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N-Whey-Y-Whey-art - 4/15/17


"No Whey! Yes Whey! - Lacto-Fermentation as a Method of Preservation" by Baroness Ailleagan nas Seolta, OL, OP.


NOTE: See also the files: whey-cheeses-msg, Norse-food-art, food-storage-msg, Lrds-Salt-Exp-art, Preservng-CMA-art, pickled-foods-msg, pickled-eggs-msg., Meat-wo-Refrg-art, pickled-fish-msg.





This article was added to this set of files, called Stefan's Florilegium, with the permission of the author.


These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org


Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author or translator.


While the author will likely give permission for this work to be reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.


Thank you,

Mark S. Harris...AKA:..Stefan li Rous

stefan at florilegium.org



No Whey! Yes Whey! -

Lacto-Fermentation as a Method of Preservation

by Baroness Ailleagan nas Seolta, OL, OP


You know that yellowish liquid you find in yogurt, sour cream, and cottage cheese? Most people normally pour it out. Don't! That's whey, and it's awesome stuff.


Modern studies have shown that whey is a very nutritious product, containing proteins, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and B-vitamins. It supports growth of healthy flora in the intestines [1], and it is easily digestible. [2] It is a bacterial inhibitor [3], helps maintain muscle tissue, and guards against stroke and heart disease. [4]  It has even recently been shown to have a better protein bioavailability than egg whites. [5]


While the people of the Anglo-Saxon and Norse regions did not know these specific facts, they did know of whey's value as a food source. It was consumed as a beverage [6], and is even said to be a favorite beverage among the Vikings of Iceland. [7]


Both the Vikings and the Anglo-Saxons also used whey for pickling foods for use in later seasons.


Lacto-fermentation occurs when the sugars or starches in a food item are converted to lactic acid by a lactic acid- producing bacteria (acidophilus is one variety). These lactobacilli inhance digestibility and increases enzymes and vitamins. Acetic acid has to be detoxified in the liver, where lactic acid can be used by the body to produce choline and other nutrients. [8] The conversion of the sugars and starches also reduces the carbohydrate content in the preserved foods, making them more easily tolerated by people with blood sugar issues.


Personally, I have found foods preserved with lactic acid are less sharp that food preserved with vinegar (acetic acid).


When you're preparing foods to be preserved, you CANNOT substitute the whey protein powders you find in health food stores. They are not the same things; in addition to the proteins, those powders also contain added stabilizers and flavorings. You must use the whey that comes from dairy products. Letting it drain from cartons of sour cream, cottage cheese, or yogurt is one way to get it, but you can only collect a tablespoon or so at a time by that method.


The quickest way to obtain whey is to make your own cheese and harvest the whey from it. Excess can be frozen for later use.


I have included a Viking era-appropriate buttermilk cheese recipe made with rennet as the curdling agent, and a cheese made with citrus juice as the curdling for those that cannot find rennet. The cheeses can be used as schmears on bagels or breads, blended into pancake batters, made into cheesecakes, mixed with granola and honey, or substituted for ricotta in nearly anything.


The recipes I included are just my conjectures. There are no Viking era records of how foods were preserved. Feel free to play with your own mixtures of spices and herbs. Be aware that softer food items will turn mushy more quickly than firmer foods. Also, know that a cloudy liquid during the ferment is good. That's the lactic acid doing its job. The liquid is perfectly safe to drink or add to other food items, such as soups or breads.


If you do not have easy access to whey, the same process can be created using sea salt. Use one to three tablespoons per quart of spring water for your brine. The extra salt will also preserve the natural pectins and allow fruits and vegetables to stay crisp longer.


Buttermilk Cheese


The "buttermilk" obtained as a by-product of butter-making is quite different from the thick, soured dairy product we buy in the stores today, which often contains added cream and various thickeners such as bean gums and carrageenan, a seaweed extract.


Buttermilk, widely established as available in the Viking era settlements9, was also used to make cheese [10]. Anglo-Saxon regions had rennet, and would sometimes heat milk to make cheese instead of just letting it curdle at room temperature. [1] 1 Salt was added to cheese to preserve it. [12]


According to VI Athelstan, cheese was an appropriate accompaniment for bread. [13]

The recipe used to create this cheese was developed from a couple of varieties of buttermilk cheese outlined in Home Cheese Making. The orange-lemon cheese was adapted from the same book. Each gallon of milk makes about four cups of cheese and at least eight cups of whey.


Buttermilk Cheese


1 gallon buttermilk

16 drops rennet diluted in 1 tablespoon cool water

Sea salt


Heat the buttermilk to approximately 125 degrees.

Stir in the diluted rennet, and let it rest for approximately 6 hours.

Place a colander in a large bowl or over another pot.

Line the colander with cheesecloth or fine linen.

Pour the curds and whey into the colander, and let them drain for about an hour.

Stir the curds, adding salt as desired.


If you cannot find rennet. . . .

Orange-Lemon Cheese


1 gallon whole milk

1 1⁄2 cups fresh orange juice (about six oranges)

1 cup fresh lemon juice (about six lemons)

Salt to taste


Heat the milk in a large pot to 205 degrees, stirring frequently to avoid scorching.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the juices.

Let the mixture rest 30 minutes.


Place a colander in a large bowl or over another pot.

Line the colander with cheesecloth or fine linen.

Pour the curds and whey into the colander, and let them drain 15 – 60 minutes, depending on how dry you want the cheese.

Stir the curds, adding salt as desired.


Whey-Pickled Meat


Pickling is a process of preserving foods by impregnating them with acidic solutions; the most direct method is with the use of vinegar, whey, or certain alcoholic liquids. [14]


Whey was used to pickle meat in the Viking era, since its content of lactic acid preserves food much the same way that the acetic acid in vinegar does. [15]


Anglo-Saxons may have consumed up to 25 kilograms (about 55 pounds) of meat per year, more than half of which was beef. [16]  (This sounds like a lot, but it averages out to around 2.5 ounces per day. That's about half of the estimated amount of meat the average American eats today.)


Garlic was one of the most commonly available herbs of the Viking Age, [17]  and Anthimus noted that it was "efficacious in respect of different sorts of water", and was therefore good for travelers to consume. [18]


Whole mustard was found in the grave of the Royal Lady of Oseberg in Norway [19] and in Dublin. [20]  Thyme and parsley were both available [21], as was coriander. [22]


The recipe I created, very loosely based on the techniques of a modern recipe [23] but not at all implausible for the Viking era, made a product that is not wholly unlike the recipe and process that creates modern corned beef.


I have two versions of this recipe here. In one, the meat was seasoned then placed directly into the whey solution. In the other, the meat was cooked before it was pickled. Originally, I had intended to just prepare the raw meat, much the way modern corned beef is prepared. However, not long before I began making the samples, I ran across a reference from An Old Icelandic Medical Miscellany, [24] where the meat was roasted before it was pickled or brined.


I adapted the whey, water, and salt proportions for this recipe from a modern recipe.[25]


Whey-Pickled Meat


2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon whole mustard seed 2 teaspoon parsley

1 teaspoon whole coriander

1⁄2 pound beef, divided in half

4 cloves garlic, sliced

A few sprigs of fresh thyme

1⁄2 cup whey

2 cups spring water


Coarsely grind the salt, mustard seed, parsley, and coriander together, then rub them evenly onto the meat.


Place half the meat in a wide and shallow glass jar, bowl, or crock. (I sliced mine into bite-sized pieces for ease of display in this project. If I were doing this to actually preserve meat for storage, I would not slice it first.)


Cook the other portion of meat to an internal temperature of about 140 degrees (medium doneness). (I cooked mine on a grill to simulate open fire cooking.) Allow the meat to cool and the juices to redistribute. Slice it thinly, then place it in another jar or crock.


Slice the garlic, and add it with a few sprigs of thyme to the jars.


Combine the whey with the water, then divide it evenly between the meat containers. Lightly cover the containers, and let them marinate for two days at room temperature, turning or agitating frequently.


Store the preserved meat in the refrigerator.


Whey-Pickled Fish


The process to pickle fish in whey is not unlike that which creates ceviche, or seafood that is "cooked" in citrus juices. [26] The major difference, of course, is that whey-pickled foods would be processed with lactic acid instead of citric acid.


Milk products were used to cook fish in Anglo-Saxon regions. [27] Salmon was available in the Baltic regions that housed Viking settlements, and around Dublin. [28]  According to Anthimus, dill and leeks were good in the preparations of all foods. [29]  Caraway was available [30], as was black pepper. [31]


I adapted the whey, water, and salt proportions for this recipe from a modern recipe. [32]


Whey-Pickled Salmon


1⁄2 pound salmon (I used imported Norwegian salmon)

1 small bunch dill

1 leek, chopped (white part only)

1 cup spring water

1/8 cup whey

1 tablespoon honey (I used honey from a nearby Tennessee farm)

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

1⁄4 teaspoon whole caraway seed


Place the salmon in a wide-mouthed jar or crock. Add a few small sprigs of dill and the leek.


Combine the water with the whey, honey, salt, black pepper, and caraway. Stir until the salt and honey dissolve. Pour the mixture over the fish, adding water as necessary to ensure the fish is fully immersed. Keep the liquid 1" below the top of the jar, and cover it tightly.


Let the fish rest at room temperature for 24 hours -- it will turn opaque, like cooked fish -- then store it in the refrigerator.


Whey-Pickled Vegetables


After cheese and butter were made, the whey was drained off into large vats that were then used for pickling.[33]  In absence of such vats, I am using sealable jars.


It is fairly certain that some vegetables were preserved by drying.[34] However, in sealed containers, vegetables pickled through lacto-fermentation can be stored for a year or more.[35] This makes it an ideal method of preserving foods during a harvest to ensure that they will be available in less plentiful months.


Carrots were found in Jorvik, the Danelaw, and Dublin.[36] Although they were not of the variety of what I have here, I used the carrots available to me. Anthimus noted ginger's warming effects, and believed it was beneficial for the stomach.[37] Mint was one of many herbs available to people during the Viking era.[38]


I adapted the whey, water, and salt proportions for this recipe from a modern recipe.[39]


Whey - Pickled Carrots

makes about 1⁄2 quart


2 cups carrots, cut into thin matchstick pieces

2 teaspoons diced fresh ginger

2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves

1 teaspoon sea salt

1⁄4 cup whey

Spring water as needed


Stir together carrots, ginger, and mint.

Place them in a clean quart jar.


Dissolve the sea salt in the whey, and pour it into the jar.

Add filtered water as needed to have the liquid come within one inch of the top of the jar.

Cover the jar tightly and let it rest at room temperature for three to four days, then store the fermented carrots in the refrigerator.


Whey-Pickled Pears


As everyone knows, fruit is highly perishable. While drying was probably the most commonly used method of preserving fruit for consumption later in the year, pickling it in whey is another option.


The lacto-fermentation process converts the carbohydrates in lactic acid, thereby lowering the carbohydrate content. It also helps retain important enzymes and nutrients in the foods. Because of the carbohydrate conversion, lacto-fermented fruits are somewhat less likely to cause spikes in blood sugar levels,[40] which results in a better absorption of nutrients and a more even expense of energy.


Even with this in mind, fruits preserved in whey should be eaten within a few months. With their high sugar content, it is fairly easy for the fruit and its juices to pass from simply "pickled" into "hard".[41]


Pears were part of the monastery garden of St. Gall,[42] an Irish disciple who lived from 550 CE to 646 CE. I adapted the whey, water, and salt proportions for this recipe from a modern recipe.[43]


Whey-Pickled Pears


4 cups peeled, cored, and chopped pears (about 3)

1⁄4 cup whey

1 1⁄2 cups spring water

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons honey (I used a dark, robust local honey from a nearby Tennessee farm)


Place the fruit in a quart-size jar.

Stir together the whey with the water, sea salt, and honey until the honey and salt dissolve, and pour it over the fruit.

Cover the jar tightly and let it stand at room temperature for at least two days.


After the fermentation has occurred, store the jar in the refrigerator.

Eat the fruit within two months for best results.


Barley and Oat Farls


Barley was found throughout the Viking settlements, particularly in Dublin, York, and Orkney and Caithness, Scotland. Oats and wheat were both found in North Yorkshire, England, and Oseberg, Norway.[44]


The Viking Answer Lady notes that most of the breads that have been found (largely in Sweden, but a few in Denmark) were made with at least two different cereals, and barley was almost always one of them.[45]


Unleavened oat bread cut into farls (triangles) was a regional possibility in Anglo-Saxon areas.[46] It was also discovered in Hamar, Norway, that oats were occasionally used in breads.[47]


This recipe was modified from a traditional Scottish farl recipe. I decided to use whey instead of additional buttermilk in this recipe for several reasons. It was usually served as a beverage[48], but I thought it tasted too salty and oily for most modern palates to drink. Whey was often stored so it could be consumed later, or for pickling foods[49]. But perhaps most importantly, I had some left after the other food items were prepared, and I didn't want the whey to go waste.


Barley and Oat Farls Makes 16 or more


2 cups rolled oats

1 1⁄2 cups whole wheat flour

1 cup barley flour

1 teaspoon salt

whey as needed, up to 2 cups


Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly grease a baking sheet and set it aside.


Toss together the oats, whole wheat flour, barley flour, and salt.

Add enough whey to make a soft dough.


Divide the dough in half and pat it into 1/4" thick circles.

Cut each into wedges.

Place them on the baking sheet, bake at 350 degrees for approximately 40 minutes.




[1] Fallon, p89

[2] "Whey – Nutritional Information".


[3] Whey Protein Institute, "Nourish Your Body the Healthy 'Whey'".

[4] Dairy Council of California, "Whey Protein"

[5] Reitz, p45

[6] Hagen, p147

[7] Reitz, p47

[8] What Are Pickling and Lacto-Fermentation?" http://essentialstuff.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/picklingsources_esl.pdf

[9] Ward, "Viking Foods

[10] Hagen, p29

[11] Hagen, p29

[12] Hagen, p27

[13] Hagen, p71

[14] Hagen, p40

[15] Ward, "Viking Foods"

[16] Hagen, p72

[17] Graham-Campbell, p123

[18] Grant, p71

[19] Graham-Cambell, p122

[20] Ward, "Viking Foods"

[21] Ward, "Viking Foods"

[22] Priest-Dorman, "Archeological Finds of 9th and 10th Century Viking Foodstuffs"

[23] Fallon, p237

[24] Willadsen, "Pickled Meat"

[25] Fallon, p237

[26] Herbst, p559

[27] Hagen, p27

[28] Ward, "Viking Foods"

[29] Grant, p69

[30] Ward, "Viking Foods"

[31] Anthimus, p51

[32] Fallon, p241

[33] Graham-Campbell, p124

[34] Ward, "Viking Foods"

[35] http://www.lowcarbfriends.com/bbs/main-lowcarb-lobby/378115-what-do-whey-lacto-fermentation.html

[36] Priest-Dorman, "Archeological Finds of 9th and 10th Century Viking Foodstuffs"

[37] Grant, p91

[38] Ward, "Viking Foods"

[39] Fallon, p95

[40] http://www.lowcarbfriends.com/bbs/main-lowcarb-lobby/378115-what-do-whey-lacto-fermentation.html

[41] http://www.lowcarbfriends.com/bbs/main-lowcarb-lobby/378115-what-do-whey-lacto-fermentation.html

[42] Hagen, p120

[43] Fallon, p105

[44] Priest-Dorman, "Archaeological Finds of Ninth and Tenth Century Viking Foodstuffs"

[45] Ward, "Viking Food"

[46] Hagen, p15

[47] Ward, "Viking Food"

[48] Hagen, p27, 28

[49] Short , "Food, Diet, and Nutrition in the Viking Age"




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http://www.dairycouncilofca.org/pdfs/whey_monograph.pdf. Accessed 5/11/11.


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Harris, Mark, editor. "Food of Medieval Iceland". http://www.florilegium.org/. Accessed 10/24/10.

---. "Norse and Viking Food". http://www.florilegium.org/. Accessed 10/24/10.


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Katz, Sandor. The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from Around the World. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012.


---. Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live -Culture Foods, 2nd Edition. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2016.


"Lacto-Fermentation". http://www.lowcarbfriends.com/bbs/main-lowcarb-lobby/378115-what-do-whey-lacto- fermentation.html Accessed 5/4/11.


Levick, Sue. "Feasting and Fasting in Anglo-Saxon England". http://www.regia.org/feasting.htm Accessed 12/10/10.


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---. "Archaeological Finds of Viking Hearths". http://www.cs.vassar.edu/~capriest/hearths.html. Accessed 10/24/10.


Ramsden, Alistair. "Early Medieval Norse Food and Feasting". Accessed 4/7/11. http://www.sca.org.au/st_florians/university/library/articles-howtos/9-12C_Norse_Food_AR070604.htm.


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Copyright 2017 by Rachel Strange. <glenheather at knology.net>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited. Addresses change, but a reasonable attempt should be made to ensure that the author is notified of the publication and if possible receives a copy.


If this article is reprinted in a publication, please place a notice in the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.


<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org