Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Michaelmas Goose

A remarkable recipe and a bit of Irish history. (Via Laudem Gloriae.)
Michaelmas, known in Ireland as Fomhar na nGeanna, falls on September 29, the feast of St. Michael the Archangel. It is commonly associated with geese because the birds that we hatched in spring and put out to grass in May and on to the stubble after the harvest are plump and ready for market at this time.

Years ago most farms in Ireland would have reared geese. I have vivid childhood memories of the preparations for the Michaelmas feast in a neighbour's house. The bird was smothered several days ahead and hung by the neck in the larder. It was then plucked in an open shed. The wings were kept (and much sought after for brushing out dusty corners), the large feathers were sometimes made into quills or fishing floats, and the smaller ones and the precious down were collected for stuffing pillows and feather beds.
The goose was stuffed with potato, onion and sage stuffing and roasted slowly — by which time we would be in a fever of anticipation. Every now and then the fat would be poured off; some was used to roast potatoes but the rest was stored for myriad purposes apart from cooking — it was rubbed into chests as a remedy for wheeziness, rubbed in to the range to give it a shine or even into leather shoes. Nothing was wasted!

In many parts of the country the first corn of the new year was ground into flour and baked into bread to go with the feast and the last sheaf of wheat was the centrepiece on the able. There were many traditions attached to the last sheaf; in some places the girl who tied it had the honour of being led on to the dance floor by the farmer's son for the first dance of the evening.

Michaelmas was also the time to pick apples, so the goose was always served with apple sauce and often followed by baked apples or a golden apple tart dusted with caster sugar. (Read entire post.)


Divine Theatre said...

I truly enjoyed this post! Saint Michael is also the patron saint of police officers as well as my husband's patron saint. My mother was from ireland but I only knew her until I was seven. This is an interesting bit to pass on to my child. Thank you!

Ingrid Mida said...

It is interesting to read how every part of the goose was used. I wonder whether we will ever get back to that.

Julygirl said...

Every part of the animal is used now-a-days as well.....just read the labels on dog and cat food. Plus anyone who is a professional cook will tell you every part is used...for stock, etc. It is in the private home where so much waste takes place.