Catholic Recipe: Michaelmas Goose with Potato Apple Stuffing
- 1 goose, weighing about 10 lb (with giblets - neck, heart and gizzard)
- 1 small onion
- 1 carrot
- bouquet garnish consisting of 1 sprig of thyme, 3 or 4 parsley stalks, a small piece of celery
- 6 or 7 peppercorns
- roux if desired for thickening
- 2 lb potatoes
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1 lb onions, chopped
- 1 lb Bramley cooking apples, peeled and chopped
- 1-1 1/2 Tablespoons chopped parsley
- 1-1 1/2 Tablespoons lemon balm
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- Apple Sauce (see recipe)
Prep Time: 5 1/2-6 hours
Difficulty: • • • •
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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.
1. First make the stuffing. Boil the unpeeled potatoes in salted water until cooked, peel and mash.
2. Melt the butter and sweat the onions in a covered saucepan on a gentle heat for about 5 minutes.
3. Add the apples and cook until they break down into a fluff, then stir in the mashed potatoes and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to get quite cold before stuffing the goose.
4. Gut the goose and singe if necessary. Remove the wishbone for ease of carving. Put the goose into a saucepan with the giblets, onion, carrot, bouquet garnish and peppercorns. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 2 hours. (The wing tips may also be added to the stock if desired.)
5. Remove the bird from the stock and pat dry. Season the cavity with salt and pepper and fill with the cold stuffing. Sprinkle some sea salt over the breast and rub into the skin. Roast for 2 - 2 1/2 hours in a preheated 350° F. oven. Pour off the excess fat three or four times during the cooking (and store this fat in your refrigerator as it keeps for months and is wonderful for roasting or sauteeing potatoes). To test whether the goose is cooked, prick the thigh at the thickest part. The juices that run out should be clear; if they are pink the goose needs a little longer. When cooked remove the goose to your best large serving dish and put it into a low oven while you make the gravy.
6. To make the gravy, pour or spoon off the remainder of the fat. Add about 2 1/2 cups of strained giblet stock to the roasting tin, bring to the boil and, using a small whisk, scrape the tin well to dissolve the meaty deposits. Taste for seasoning and if you wish thicken with a little roux. If the gravy is weak, boil for a few minutes to concentrate the flavour; if too strong add a little water or stock. Strain and serve.
7. Bring the goose to the table, carve and serve apple sauce and gravy separately.
Note: a goose looks enormous but it has a large carcase. Allow at least 1 lb uncooked weight per person.Recipe Source: Festive Food of Ireland, The by Darina Allen, Kyle Cathie Limited, 1992
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