Medieval Christmas GooseAn English recipe from the fourteenth century
Turkey seems to be the bird par excellence for a Christmas dinner. Personally I do not like turkey. The meat is rather tasteless and much too dry. Presumably it is exactly that neutral taste and low-fat meat which make turkey such a popular bird in the kitchen.
However, I prefer a fat goose. Goosemeat has a rich taste, and the melted goose grease can be stored after straining it in the refrigerator. Thus you save yourself an expensive can of goose grease from the store!
In medieval times geese were as useful as pigs: everything was being used, from the quills to feather the arrows and to write with, to the grease which could be used to make poultices, to rub on leather, to protect animals hooves, paws and ears in the cold.
A roasted goose was eaten at Christmas, other days were Michaelmas (29 September) and Pentecost. On the mainland of Europe goose is traditional fare on the feast of Saint Martin (11 November). This is no coincidence: According to the legend Martin considered himself unworthy to replace the bishop of Tours who died in 371 aD. To avoid being found he hid in a ... goose pen, where the ever vigilant geese betrayed his presence by their cackling. And so Martinus became bisshop of Tours.
The cookbook of King Richard II?
This recipe is taken from The forme of cury, edition recipe nr 32, pp.104/105. Originally this text seems to have been written around 1390. Seven different versions of The forme of cury have survived. Only one of these mentions as its origins the court of King Richard II (1377-1399). However, because the beginning of some of the other versions is missing, one can not determine whether this mention is unique for that one manuscript. (Curye on Inglysch pp.20/24).
One of the ingredients in the recipe for the goose is galyntyne. That is a sauce based on broth, with spices and bread crumbs, which jellyfies when cold. I have chosen a recipe for galentine from another, fifteenth century manuscript, Yale University, Beinecke 163 (edition). There was a recipe for galentine in The forme of cury (recipe nr 142, p.130), using only bread crumbs, vinegar, galingale, cinnamon and ginger. I liked the other recipe better with the goose. Galantine was a popular dish, you can find several recipes for it, to accompany meat or fish.
The second recipe on this page is given only to show you what I have used in the sauce Madame. Constance B. Hieatt states in her edition of this recipe (An ordinance of pottage p. 135) that it is impossible to cut fillets from a breast of pork. If you want to try the 'felets yn galentyne', you can use fillet of pork like Hieatt, or try spareribs.
In the Middle Dutch manuscript Gent 1035 you can find another recipe for a sauce to serve with your goose. And here you can find a Middle Dutch recipe for a galentine on fish. Another recipe for fish in Galentine, with adapted recipe.
The original recipe
The text for the Sauce Madame is from The forme of cury. This manuscript is, together with several other English manuscripts from the fourteenth century, published as Curye on Inglysch (edition recipe nr 32, pp.104/105).
The manuscript with the recipe for galantine, is published with other fifteenth-century manuscripts in An ordinance of pottage (edition recipe nr 142, p.130).
In rendering the original Middle English text I have silently changed the letter thorn (þ) in th. This has no effect on the meaning of the words.
Take sawge, persel, ysope and saueray, quinces and peeres, garlek and grapes, and fylle the gees therwith; and sowe the hole that no grece come out, and roost hem wel, and kepe the grece that fallith therof. Take galyntyne and grece and do in a possynet. Whan the gees buth rosted ynowh, take hem of & smyte hem on pecys, and take that that is withinne and do it in a possynet and put therinne wyne, if it be to thyk; do therto powdour of galyngale, powdour douce, and salt and boyle the sawse, and dresse the gees in disshes & lay the sewe onoward.
Take sage, parsley, hyssop and savory, quinces and pears, garlic and grapes, and stuff the geese with it. Sow the hole [closed] that no grease comes out. Roast [the geese] well and save the grease that drips from it. Take galentine and grease and do it in a small cooking pot. When the geese have roasted enough, take them off [the spit] and cut them in pieces, and take what is in it and do this in a small cooking pot. Add wine if it is too thick. Add powder of galingale, sweet spices, and salt. Boil the sauce, and dress the geese in dishes and lay the sauce on it.
|Felets in galentyne.|
Take the ribbys of a breste of porke; fle of the skyn. Do the flesche on a broche. Roste hit tyl hit be almost ynowghe; take hit of. Chop hit in pecys. Do hit yn a potte with onyons cut grete, wyth clowys hole, macyz, quibibys; do togedyr & a quantyte of swete broth. Draw a lyour of paryngys of crustys of white bredde with good wyne and a lytyll blod, & alaye hit a lytyll, & do therto poudyr of pepyr, a lytyll, & a good quantyte of poudyr of canell, & sette it on the fyre & styrr it. & when it is boyled inowgh, loke hit be nott chargaunt. Sesyn hit up with poudyr of gynger, veneger & salt.
|Fillets in galentine.|
Take the ribs of a breast of pork. Flay the skin. Put the flesh on a broach. Roast it until it is almost done. Take it off. Chop it in pieces. Do it in a pot with roughly chopped onions, with whole cloves, mace, cubebs. Mix it together and [with] a quantity of broth of fresh (=unsalted) meat. Temper a layer of trimmed crusts of white bread with good wine and a little blood, and mix it a little. Add a little pepper powder and a good quantity of cinnamon powder, and put it on the fire and stirr it. When it has boiled enough, look if it is not [too] thick. Season it with ginger powder, vinegar and salt.
Modern adaptation of the recipe
For 6 to 8 persons.
1 farmed goose of 3 to 4 kilo (6 to 9 pounds)
For the stuffing:
2 quinces or sour apples
2 pears (I used Doyenne de Comice, because I love them so much)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, and 1 teaspoon each of sage, hyssop and savory
2 garlic cloves, chopped
20 to 30 grapes, white or red, skinned
For the sauce:
1 Tbsp. goose grease
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 liter (2 cups) dark stock (from meat or poultry)
1/2 deciliter (1/4 cup) red wine
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
crumbs of 3 lightly toasted slices of bread, crusts removed
spices: galingale, cinnamon, mace, cloves, cubebs (powdered, ratio 2:1:1/4:1/4:1/4, together 1 tsp.)
salt to taste
the neck and giblets of the goose
the stuffing from the goose
Preparation in advance
Prepare the goose as explained below.
Make the stuffing: Boil the unpeeled quinces for an hour in water. Drain and let cool. Peel quinces and pears, decore them. Cut them in small pieces. Mix in the chopped herbs, garlic and peeled grapes.
To make the galentine: Put the stock in a boiling pan, add the giblets from the plastic bag. Bring to the boil, let simmer a couple of hours. Strain the stock through a fine sieve.
Preheat the oven to 180 oC/ 350 oF. Stuff the goose, secure the filling within, and place the goose on a rack on a roasting tin.
Place the goose in the oven, baste it regularly with the pan juices. When the goose is done (after two and a half to three and a half hours, depending on the size of your goose), take it out of the oven, let it rest for ten minutes, covered with foil.
Now you have to make a choice: if you want to serve the goose whole, all you have to do is scoop out the stuffing and return the goose to the oven on 100oC/210grF to keep it warm. However, the recipe indicates that the goose is to be served in pieces. Cut off the leggs, wings, and breast fillets. Cut the fillets in thick slices. If you want to, you can also debone the legs and wings and the carcass.
Prepare the sauce - Heat some of the goose grease from the roasting tin in a sauce pan. Fry the onion in it. Add the strained stock and red wine, and the bread crumbs. Let this simmer a short while until the sauce has thickened. Now add the stuffing from the goose, spices, and wine vinegar. Bring to the boil once more. If the sauce is too thick, add wine, is it too thin, add bread crumbs.
Arrange the whole goose, or the goose meat, on a decorative dish. Pour some of the sauce over it, serve the remainder of the sauce in a saucier.
If you are not afraid of an anachronism you can serve oven roasted potatoes (with skin) with the goose. Otherwise you should serve bread.
All descriptions of ingredients
Quinces - Quinces are shaped like an apple or a pear. They are full of pectine, which makes them usefull in making preserves. You can not eat them raw, they are much to hard and sour. When cooked, the quinces have acquired a subtle pink colour.
Ancient fruit varieties - The stuffing of the goose consists mainly of quinces and apples. The recipe does not specify which quinces and pears should be used. Many commercially available pear varieties did not exist until fairly recently. The Doyenne de Comice originates from the middle of the nineteenth century, the Conference is even more recent. There was already a difference between dessert pears and cooking pears. There were many fruit varieties which have ceased to exist. You can use cooking pears or not too ripe dessert pears, and quinces or sour apples.
There are still people who grow ancient fruit varieties. If you wanted to plant a fruit tree anyway, why not try and find an ancient variety?
Goose - A fattened goose is not the same as a wild goose. This recipe is for a tame, fattened goose. When the goose comes from the freezer, you have to take it out of the freezer two days in advance of preparing it. Let it thaw in the refrigerator. When you have forgotten to do this, you can thaw the goose more quickly in a plastic bag, in a bucket full of cold water which you refresh now and again.
In the cavity of the goose you find a little bag with neck and giblets of the goose. These will be used to make the stock for the sauce. It is practically impossible to remove the bag before the goose is fully thawed out. Once it is removed, sprinkle the goose on the inside with salt. Wipe the cavity clean after twenty minutes.
To roast a goose, set the oven on 200 oC / 390 F (conventional oven) or 180 oC / 350 F (convection oven). To calculate the roasting time you leave the goose in the oven 15 minutes for every pound (450 gram), plus twenty minutes extra. When your goose weighs 3 kilogram (6,6 pounds), it has to stay in the oven for about two and a half hour.
Take the goose out of the oven, let it rest for ten minutes, coverd with crinkled foil (shiny side inwards). Then cut the goose as you wish.
To keep the grease: Cut the tail grease off before roasting. Melt this seperately, strain it, and keep it in a jar in the refrigerator.
Sage - A decorative perennial evergreen, Salvia officinalis. If you have the use of a garden, be sure to plant one! You can pick the leaves all year round. Classical combinations are with chicken livers, with onions as a stuffing for pork, and in several egg dishes. Be careful, the taste can become overbearing.
Originally sage was used as a medicine (as the Latin name shows), but by the Late Middle Ages sage also became an ingredient in recipes for food.
The editions below are in my possession. Links refer to available editions.
All books mentioned on this site (with short reviews)
- The Forme of cury, published in Curye on Inglysch (Middle English recipes) (Early English Text Society Supplementary Series), C.B. Hieatt en S. Butler (Londen, 1985)
- Yale University, Beinecke 163, edition: An Ordinance of Pottage: An Edition of the 15th Century Culinary Recipes in Yale University's MS Beinecke 163. Constance B. Hieatt. (Londen, 1988)
- Hartley, Food in England: A Complete Guide to the Food That Makes Us Who We are, London, 1999 (reprint 1954)