Today, November 11 …
It is the feast of St Martin of Tours, patron saint of vintners, tavern keepers, and drunkards – which is very convenient as it is the traditional day for drinking wine from the new vintage. It was also the traditional day for slaughtering beasts which could not be over-wintered, and preserving as much as possible of the meat by salting, drying or smoking, to tide everyone over until spring. What could not be kept was eaten over a glorious few days of feasting, for the long bleak winter was a’coming in, the penitential season of Advent was imminent, and the next big feed would not be until Christmas. No wonder “Martinmas” was also called “Split-Stomach Day”.
Goose is almost obligatory in Europe at Martinmas - especially roasted, with regional variations (red cabbage or prunes or apples etc) - or in Sweden as a whole goose banquet which starts with “black soup” made from goose blood and offal, spiced and sweetened with fruit. There are various legends about St Martin and the goose for those who like symbolic explanations of their meals, but of course geese are very fat and very eatable by the end of the harvest season, which is the true and best justification.
Martinmas is also “The feast of sausages and black puddings”, for these are the quintessential dishes of the slaughtering season. It was a delicious time for those lower down the social scale, but perhaps a little too bloody and gruesome to dwell on for most of us today, with our more delicate modern sensibilities. The following recipe does include both goose and sausages, but it is from a book of “genteel” recipes for “prudent housewives”, so seems eminently suitable for today. It is from Catharine Brooks’ “Complete English cook …” (1770)
For fricaseying a Goose.
Roast your Goose, and before it is quite done cut and scotch it with your Knife long ways, and then slash it across; strew Salt and Pepper over it, then lay it in your Pan, with the skinny Side downwards, till it has taken a gentle Heat; then broil it on a Gridiron over a gently Fire; when it is enough, baste the upper Side with Butter, and a little Sugar, Vinegar, and Mustard; pour this into a Dish with Sausages and Lemon, and serve it up.
On Monday … On armadillo and hot spices …