Embracing Germany: Christmas goose

Embracing Germany: Christmas goose

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

One of my favorite things about the holidays is the food. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, a whole smattering of deliciousness usually reserved for special occasions appear on dinner tables and in restaurants. As Americans, we’re almost automatically programmed to see a nice roast (or deep-fried) turkey with all the usual trimmings and sides - stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and pie. Here in Germany however, traditional holiday fare takes on a different taste with “Weihnachtsgans” — Christmas goose.

A little history

The origins of “Weihnachtsgans” are fairly straightforward and date back way back. Ancient Greeks are said to have feasted on geese as an offering to the gods for an abundant harvest in the coming months. From before the Middle Ages, geese have been a farm yard staple in Germany. During the harvest months, the birds would flock to the fields and eat the leftover bits of grain and maize which would inadvertently fatten them up. A hardy bunch, geese were able to ward off avian diseases and survive harsh weather conditions. Because they were plentiful in numbers and inexpensive to maintain, the goose became a popular mainstay on holiday tables.

A tasty difference

From the outset, geese and turkeys are very obviously different birds. Turkeys are often raised solely for the purpose of consumption and are usually imported as they are not native to Germany. They don’t have as much fat, which results in a leaner meat which can have a tendency to dry out during the cooking process. On the other hand, geese are native to this part of Europe and have a lot more insulation, or fat layers, than their counterpart. This lends itself to a more flavorful and juicy bird. However, the end result is also much richer than turkey — a little can go a long way.

 

 

Preparation and presentation

If you’re going full gusto and making “Weihnachtsgans,” the preparation is similar to any roast fowl. You’ll want to remove the giblets, neck, wing tips and any excess fat. Rinse the goose with water inside and out, and pat dry. Pierce the skin and sprinkle a healthy dose of seasoning (salt and pepper) all over the bird. Place the roast breast side up in the oven and cook until done. To get a crispy, golden skin, crank up the oven for the last 10-15 minutes. Traditional side dishes include potato dumplings (“Kartoffelknödel”) and red cabbage (“Rotkohl”).

While it can be fun to try it yourself, sometimes it’s best to leave the cooking to the professionals. “Weihnachtsgans” typically begins appearing on menus after St. Martin’s Day (Nov. 11) through the end of the year. Brought to you on a silver platter with all the accoutrements, it’s a fantastic way to eat and be merry with loved ones. Because of its popularity, most restaurant bookings and reservations will need to be made in advance.

While turkey is most definitely an American institution, step outside the box and embrace the delicious German culinary tradition of “Weihnachtsgans.”

 

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