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The food in Vatnajökull Region 

The county Austur -Skaftafellssýsla has always been an agricultural district. It was a rather poor area in the early days but after 1980 the cultivation began to increase and especially on the sands. Although there were not many residences in the area before, agriculture was not enough to support the inhabitants.

 

There was fishing in the whole county and it was common that landing conditions were bad, but fishing grounds were good. The Travelogue of Eggert and Bjarni from 1752 states that plaice fishing was in lagoons within the estuaries in Lón and Hornafjörður and that cod was caught in Öræfi and Suðursveit.

 

There is not much information about beans in Iceland, but in the 18th century, a considerable amount of them was imported. In the 19th century and up to the 20th, bean dishes from whole beans are in some area’s traditional festive food, e.g., butter beans and yellow beans which were eaten in Southeast Iceland on the 23rd of December on Mass of St. Thorlac. 

 

Cheesemaking in Austur-Skaftafellssýsla: Milk heated, and rennet added to it. The rennet was made from a calf stomach that had been aired and soaked in saltwater. Carefully stirred apart when it was started to harden and let it settle to the bottom. The whey was scooped off the top, the cheese placed in a large container and the whey is squeezed out of it. The cheese is then pressed overnight. Put in brine and stored for several months and made sure that no sun shines on it. 

 

Hornafjörður

Large outlet glaciers make their mark on this area and it is rare to find glaciers so close to settlements. Reindeer herds can be seen in the area, especially during winter and early spring, when they prefer to stay in the lowlands.

 

This is area is extraordinarily rich in water, both due to precipitation and melting from the glacier Vatnajökull. Making it pure, fresh, and sustainable. The town Höfn is known for its lobster, but you can also find locally grown vegetables, locally produced ice cream, and meat products. In the county, Austur Skaftafellssýsla dried dab and plaice are extremely popular. The place is dried, put on a stove, and baked on both sides. Next, it is rubbed between the hands and placed under cold water, and then plated. It was considered gentleman's food.

 

Öræfi 

The area Öræfi is shaped by glacial erosion and water. Icefalls that come down from the glacier Öræfajökull and the glacial rivers were a major obstacle in previous years. Two eruptions have left their mark on the area, in 1363 and 1727. Before the first eruption, the area was called Litla Hérað, but the eruption was the largest pumice volcanic eruption in Iceland after the settlement of the country. In Skaftafell they are blessed with a pleasant climate as they are sheltered from the glacier Öræfajökull and there is a variety of vegetation, birch, Sorbus, and a lot of benthic vegetation.

 

Lots of glaciofluvial drift are in Öræfi after glacial outburst floods and they are still healing. The most important nesting site of the great skua of all the North Atlantic Ocean is located there. Skeiðará river was bridged in 1974 but was previously a major traffic barrier. 

In Ingólfshöfði cape is a lot of birdlife, there you can find common murre, razorbill, fulmar, and puffin. Bird hunting and egg was collecting until 1930. Rowing was also done from Ingólfshöfði until the middle of the 18th century. You can still see ruins from fisherman’s huts there and some placenames tell their story, for example, the cave Skiphellir and Árabólstorfi. Landing conditions at Ingólfshöfði got deteriorated after the river flood Skeiðarárhlaup.

 

The cooperation Kaupfélag Skaftfellinga was founded in 1918 and began transporting goods on a 60-ton motorboat called Skaftfellingur from Reykjavík to Vík, to Skaftárós, Hvalsík and Ingólfshöfði. The residents of Öræfi had a division there and set up a warehouse at Salthöfði cove in the land of Fagurhólsmýri. Goods were stored there and sheep were also slaughtered there. The house was called Búðin (e. the store). The smell there was characterized by spices and fruits: Prunes and raisins. Fresh fruits such as apples and oranges were scarce. Pumice drifts that came from the eruption, salted meat was stored in barrels. The pumice drifts were very insulating, and the meat could be stored there until ships could transport it to the market next summer.

 

There is no milk production in Öræfi. While there was still a small dairy farm there, the idea arose to process cheeses within the area as the cost was too high for MS Iceland Dairies organization to go and fetch milk to Öræfi. It was not considered feasible to have fully equipped production, but one party could today start slowly and start its way forward. People pay high prices for uniqueness and quality and there is a large market in the area.

Catering operations in Skaftafell: Fishing, all done from Hornafjörður. iO is a long way to get all the supplies, want to have fresh fish and make lobster soup from their broth that is prepared at Höfn (Glacier goodies). Skaftafell has produced and sold raw sausages and mutton muscle, Skaftafell’s delicatessen, but it is not possible to see online whether it is still running or not.

 

Seasons:

Rye bread / cooked rye bread was boiled, and the flatbread was baked once a week. Blood pudding from the previous year was still eaten and good in August. The jam was made from heads and legs and liver sausage, but it did not last as long as the blood pudding. A gelding was slaughtered in July so there was no need to eat older salted meat. Trout was fished in June and at Ingólfshöfði there were birds which could be hunted from time to time all summer. There was not much fresh fish. The residents of Öræfi fished for cod in spring and summer from Ingólfshöfði according to The Travelogue of Eggert and Bjarni.

 

Suðursveit 

The area is a 50 km long coastal strip between the Vatnajökull glacier and the Atlantic Ocean.

Sheep farming provided income for the household. As there was not a lot of pasture in the area it was difficult to increase its population without sacrificing the slaughter weight. Few cows and small production. Butter and milk were for home use only. When the lambs were removed from the sheep in the autumn there was sometimes change in food and then raisin mash made, or coffee and pastries served. 

 

The area took advantage of a variety of benefits such as fishing and whaling, egg picking, bird hunting, trout fishing in rivers and lakes, plaices fishing in estuaries, and fishing at sea.

For as long as people can remember, sea rowing has been practiced in Suðursveit, as it is close to good fishing grounds. Many farms were small, so there was a shortage of food supplies in many homes if fishing failed. In the summer there was trout fishing and picking arctic tern eggs. In winter, ptarmigans were haunted if they came down to the lowlands. All the farmers had a share in a ship that was helpful when fishing was possible, it was also helpful when a whale stranded onshore and if herring washed up onshore. Before the turn of the 20th century, shark fishing was a major factor in fishing in the area. Women worked on the catch, gutting, and flattening the fish. Dried fish was eaten most days of the year as well as sharks during the time it was caught. It was considered very healthy food.