In Europe, a roasted goose on the holiday table has been a tradition since ancient times. And while turkey may be plumper, there’s nothing like the taste of goose.
The tradition of a roasted goose on the holiday table goes way, way back. The people of ancient Greece and Rome may have been celebrating different festivals, but they did so with the very same bird we do. From medieval days right through to the Victorian depiction in Charles Dickens, the goose has remained the ubiquitous Christmas bird throughout Europe.
The goose was a common farmyard bird and a natural forager that came in handy after the harvest. When turned loose in the stubble left from the reaper’s work, geese could find and devour all the scattered grain that would otherwise be lost. Thus, a goose was at its fattest (think tastiest) after the harvest, just in time for the coming holiday celebrations.
Geese were plentiful and cheaper than the exotic turkey (native to the New World) so made the best choice for the holiday table. Today you can join the tradition and enjoy this delectable bird at Christmas.
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The Goose Tradition Continues
Fast-forward to present day and you’ll find our White Embdem geese are farm raised in similar style by small-scale farms. Remaining true to Old World traditions, they are barn-raised in small flocks until they are six weeks old. From then on, the birds range free in natural pastures with access to plenty of fresh spring water, natural light, and country air, feeding on a diet of corn and soy meal fortified with vitamins and minerals. The birds yield superbly textured and distinctively flavored meat, so it’s no wonder our geese are widely held as the best Christmas goose.
Bird of a Different Feather
Unlike that other holiday bird, geese are naturally migratory; evolving with thicker skin and inbuilt systems for reserving energy in the form of fat stored beneath the skin and in the liver to sustain them in their high altitude travel. This very same nature also affects the texture of the bird’s lean, all-dark meat, making it firmer with a more a resilient tooth than turkey. Given these differences between the two birds, it is only logical that they should call for different methods of cooking as well. Be sure to read our goose recipes before you approach the task.
Fun Facts About Geese
- Goose refers to a male or female. A gander is a male; a gosling is a young goose under 4 months of age.
- Geese are pretty clever and notoriously territorial. If someone unknown tries to enter their domain, they are likely to attack. This characteristic has been appreciated through the ages; Romans kept geese at their villas as pets to protect their children and properties, and NASA has a flock to guard its launch pads.
- Geese are a rich source of legend and folktales. Egyptian mythology tells that a goose laid the primal egg from which the sun god, Ra, sprang. Brahma, the Hindu personification of divine reality and spiritual purity, rides a great gander. Until the Romans conquered the Gauls, who taught them how to feed and cook their geese, the Romans considered the birds sacred.
- Queen Elizabeth I was a big fan. When she was told about the destruction of the Spanish Armada, it was September 29, the Feast of Saint Michael, or Michaelmas, and she was dining on roast goose with sage and onion stuffing. She decreed that thereafter goose was to be served on this day in celebration.