though.


Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2001 10:07:28 -0000

From: "Nanna Rognvaldardottir" <nanna at idunn.is>

Subject: Re: SC - Lefske and Lutefisk Recipes?

Stefan wrote:

>Maybe she would prefer the Icelanic shark to the lutefisk? Since much

>of the Icelandic food culture comes from Scandanavia, there will be

>similarities. The Icelanders just have stronger stomaches. And the

>Scots think *they* are hardy because of their climate... :-)

You should see some of the recipes and descriptions in the Greenland

cookbook I'm currently reading - they would win hands down if we were

comparing stomachs. Blubber juice with seal blood and crowberries, anyone?

Or sun-dried seal lung? And talking about shark, the Greenlanders use a

similar method for fermenting it - but they say the best part is the

fermented gills, which we Icelanders do not even eat.

We Icelanders have never taken to lutefisk. But, just for fun, here is the

section on the skate parties on St. Thorlak's day (December 23rd) from my

forthcoming Icelandic cookbook:

"Icelanders do not have a tradition of eating fish at Christmas but fish is

traditional on St. Thorlakís Day and in later years, the fish of the day is

putrefied skate. This tradition began in the Western Fjords and has spread

all over the country. The skate, which is left to ferment for several weeks,

has an extremely strong and unpleasant smell that intensifies while it is

being cooked. The man of the house (who is often responsible for the cooking

of this particular item) is sometimes banished to the garage and has to cook

the skate on a gas burner there, or else the whole house might stink of

ammonia come Christmas. Instead, the smoked lamb is often cooked in the

kitchen and produces a smell that almost everybody loves.

It has to be said, though, that the taste of the skate is not nearly as bad

as the smell, although that may differ. Some prefer it so putrefied that it

brings tears to their eyes and their breath smells of it for many hours

afterwards. An 18th century poet praised skate of this kind to the skies and

said it was ìbetter than brennivÌnî (caraway-flavored schnapps), which is

praise indeed, coming from an Icelander.

The skate is usually cut into chunks and poached, sometimes in the cooking

water from the smoked lamb. It is served with hamsatÛlg (melted sheepís

tallow with cracklings) and/or hno?mˆr (sheep's tallow that is kneaded and

dried before it is melted), along with boiled potatoes. And it usually gets

washed down with several straight shots of brennivÌn."


Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2001 16:28:27 -0000

From: "Nanna Rognvaldardottir" <nanna at idunn.is>

Subject: Re: SC - Aw, the Joys of the Florilegium -OT

>> Yeah, well, I'm finding more and more interesting things in the Greenland

>> cookbook all the time ...


>I must have missed this. Details, please?

I've just bought a rather interesting book called Neri ... Mad Food

(allright, for you English speakers, "mad" means food in Danish, so the

title is really Food Food Food) - this is a trilingual book and the full

English title is "Food in Southern Greenland for 1000 Years". It is a

cookbook/food history/cultural history of Southern Greenland from the Norse

settlement onwards. The book is almost 300 pages and illustrated in color

throughout, with many very interesting food-related photos - most of them

are, I believe, part of a 10-year photo-project by one of the authors.

There are dozens of recipes; some are (reconstructed) "Norse" recipes, some

are traditional Inuit recipes, some date from the colonial period (up to

1980 or so) and some are quite modern but make use of Greenlandic

ingredients, such as seal, musk ox or razorbill.

There are a couple of passages in the introduction that I thought might be

relevant to the current baklava discussion on the list:

"On the other hand, some methods of food preparation have survived through

hundreds of years, while other methods, which today are thought of as "proto

Greenlandic", may not be more than a couple of hundred years old - or even


It is difficult to define the origin today, because to eat Greenlandic

food - and appreciate it - is part of the Greenlandic identity. This has not

made us try to reconstruct a tradition, because there is no such _one_

tradition. Traditions change over time, because culture is a vessel of

remembrance as wll as of forgetfulness. New ways are chosen and/or

introduced - and they eventually become part of the tradition. This takes

place as an on-going process, which produces a result normally thought of as

inherited; but in this process things are forgotten just as well as


I have sometimes said that Iceland is - or used to be - at the very edge of

the habitable world. Greenland could be described as a little bit over the

edge. Which is why the following lines ring very true to me:

"The most essential element of life in Greenland is the everlasting quest

for survival. Naturally food and the attitude towards food is closely

connected to that of survival. Hunger and hardship have always been very

real threats. Therefore a festive occasionis the same as an abundance of

food, being able to eat a great deal and to revel in the abundance. Hardly

anything is despised as long as it fills you up. This does not mean that

gastronomical specialities do not exist, quite the opposite, variations and

elaborations are primarily derived from the combination of fresh, old and


Oh yes, the book is published by Hovedland in Denmark (www.hovedland.dk) and

the authors are Finn Larsen and Rie Oldenburg.



Date: Wed, 4 Apr 2001 10:22:47 -0000

From: "Nanna Rognvaldardottir" <nanna at idunn.is>

Subject: Re: SC - Lefske and Lutefisk Recipes?

Stefan wrote:

>Do you have any idea why Icelanders didn't go for the lutefisk? Is

>one of the needed ingredients of a lower quality? Or is there some

>climatic or cultural differance that would account for this? Or is

>it "just one of those things"? I'm assuming lutefisk was in use

>before Iceland was colonized, so the techniques and tradition would

>be originally there in both places.

I don't think so. No one really knows where or when the origins of lutefish

were but most sources I've looked at say "early 16th century or earlier",

which is, after all, 5-600 years after the settlement of Iceland. Let's look

at what Alan Davidson calls "neccessary conditions for the emergence of


a) a strong tradition of fishing and of drying the catch. (We're OK there)

b) a climate so cold as to permit use of the technique in the days before

refrigeration. (No problem at all)

c) forests or woods to supply wood ash to produce the lye. (Oops ...)

If lutefish is a Viking age dish (which I'm not so sure about), it probably

was made in Iceland at one time, but it would have disappeared within a few

centuries, as Iceland became deforestated.

You asked about horsemeat. I've discussed this earlier but here is the

horsemeat entry from my book, which should answer your questions (and no,

there are no horsemeat recipes in it, although I mention in one or two cases

that horsemeat can be used for this or that dish):

"Icelanders love their horses and generally treat them well, but they do not

share the aversion for the eating of horseflesh that most English-speaking

people seem to have, despite the fact that consuming horsemeat was forbidden

for many centuries. One of the conditions the Icelanders set for accepting

Christianity in the year 1000 AD was that they should be allowed to continue

to eat horsemeat in secret. This can not have continued for long, however,

and horsemeat was not eaten again until the 19th century, except perhaps

during severe famines.

In the early part of the 20th century, the use of horsemeat became very

widespread but it has been slowly declining again. There are few specific

horsemeat recipes, as almost any beef recipe can be used. Horseflesh is

fairly similar to beef, although it has a sweetish taste that not everyone

likes. The flesh of young horses is very lean and tender but it will spoil

faster than other meat so it must be fresh."

As for my cookbook, I delivered the manuscript to Hippocrene last month and

got an email only this morning saying their copyeditor had gone through it

and they were sending it back to me for corrections. I still don't know what

they thought of it but since I'm writing in a foreign language (and besides,

I tend to mix up British and American English somewhat dreadfully), I

suppose there is still a lot of work to be done on it.

The book is called Icelandic Food and Cookery and it will be published by

Hippocrene, probably late this year. There will be 20-30 pages containing

information on food history, feast days and food customs related to them,

and Icelandic ingredients (the horsemeat entry above is fairly typical), and

then there are around 165 recipes, each with a short - or, in a few cases,

not so short - introduction discussing origins or characteristics of the

dish, or maybe telling a family anecdote. The book is rather more personal

than I originally planned, because many of the recipes are old family


I'm not planning on continuing to pester you with snippets from the

manuscript but I think the foreword sums up the book quite nicely so I'll

just post it here - then you know what to expect:

"I grew up on a remote farm in Northern Iceland in the 1960s. Icelandic

society has changed so much since then that sometimes it seems to me this

must have been the 1860s, not least in culinary matters. The food of my

childhood was partly the old traditional Icelandic food, salted, smoked,

dishes and cakes, and not much else.

Electricity had not yet arrived but there was a huge coal stove in one

corner of the kitchen. At least it looked huge to me, but the kitchen is

very small, so it probably wasnít. And there was no refrigerator but a

couple of barrels, filled with fermented whey, stood in the larder and the

icy, tangy whey drawn from them was the most refreshing drink imaginable on

a hot summer day, when the sheep were being sheared.

Todayís young Icelandic chefs win awards in international culinary

competitions and can master any cooking trend and technique that comes their

way. The shops are full of exotic ingredients and apples and oranges are no

longer the only fruit, as I discovered when I tasted my first banana at the

age of seven. But that is not what this book is about.

It is about the food I grew up on, the food Icelanders think about when they

get a bit nostalgic, the food our mothers and grandmothers cooked. It is

also partly about the food that has been slowly replacing it, as more

vegetables, fruits and spices have gained a permanent place in the Icelandic

kitchen. And it is about food traditions and the love of food."


Date: Wed, 4 Apr 2001 13:31:53 -0000

From: "Nanna Rognvaldardottir" <nanna at idunn.is>

Subject: Re: SC - Lefske and Lutefisk Recipes?

Adamantius wrote:

>Various sources, ranging, I believe, from period poetry to a recent

>history of cod harvesting (I can't find it right now) speak of dried cod

>being "the hardtack of the Vikings". In other words, a lightweight,

>easily transported, easily preserved when dry, food which could be

>broken up into shavings or chips and eaten as is.

Still is, you know; in fact I just had some for lunch. Well, it was dried

haddock, which is much more common, but essentially the same. It is a very

popular snack here, especially for travels; every roadside shop has a good

selection. It costs about $20-25 per pound, but a little goes a long way.

>Essentially unflavored

>cod jerky. Harmless enough, if not very flavorful by most standards.

The fish itself is flavorful enough, when it has lost about 90% of its

weight in the drying process.


From: =?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?= <nannar at isholf.is>

To: <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Butter

Date: Wed, 29 Aug 2001 23:40:37 -0000

Elizabeth wrote:

>      (P.127) "Scarcity of grain meant that in Iceland, unlike in

> continental Europe, bread never became a staple.

Weeell - that depends on what is meant by "a staple". Bread was probably far

more common in Viking times in Iceland than later on; barley was grown here

until the 1500s or so and some of it was used for breadmaking. There are

enough mentions of bread in the Sagas and other old Icelandic sources to

show it wasn't exactly rare.

>It was in fact so rare

> that people dreamt about it and one man received the nickname

> 'Butter-Ring' from his favorite food of bread and butter."

=DE=F3r=F3lfr smj=F6rhringr of Reykd=E6la saga and V=EDga-Gl=FAms probably got his

nickname because he valued (bread and) butter above all other food but that

doesn't prove anything except that bread was eaten with butter - I mean, I

know of a guy commonly called Gvendur terta (Gvendur cake) because he shows

a marked fondness for cream layer cakes, not because they are excessively

rare here in Iceland. On the contrary, in fact.

>     (P.128) "Hard as a board, dried fish was softened by being beaten and

> was served with butter.

We still do that, quite often. I still spread my dried fish liberally with

butter when I want to treat myself. But dried fish only gradually became a

substitute for bread in the Icelandic diet. Besides, _everything_ used to be

served with butter here.

> ... Heavily salted, butter could be kept for

> decades; large stores were accumulated, like gold, by wealthy landowners.

Heavily salted??? Oh no no. One of the strongest characteristics of pre-19th

century Icelandic cuisine is the almost complete lack of salt. Butter was

"soured" (I'm not sure what the proper English term is here and old sources

say that butter treated in this way could easily keep unspoiled (and it WAS

considered unspoiled, although I doubt modern people would think so) for at

least 20 years, whereas salted butter was said to keep only two years. Most

Icelanders actually preferred this to salted butter, but others usually

found it quite disgusting.

>  By the time of the Reformation, the bishopric in Holar possesed a

> mountain of butter calculated to weigh twenty-five tons."

Sounds about right. Keep in mind that this wasn't really a case of

landowners hoarding all the butter they could possibly get because it was so

sought after; rather that most farmers paid their rents and taxes in butter,

it being more or less the only thing they had to pay with, so the landowners

were stuck with the butter mountains, wether they really wanted them or not.

But after all, the butter was virtually non-perishable.


From: =?iso-8859-1?Q?Nanna_R=F6gnvaldard=F3ttir?= <nannar at isholf.is>

To: <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Icelandic Food Question

Date: Sun, 25 Aug 2002 03:51:11 -0000

Daniel Raoul asked:

> give me the low down on hackla, at least that is what it sounds like when he

> pronounced it.  It is a shark meat dish which is reputedly "processed" by

> burial in volcanic sand.  I need the low down on how it is indeed prepared

H=E1karl is fermented shark (Greenland shark) that is cut into large chunks

and usually buried for months to allow certain unhealthful substances to

leak out, then air-dried. It is not buried in sand, though, but rather in

gravel, usually on or just above the beach. Some say it was often buried in

the cow byre but that is probably not true, it just smells like it. I'm not

too sure about these unhealthful substances - ammonia, probably, judging

from the smell. Many believe there is cyanide in fresh shark that has to be

cured out of it or it will be lethal or at least dangerous to eat but that

is not the case. The cyanide, I mean.

I have never cured h=E1karl myself but I can probably find a good

description - it is a fairly simple procedure and has not changed much for

centuries. The shark is usually hung up to dry for quite some time, the

longer the better, although I don't quite believe the stories of the 12-year

old h=E1karl of Langanes - there was a giantess involved in most of these

anyway so they are not quite credible. But I've eaten a year-old shark and

can vouch for the merits of a long curing.

In my childhood home, it was cut into 1 cm thick slices and placed on the

dinner table along with other Icelandic treats. Nowadays it is usually

served in bite-size cubes and washed down with ice-cold brenniv=EDn. It is

divided into two types, glerh=E1karl (glass shark), the part closest to the

hide which is chewy and semi-opaque, and skyrh=E1karl (skyr shark), soft and

tender inner parts. Both can have a pretty strong taste, not quite

dissimilar to a very strong well matured cheese.

> and what is traditionally drunk when it is consumed.  He said that what is

> drunk when it is consumed is a blackberry alcoholic drink euphemistically

> referred to as "death".

Brenniv=EDn is a caraway-flavored schnapps, there are no blackberries

involved. It is commonly referred to by its nickname svartidau=F0i, or "black

death". The reason for the name is that when brenniv=EDn began to be produced

again in Iceland in 1935 after a 20-year prohibition, the label on the

bottle was made as sombre and uninviting as possible - black label, simple

white lettering - you could almost sense a skull or XXX or the word "Poison"

on the top of the label - someone began calling the schnapps "The Great

Plague" which almost immediately changed into "Black Death" and the name has

stuck ever since.

> Any information regarding folk customs involved in

> its consumption would be appreciated as well.

No real folk customs that I can recall. You usually pop a cube into your

mouth, chew on it to savor the taste or try to swallow as quickly as

possible, depending on how you really like the taste, and wash it down with

a mouthful of brenniv=EDn, preferably straight from the freezer. It is mostly

eaten in winter, especially during the =DEorri feasts in late January/early



Date: Tue, 11 Nov 2003 13:43:53 -0800

From: Susan Fox-Davis <selene at earthlink.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Skyr

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

Sharon Gordon wrote:

> Does anyone ave a resource for fresh skyr or powdered skyr culture in

> the US or Canada?


> I've seen the recipes for substitutes if you can't the actual skyr, but

> wondered if the real thing is available?


> Sharon

> gordonse at one.net

Apparently, live culture sour cream or buttermilk will do, according to

this page:


Selene C.

Date: Tue, 11 Nov 2003 16:15:16 -0600

From: Robert Downie <rdownie at mb.sympatico.ca>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Skyr

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

Sharon Gordon wrote:

> Does anyone have a resource for fresh skyr or powdered skyr culture in

> the US or Canada?


> I've seen the recipes for substitutes if you can't the actual skyr, but

> wondered if the real thing is avalable?


> Sharon

> gordonse at one.net

It's available.  You just need to find a town near  you with a high

Scandinavian population.  We get ours in Gimli, Manitoba, which is handy for

feasts, since our September long weekend Event is held just outside



Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2003 16:30:27 -0500

From: ranvaig at columbus.rr.com

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Skyr

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

> Does anyone have a resource for fresh skyr or powdered skyr culture in

> the US or Canada?


> I've seen the recipes for substitutes if you can't the actual skyr, but

> wondered if the real thing is available?


Title: Icelandic Curds (Skyr)

   Categories: Icelandic, Dairy

        Yield: 8 servings

        4 qt Milk

      1/2 pt Sour cream

      1/2    Rennet tablet

    The milk is brought to a boil without burning it, and then cooled to

    blood heat (98F).  A cupful of the sour cream is whipped and mized

    with some of the milk until thin and smooth:  then it is poured into

    the milk.  At the same time, one-half rennet tablet is dissolved in a

    little cold water (about a tablespoonful) and poured into the milk,

    which is stirred to mix the ingredients.  The mixture is allowed to

    stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

    Then the skyr is scooped from the pot and strained gradually through a

    fine linen sieve (several layers of cheesecloth may be used instead).

    It is thus separated from the whey.  The skyr which is left in the

    sieve should be about as thick as ice cream.  Four quarts of milk

    should make about one and a half quarts of skyr.

    When serving, whip skyr well with a spoon or whipper to a smooth

    ice-cream-like consistency. The consistency should not be grainy or

    like cottage cheese.

    Icelanders eat skyr as a dessert with sugar or cream.  (Or fruit.)


Date: Wed, 12 Nov 2003 14:05:41 -0800 (PST)

From: Kathleen Madsen <kmadsen12000 at yahoo.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Skyr

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at ansteorra.org>

I discovered when I first started making my own cheese

that milk scorches very quickly, at a much lower

temperature than most people expect.  I recommend

stirring the milk constantly once it reaches 120

degrees F.  It makes for *much* easier cleanup, and

less aggravation.


--- ranvaig at columbus.rr.com wrote:

>> Does anyone have a resource for fresh skyr or

>> powdered skyr culture in the US or Canada?


>> I've seen the recipes for substitutes if you can't the actual skyr, but

>> wondered if the real thing is available?




> Title: Icelandic Curds (Skyr)

>   Categories: Icelandic, Dairy

>        Yield: 8 servings


>        4 qt Milk

>      1/2 pt Sour cream

>      1/2    Rennet tablet

Date: Mon, 04 Aug 2008 16:14:31 -0400

From: Gretchen Beck <grm at andrew.cmu.edu>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] honey/sweeteners in Iceland?

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>, SCA-Cooks

maillist SCA-Cooks <SCA-Cooks at Ansteorra.org>

--On Monday, August 04, 2008 3:00 PM -0500 Stefan li Rous

<StefanliRous at austin.rr.com> wrote:


I've been talking to this lady about food in Iceland since she is looking

for background info on an historical novel she is writing based in 10th

century Iceland. I pointed her to Nanna's book. For those who weren't on

this list a while back, Nanna is an Icelander who has written several

books on Icelandic food. The one in English is:

Icelandic Food and Cookery

Nanna Rognvaldardottir

ISBN: 0-7818-0878-2

Hippocrene Books, New York

220 pages


Anyway she recently asked this question:

> When Norse immigrants arrived in Iceland, were there bees ... what did

> they have to add a sweetener to their food in the 9th and 10th century?


> Pauline Kulseth

My feeling is that they would not have had sugar and even honey is

questionable. I don't know if they brought bees with them, nor am I sure

whether honey bees would even survive in Iceland. Trade was scarce

between Iceland and Scandinavia even at first and got more so as the

mini-Ice-Age developed, so I'm not sure it was imported or not.


Cleasby-Vigfusson, An Icelandic-English Dictionary (and excellent resource

for things Icelandic) has these things to say about "honey"

HUNANG, n. [A. S. hunig; Engl. honey; Germ. honig; Dan. honing; Ulf.

renders GREEK by mili?] :-- honey, G?l. 491, Bs. i. 103, 433, Eg. 69, 79,

469, Fms. vii. 173, viii. 258, Stj. 309, 411. COMPDS: hunang-baka?r, part.

baked honey, Stj. 193. hunangs-d?gg, f. honey dew, Pr. 401. hunangs-fall,

n. honey dew, Edda 12. hunangs-flj?tandi, part. flowing with honey, Stj.

642, Eluc. hunangs-ilmr, m. a smell of honey, Landn. 140. hunangs-l?kr, m.

a stream of honey, Fas. iii. 669. hunangs-seimr, m. [Germ. honig-seim =

virgin honey], a honeycomb, Stj. 210, N. T. hunang-s?tr, adj. sweet as

honey. UNCERTAIN In olden times and throughout the Middle Ages, honey was

one of the chief exports from England to Scandinavia (Norway and Iceland),

see the passages above; as sugar was then unknown, the export of honey far

exceeded that of the present day.

. sk?gar-hunang, n. wild honey, (literally "wood honey")

milska, u, f. [A.S. milisc = honeyed; Ulf. mili? = honey; cp. Lat.

mellitus] :-- mead, a kind of honeyed beverage, Ht. R. 26; milsku drykkr,

Gd. 71, Clar. 134 (Fr.)

The word "hunang" occurs one in the Icelandic Book of Settlements (as part

of a compound, hunangsilmur, which I can't find a translation for), and

"milska" does not appear at all.

toodles, margaret

Date: Mon, 4 Aug 2008 17:59:26 -0400 (EDT)

From: Gretchen Beck <grm at andrew.cmu.edu>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] honey/sweeteners in Iceland?

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cooks at lists.ansteorra.org>

Cc: pkulseth at rconnect.com, SCA-Cooks maillist SCA-Cooks

<SCA-Cooks at Ansteorra.org>

<<< The word "hunang" occurs one in the Icelandic Book of Settlements (as part

of a compound, hunangsilmur, which I can't find a translation for), and

"milska" does not appear at all. >>>

Doh. Just realized "hunangsilmur" is in the entry for hunang:

hunangs-ilmr, m. a smell of honey, Landn.

toodles, margaret

Date: Fri, 19 Dec 2008 20:31:39 -0500

From: "Kingstaste" <kingstastecomcast.net>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] And in the "Be Careful What You Wish For"


To: "'Cooks within the SCA'" <sca-cookslists.ansteorra.org>

I have watched a couple of videos on the eating of said fish product, and

both times they carved it off of the chunks hanging in the curing house and

ate it right there.  The townsfolk ate it in the tavern on slices of brown

bread and the tasty beverage of their choice.  I don't know of a recipe for

cooking it, none of the shows on Iceland that I've seen mention that.  

You should try some, and tell us all about it in detail, so we can live

vicariously through you!

Heh heh heh


-----Original Message-----

Remember a day or two ago, when I joked about being threatened with  


I just got a phone call from a friend of mine, who has been presented

with everybody's favorite fermented shark fillet, and is wondering  

what to do with it, apart from burying it in the back yard (I pointed  

out that that had evidently been tried already, and didn't work).

From what I can find online, the flesh is generally eaten trimmed of  

all dark outer layers, cut into small cubes, and eaten with perhaps  

dark bread and butter, and, of course, ice-cold akvavit or brannevijn.

Nanna R?gnvaldard?ttir's book on Icelandic food says pretty much the  

same, and doesn't give a lot of additional detail. It appears my  

friend has a packet of already-trimmed, diced, white cubes of fish. Do  

people agree that this appears to be as processed as it needs to get  

before eating safely?

He's very smart, my friend. He says I have to come out and help him  

eat the stuff, so I'd better be sure.


Date: Sun, 04 Jan 2009 19:08:27 -0500

From: "Phil Troy / G. Tacitus Adamantius" <adamantius1verizon.net>

Subject: [Sca-cooks] Stalking the wild hakarl

To: Cooks within the SCA <sca-cookslists.ansteorra.org>

Some people asked for a report on the hakarl experience should it come  

my way,  so here goes -- the faint of heart can skip to the end or be  

content to learn that, once again, I have escaped death at the hands  

(or fins) of some weird food.

So no shinola, there I was, after being asked by my friend what in  

Heaven's name he was supposed to do with the stuff (and after I  

canvassed opinions here and reported back to him, after which he stuck  

it in his fridge to await my arrival, moral support and joint risk  

assumption from yours truly). The lady who had dropped it off at his  

house swore it needed to be boiled, but if I can't get corroboration  

of the word of a lifelong vegetarian with narrow tastes, even by  

vegetarian standards, I'm probably most likely to assume she doesn't  

know what she's talking about, which is what we did.

Eric produced a small, sealed plastic tub of approximately 3/4-inch  

whitish cubes of slightly niffy shark meat, a little airline bottle of  

what he called schnapps, but which proved to be brennevijn, which is  

the Icelandic equivalent of akvavit, which in turn is an ever-so-

slightly-sweet, not with added sugar, but from whatever starchy thing,  

I assume potatoes and/or grain, it is made from, with a light caraway-

seed flavor, distilled spirit consumed in small shots, very cold,  

often with things like gravlax and other fishy comestibles, as John  

Cleese might call them. Like vodka, it can be a little harsh on the  

throat, and serving it chilled helps. We had a regular-sized bottle of  

Danish akvavit for when we ran out of the Icelandic brennevijn.

Since this is commonly eaten at various Scandinavian smorrebrots,  

kalas, and smorgasbords, but most especially at the Icelandic  

midwinter festival known as Thorrablot -- only muy macho foods need  

apply -- I figured the best thing to do was to serve our hakarl with  

some sort of brown bread and/or lefse, butter, finely chopped raw  

sweet onion, and plenty of chilled brennevijn. Hey, if it's bad, that  

other stuff could save almost anything and turn it into a positive  

experience, and if it's good, even better, right? And, it's pretty  

much the standard presentation for a wide spectrum of raw or chilled  

Scandinavian seafoods, from poached crayfish or shrimp, to raw herring  

fillets, to gravlax, etc. We thought about adding a garnish of chopped  

hard-boiled egg, and decided against it, figuring we didn't want to  

obliterate the fish flavor _too_ much.

So, we opened the tub, and, well, it was shark meat. Smelling faintly  

of ammonia, which shark, ray, and skate often do when raw, slightly  

oily, which shark meat often is, and somewhat firmer than I'd have  

expected raw fish to be; I gather it is semi-desiccated, a little like  

prosciutto, in the curing process.

I had read in a number of sources that hakarl was a bit like ripe  

Camembert cheese, and it did have that aroma and flavor once the built-

up ammonia fumes had dissipated. It's still fish, though, and had the  

oily richness one finds in salmon, trout, etc. I was a little  

surprised to find it a little tough, but then shark meat is pretty  

tough, with lots of connective tissue, but I'd have figured the whole  

point of burying it would be to decrease that (and, in the case of  

Greenland shark, to remove excess ammonia: certain deepwater fish have  

some metabolic processes that cause ammonia to build up in their  

muscle tissue, hence the need to age or marinate skate before serving,  

or bury Greenland shark in the sand). However, I suspect this wasn't  

cured as long as it used to be; whether it's too expensive to store it  

and not sell it, or whether it's been toned down for the tourists, I  

couldn't say.

My friend had to phone the lady who had given it to him, to thank her  

and gloat a bit, I suppose, and let her know we were eating the  

hakarl, at which point she reiterated her warning that we needed to  

boil this stuff or we would surely die. She said something about renal  

failure, and added that Anthony Bourdain and Jamie Oliver had both  

said, independently, that hakarl was the worst thing they had ever  

eaten in their lives, bar none -- I'm sitting there politely minding  

my own business, when suddenly I hear my friend announce that his  

buddy Phil said that Anthony Bourdain and Jamie Oliver are nothing but  

a couple of wusses... I don't recall saying that, but perhaps it was  

the schnapps talking; we were probably lucky to be able to say  

anything at that point. I do sort of wonder about anyone who gives  

someone a gift of food and says, "Here, this is potentially deadly;  

you'll love it!"

Well, it was an interesting experience; the fish was just a bit chewy,  

tasted faintly of both fish and cheese, did not kill me, gave me an  

excuse to consume plenty of brennevijn and akvavit, and get a taste of  

an extremely old tradition. I suspect the shark meat wasn't as old as  

the tradition, but one never knows, do one? In the end, a little went  

a very long way, and it's probably one of those things that it's good

to be able to say you experienced it once, but probably not good  

enough for me to want to eat it regularly.

Brennevijn, on the other hand, provides an excellent excuse.

There was an interesting article in, I believe, the New York Times  

travel section a week or two ago, in which the author attributed a new  

Icelandic folk culinary renaissance to the foundering national  

economy. Apparently there are entire generations of Icelanders who've  

been living on sushi, sashimi, and imported smoked salmon from places  

like Scotland, who know absolutely nothing of the foods their  

grandparents ate. Now nobody has money to spare for imported luxury  

food items, and the grocery stores are full of shelves of ram's head  

cheese and testicles, both fresh and pickled in whey, dried haddock,  

pickled whale blubber and smoked lamb, and there are hundreds of  

thousands of unemployed yuppies now roaming the streets of Reykjavik,  

getting their first experience of zen and the art of pickled ram's  


At least it isn't Spam.


Date: Mon, 30 Mar 2009 11:55:51 -0400

From: "Daniel & Elizabeth Phelps" <dephelpsembarqmail.com>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] Salt in Iceland (was Honey butter)

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cookslists.ansteorra.org>

Was written:

<<< I _think_ the places where salt tends to be harvested from salt water are

places where there are shallow bays and a lot of sunshine; places  like

Southern Spain and India. I also believe Northern Europe tends to  see

more mined salt, and I'm not sure Iceland is one of the centers  for that. >>>

If I recall correctly Iceland is a volcanic island on the north Atlantic mid

oceanic rift.  Mined salt comes from sedimentary deposits.


mka Daniel C. Phelps, P.G. (Professional Geologist)

Date: Tue, 22 Jun 2010 07:14:30 +0000

From: yaini0625yahoo.com

To: "Cooks within the SCA" <sca-cookslists.ansteorra.org>

Subject: Re: [Sca-cooks] whey uses

Another use for whey in Icelandic cooking is skyr. There was a recent Creative Anachronist that had recipes for skyr. I also have a recipe that I got in Iceland and recently translated it. Now, I have heard that the recipe for skyr had disappeared in mainland Scandinavia and only survived in Iceland. Skyr is like my survival food.

In past centuries, whey was mixed with water and was an everyday drink. Very much like the modern day whey power drinks you can get in powder form GNC.

In Iceland, (th)orblot festivals serve foods in two ways. Sour or non-sour. The sour food is pickled in extra strong skyrmysa (whey) for several weeks. The "sour" foods are Hrutspungar (sheep testicles), Hvalsplk (whale blubber), Lundabaggar (pickled secondary meats), Bringukollar (breast meat), Selshrelfar (very rare-seal's flipper) and Hvalliki (fake whale blubber). There is also slatur (liver sausage)

Mysa is whey that was drunk.

I also have a recipe for whey soup.

As I understand, whey is the fat protein that floats to the top during cheese making. "Curds and whey"- It is high in protein and calories.

Aelina the Saami

<the end>

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