November 11 marks the feast day of St. Martin of Tours or, as called In Poland, Marcina. Legend claims that when the church wanted to make Martin a bishop he hid from the pope’s envoy among the geese, but his hiding place was betrayed by their constant honking. Being roasted was supposedly their punishment for revealing his hiding place. Another explanation rests with the fact that Advent, a time of strict fasting, was quickly approaching on the church calendar and gave way to feasting in anticipation of that four week period. Whatever the origin, the feast day has been celebrated with a goose in the oven for those who could afford the luxury.
The domestic goose has been part of a Polish barnyard for centuries. They were kept not only for meat, but also for eggs and feathers. Goose feathers were used to fill down filled quilts called a pierzyna as well as pillows that guaranteed warmth and a good night's sleep. Goose lard was widely used in cooking, but also in folk medicine as a salve on the chest in the treatment of respiratory ailments or in areas of rheumatic pain and joint degeneration.
Geese could be purchased at the local market. The text on the right indicates "geese at the market for St.Martin in Racziborz." The most popular is the white kołuda goose, originating from Kołuda Wielka near Inowrocław.
Here is a recipe for preparing the goose from a Polish cookbook titled “Praktyczny kucharz Warszawski” (Practical Warsaw Cook) dated 1894.
(Take) a carefully cleaned goose, scald it with vinegar, salt it, stuff with apples cut into quarters, add a little marjoram inside, bake in a roasting pan, pouring first with broth or water, and then with the fat that has leaked from it. Sprinkle with flour on top to brown. Cut into neat pieces, place on a platter, and surround it with the filling/ baked apples. You can also stuff the goose with whole potatoes that will bake, together with the goose, or make the filling from thick buckwheat groats, which you cook in boiling water, mix with butter, marjoram and fill the goose. Goose schmaltz left in the roasting pan fried with apples and marjoram and strained into a clean dish, will keep it for a long time.”
The business of scalding the goose with vinegar is curious but marjoram has always been known to aid in the digestion of meat. And the goose schmaltz in not unfamiliar to me either. My mother prepared it whenever she cooked a goose - only without the apples...and applied it liberally to our chests when we had a bad cough.
Last note: Currently, Poland is counted among the largest goose producers in the European Union
Read about my experiences with geese while growing up Polish American
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One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.