From grain to bread

Coarse and satisfying


New farming methods were introduced in Denmark during the Iron Age, different types of cerial crops and more advanced agricultural tools. A Viking Age tool is the moulboard plough, which cuts furrows, turns the soil and brings nutrients to the surface. An oak ploughshare has been excavated in a well in Hviding south of Ribe. It dates back to 825-850 AD. 

Excavations in Ribe have also given evidence of four cerial crops in the 800's AD: barley, rye, oats and wheat. These cerial crops have most likely been grown locally.

Today, we grow the following cerial crops in Ribe VikingeCenter:

Six-rowed barley (Hordeum vulgare)
The Danish name for this plant, byg, originally means "the cultivated grain". Six-rowed naked barley and normal barley were established in Denmark as far back as the Stone Age. In the Viking Age, six-rowed naked barley became the most important type. Barley gave meal for bread, grits for porridge, and malt (sprouted barley) for brewing beer. 

Club wheat (Triticum compagtum)
Club wheat, also called 'bread wheat', is the only one of the previous strains of wheat that was still around in the Viking Age, perhaps because wheat generally prefers a dryer and warmer climate, like that of the Bronze and Iron Ages. Incidentally, the word wheat is derived from the word 'white', referring to the white flour.

Rye (Secale cereale)
Rye started to make an appearance in Denmark in the late Bronze Age. The cereal probably came from the south with seed corn, and spread as a weed in the cornfields, before becoming accepted as bread grain. During the Iron Age, both climate and agriculture changed - and in the Viking Age, rye became the predominant type of grain. It is much more resistant to the winter cold, damp and drought than other types, and can be grown on sand or on less fertile soil. As well as being grown in Denmark, rye was also imported from abroad.

Oats(Avena sativa)
Oats were first seen as weed (wild oats) but were cultivated in Denmark from the late Bronze Age. In the Vikinge Age, their use declined visibly, but nonetheless, oats are still used to feed both humans and horses and oxen.

Bread soup

Any kind of day old bread
Sweet juice of apples, pears or fruits in season
1 pinch salt
Ground cinnamon

Break the bread into smaller pieces and put it in an earthenware pot. Add enough water to cover the bread. Leave it to soak overnight.

Next day: Bring the bread and water to the boil and let it cook until smooth. Remember to stir every few minutes to prevent it from burning. Whisk the mixture if any lumps.

Add the sweet juice and a pinch of salt. Season with honey and a little cinnamon. Serve with whipped cream.

Coarse wheat loaf

1 cup cracked wheat
1 cup boiling water
Sourdough and a little brewer's yeast
2 cups cow milk or cultured milk/Acidophilus
2 cups wheat flour

Put the cracked wheat in a pot and pour over the boiling water. Leave to soak for about 1 hour.

Mix the soaked cracked wheat with salt, sourdough, yeast and milk. Add the wheat flour and knead it all together. Let the dough rise somewhere a little warm until the next day.

Form the dough into one large round loaf and place it into a floured bread rising basket. Score the bread and then let it rise once again. Carefully turn out the yet unbaked loaf onto a floured, wooden peel and place it in the oven. Bake for 1.5 hour approx.

Fried toast with stewed fruit

Sliced day old bread loaf (not rye bread)
2 eggs
Ground cinnamon
Butter for frying
Stewed seasonal fruit 

Pour the milk into a bowl and leave the bread slices in the milk for a moment just to let them soak a little of the fluid. Remove the bread slices. Break the eggs into the milk and whisk the mixture. Put back the bread slices into the bowl, letting them soak up egg mixture for a few seconds. Carefully turn to coat the other side as well.

Heat a skillet coated with a layer of butter. Transfer the bread slices to the skillet, heating it slowly until bottom is golden brown. Turn and brown the other side. Sprinkle some ground cinnamon over the bread slices and drizzle with honey. Serve hot with stewed fruit.

Skillet bread

2 cups milk, room temperature
A little brewer's yeast
1 cup oatmeal flakes
4 cups wheat flour
Ground coriander

Pour the milk into a bowl and stir in the yeast. Add the oatmeal, wheat flour, salt and coriander. Knead to form a dough and leave it to rise somewhere warm for about 1 hour.

Knead the dough once again and form a big flat bread to fit the skillet.

Place the bread on the heated, dry skillet over the fire. Frequently turn over the bread to bake on both sides and prevent it from burning.

The bread is done when it is golden brown and sound hollow when you tap it. Serve with butter. 

1 jug = 1 liter approx.
1 cup = 150 ml approx.

Ribe VikingeCenter's 2012 project 'Nordic food is Viking food' is supported by  Region Syddanmark.