Food in the Viking Age
Throughout western Europe in the Viking Age, the majority of the population lived on farmsteads, in family groupings with additional manpower provided by "bonded" men and their families, who worked in return for food and shelter. In the towns, such as York and Dublin, the surrounding land would have been farmed, and the produce of the area for several miles around was brought into town to be sold at market. During this period, it is almost universal that towns were based on rivers, where fishing was a common means of providing a regular food supply for many.
Each farmstead kept varying types of livestock, from cows and sheep to goats and geese. At the onset of winter, most of the domestic animals would be slaughtered and their meat preserved using salting, smoking, or in some cases freezing. These supplies had to last the family through the winter, and similarly the remaining animals were usually kept indoors throughout the winter, surviving on the meager amounts of forage which could be gathered. It was common practice in parts of Scandinavia to wall up the door of the byre to keep the animals inside and to keep them safe from thieves, with the wall being torn down in spring.
Milk from cows, sheep and goats was used to make cheeses and butter. These would be stored for use in winter.
Most farmsteads also grew crops of wheat and barley, which were used to make bread, and hay for winter forage.
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