Viking and Medieval Baking Instruments


This article was created to be part of a cookbook many years ago. This dream has now come true.

No part of this text nor pictures is allowed to be cited or published without my permission. Please note that methods of research get better all the time, and new interpretations may appear.


Wood tub

The dough was leavened and baked using a wood tub (Uusivirta). The leavening tub should never be washed; the dough leftovers is left to dry. On the following baking day the liquid makes the dry dough leftovers soft, and the souring of the next dough starts. The tub has to be stored in a cool place when it is not used. If it stays in a too warm place, the pieces of wooden tub brakes apart. When you are about to wet it again for the next baking session, all the dry leaven leftover melts away. Never wash wooden tub with industrial powders; that taste will stay in the tub! If the tub is musty, fill it hot, boiling, water and add juniper leaves into the water. Better if you have had time to boil them in the water for some time before adding them to your baking tube. Let it stay for some time.

Perforators

In ancient times it was normal to decorate the bread or fill it with small holes. It prevented the breaking of the surface. Because of small holes the bread dried quickly and did not go musty. Israelsson writes that the Vikings tied feathers together and made the small holes with them. In folk tradition some kind of blessing were to be given to the bread by drawing a cross on the top of the bread. That might come from the uncertainty of the next year’s bread.

Dough mixer

Dough mixer (härkin in Finnish), was made from the top of the pine tree. The suitable pine has to be chosen, the one that has a top formed by four or five sticks on the same height from about an arm length down from the top. The top is to cut straight under the upper bough. It is to be peeled. The arm has to fit to the size of the tub; the mixing of a leaven is hard, so the arm has to be just long enough to ease the work.

Hole maker

If the breads are to be dried, they need to have a hole. According to the Viking age bread finds from Sweden the hole was not in the middle of the bread, as it always is nowadays. It was a little towards the perimeter (Wiklund).

Traditionally the hole was made with a cow horn when forming the dough into bread (pictures in Uusivirta). Breads were hung with pairs by a rope, which was tied onto small wooden stick. The sticks were put through the holes. (Israelsson).

Baking board

It makes sense, that the baking board was a separate plate, which was brought into the house on baking day. The breads could raise in peace. The baking board was never used in other purposes. After use the flour may have taken away and cleaned by the paw of a hare, which indeed according to my grandmother is still a best tool for that, and a table was carried out back to the storage.

Beater

A beater made from bare twig could be used when adding the very first flour to the liquid. By beating the mixing had some air in it and it made better bread. A beater is made in a springtime from a young birch or willow, when its bark can be taken easily out.

Bibliography

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Articles:
Bengtsson, Niklas: Elämän ja kuoleman eliksiirejä. HS 3.4.1997
Mannerkorpi, Jukka: Hunajaleipuri johtaa onneen; HS 3
Masonen, Jaakko: Maistui olut ennenkin. Tiede 2000 4/1992
Mausteet ehkäisevät homehtumista, Pirkka 1-2/96
Pakarinen, Aila: Kaalin hapattaminen sujuu aloittelijalta. HS
Skaarup, Bi: Sources of Medieval Cuisine in Denmark. In: Du manuscrit à la table, direct. Carole Lambert. Canada, 1992
Suomalaisille tarjotaan jälleen nälkämaan leipää; Itä-Helsingin Uutiset 27.3.1993
Tahkolahti, Jaakko: Pettu onkin terveellistä ja torjuu myös UV-säteilyn; HS 11.2.1997
Toiviainen, Lauri: Oluenpanosta todisteita jo 5000 vuoden takaa. HS 5.12.1992
Uudelleen keksitty pellava maustaa lakritsin ja sämpylän; HS 17.11.1994
HS= Helsingin Sanomat

Classes:
Vilkuna, Anna-Maija: Ruokatalous Hämeen linnassa 1500-luvulla. (Food Consumption in 16th century Häme castle) Suomen muinaismuistoyhdistys 4.12.1997

Conversations:
Linturi, Elsa. Archaeologist, University of Helsinki

Picture of the layout Hannele Maahinen, other pictures Satu Hovi unless otherwise mentioned
Texts are written by Satu Hovi
Copying any material is strictly forbidden without permission from the author.