I couldn’t find much info on this when I first started, so it was a little bit trial and error. The ones I have made work well enough, though I think there is a slightly easier way.
These are traditional Scandinavian whisks, dating back quite some time, how long I am not sure, other than that there is an old Norse word for them, þvara, meaning they could potentially date back to at least the 9th century. The modern Norse word is Tvare, meaning ‘mixing’ though they were used for mashing, as well as stirring porridge and stew.
As these were custom made the size of the handle varied for its user, as well as its purpose. The handle can be anything up to half a metre long for large pots of porridge.
Thanks to Tomas Scarle for the added info on this and supplying the Norse and old Norse names, which helped in my research.
- The first step is to find a suitable tree, the top part of a 5 foot tree will probably make 2 whisks, any lower down the handle and branches will be too thick to work with.
- Cut the trunk to the desired length for your handle. I worked on the section below being the handle, though I now believe the section above would work better – though this rules out using the very top of the tree, so it depends how many whisks you want to make from one tree.
- Remove as much bark as possible from the handle and branches. Don’t worry too much as this will be easier after the next step.
- Bring a large pan of water to a boil and boil the wood for 10-15 minutes. This will soften the bark and make it easier to remove the remaining bark. While the wood is still wet tie the branches up as tightly as possible toward the handle. Leave to dry, somewhere warm.
- Once its dry you can untie the branches, I left mine by the wood burner overnight and this was long enough. You can either leave the whisk in the balloon shape or cut the branches shorter in the more traditional Scandinavian style.
- The final step is to sand everything smooth and treat with a food safe oil.
I have been told to leave the whisk to dry for a considerable time before using, as it does tend to impart a certain floor cleaner type flavour to your food. There is another type of whisk made from small twig like branches bundled together. Some old recipes call for a particular type of tree branch to be used, so as to add a particular flavour to a cake.
After a bit more experimenting I have found a few flaws with the whisk. If you decide to make the modern balloon type whisk, I would advise you keep the branches tied to the handle in some way. Perhaps some tightly bound string or wire. This is because any moisture, particularly applied with heat, will start to straighten the branches again – a bit of a problem for a whisk!
But there is a better way, that uses the tree ‘as is’ with no need to moisten and bend the branches. This makes the more traditional Norwegian whisk/masher known as a Tvare.
- Cut the tree below the second large spread of branches. Remove the top branches and any others along the stem.
- Cut the remaining branches to around 5/6cm long.
- Remove all bark from the stem and branches. This is easier if you boil the wood for 10 minutes.
- Leave to dry completely, before sanding and sealing with food safe oil, such as olive.