MARTINSGANS

November 11th is Martinstag in Germany. St. Martin von Tours (316 - 297 CE)  was a modest Roman Soldier who, on a bitterly cold night, saved a homeless man from freezing to death by giving him half of his cloak. Martin found the poor man right outside the city gates of Amiens. He wanted to help but had nothing to give. So he stopped his horse, drew his sword and cut his cloak in half. This is a story known to all children in Germany and it is celebrated by carrying lanterns through the night and singing songs, often lead by a St. Martin on a horse and a theatrical play of the story at the town square at the end of the procession.

Martin was eventually granted to resign from the Roman Army and was made Bishop of Tours. Legend says that he did not want to become Bishop, as he thought he was not worthy, and hid in a pen of geese. But the geese betrayed him with their chatter and gave away his hiding place - hence the tradition of eating a goose on St. Martin’s day. 

SERVES 6-8

For the Goose:

  • a young goose (about 8-10lb) 
  • coarse salt freshly ground pepper 
  • one bunch flat leaf parsley
  • a quarter of a celery root
  • two carrots
  • one leak
  • one onion
  • toothpicks and kitchen twine

For the Stuffing:

  • two sprigs of Majoran (or Oregano if not available)
  • one sprig of sage
  • two tart apples such as Elstar or Jonagold
  • two pears such as Anjous
  • one orange  
  • one tablespoon of corn starch (optional)

To prepare the goose:
Remove the bag containing the innards. Then, remove as much of the extra white fat around the opening of the body cavity as possible. You can just pull these pieces of fat off, no need to use a knife, and don’t discard them, render them over medium low heat, pour the liquid fat into a jar and store in the fridge. This pure white fat is called Gänseschmalz in Germany and it is an excellent fat to use for frying and roasting. (Or to eat on a piece of bread! With the cracklings! Seriously good! And a very traditional German thing - but that’s a different story.) Next, remove the two oil glands that are located right on the upper side of the tail of the goose. They contain a substance that might make your bird taste rancid. If you are unsure about what it is, just cut off the entire tail.

Cut the neck off, if it has not been cut off already, and if the wings have not been cropped, you might want to shorten them to the joint. Wash the goose and pat dry with paper towels. Remove any remaining quills with tweezers. Salt and pepper the goose generously inside and out.

To prepare the filling:
Wash the herbs and pluck the leaves off the sprigs. Cut the apples and pears into quarters, remove the seeds, then cut the pieces in half once more. Thinly remove the orange peel with a sharp knife before juicing the orange. Set the juice aside. Combine all of the ingredients for the filling and season with salt and pepper.  

Tip: If you don’t want to prepare a filling for the goose you can simply fill it with whole apples. Pierce the apples with a sharp knife a couple of times. This will help to stabilize the cavity of the goose as well as it will season and absorb some of the excess fat while roasting. 

Set your oven rack on the lowest position and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Loosely stuff the filling into the goose and then, using tooth picks and kitchen twine, close the cavity tightly. Lastly, tie the legs of the goose together. Place the innards of the goose as well as the neck (if you have it) into the bottom of the roasting pan and pour 2 cups of water into the pan. Set the goose into the roasting pan with a rack, breast down. Roast the goose for one hour.

In the meantime, clean the root vegetables (carrots, leak, celery root, etc.) and cut them into medium size cubes. Wash the parsley and coarsely chop. 

After the first hour of roasting, remove the goose from the oven and pour all of the liquid that has collected in the roasting pan into a heavy sauce pot and reserve. (This liquid is almost pure fat! But it will have picked up some of the seasoning in the stuffing. I bring it to a boil in the saucepan once more and then I pour it into a jar to store in the refrigerator until the next time I fry some potatoes or anything else for that matter. I discard any of the darker colored bits that might have settled to the bottom of the fat.)

Place the prepared root vegetables into the bottom of the roasting pan together with one cup of water. Turn the goose over, so that it is facing breast up, and roast for another one to one and-a-half hours, depending on the size of your goose. Baste every 30 minutes with the liquid in the bottom of the pan while roasting.

When the goose is done (the temperature should read about 180ºF on the thickest part of the bird, not touching bone), place it on a platter and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes. I do not cover the goose with foil while resting, I think that covering it makes the skin less crispy. 

To make the sauce:
Pour the liquid and the roasted root vegetables, that are in the bottom of the roasting pan, through a fine mesh sieve into a heavy saucepan. Press the vegetables through the sieve just a bit. Use some boiling water to deglaze the bottom of the roasting pan and pour the deglazing liquid into the saucepan as well. Let the sauce sit for a minute so that the fat rises to the top and defat the sauce. Then bring the sauce to a low simmer, add the orange juice and season with salt and pepper. If you want to thicken your sauce, combine the corn starch with a couple of tablespoons of cold water and whisk it into the simmering sauce. Simmer until it has reached the desired consistency. Serve the sauce separate from the goose. You don’t want the beautifully crisp skin to get soggy. 

Serve with red cabbage and Weckknödel (bread dumplings), Serviettenknödel (a bread dumpling cooked in a kitchen linen) or potatoes, cranberry jelly and some of the apples and pears from the inside of the bird.  

SOURCE: ADAPTED FROM MY AUNT HELGA AND BRIGITTE MAGAZINE

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