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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » February 25, 2011
Polska… tastes good!
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Goose Meat Returns to Dinner Table
February 25, 2011   
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Even though Poland is the largest producer of goose meat in Europe, most Polish geese are exported to Germany because Polish consumers prefer other kinds of meat.

On most Polish farms, geese are still fed with natural feed, including grass, cereals and grain mixtures. As a result, Polish goose meat is free from biological and chemical contaminants, and contains 23 percent of protein and less than 4 percent of fat. To compare, the fat content of pork is almost 30 percent.

According to experts on nutrition, goose fat is one of the healthiest types of animal fat, helping reduce “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and increasing “good” cholesterol (HDL). It is also widely used in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.

Dietitians and physicians particularly recommend goose meat for those generally in poor health. The meat is rich in vitamins, including vitamin A, B1, B2, D, E and PP as well as phosphorus, iron and magnesium. This means that goose meat is safe to eat for people of all ages. It has been considered an aphrodisiac since ancient times because it is thought to boost vitality and possess invigorating properties.

Polish farmers have bred geese for centuries, but the popularity of goose meat peaked in the 17th and 18th centuries when goose meat was usually served as a special treat during holidays and family celebrations—possibly because goose dishes take a time and skill to prepare. The meat can easily become too dry and at the same time it needs to spend a long time in the oven. Well-roasted goose meat is juicy, tender and aromatic.

Goose meat used to hold a special place in traditional Polish cuisine. In the 16th century, it was traditionally served at the royal court and King John III Sobieski was a great admirer of it. Roasted goose was also a must at the households of Polish noblemen. Goose with apples or red cabbage and the famous smoked goose breasts and pâtés were staple dishes in traditional Polish cuisine. Other popular recipes included goose cooked with sour cream, dried forest mushrooms and three kinds of groats. Polish consumers also used to relish in goose stews served with various side dishes. The czernina soup made of goose blood used to be a prominent dish in Poland for many years.

Consumers in many countries have embraced goose liver as a favorite delicacy. Some of the tastiest dishes made of liver include the national French treat foie gras. Made from the livers of heavily fattened geese, foie gras is one of the most expensive dishes in the world.

Some dietitians say goose fat is as beneficial as the finest olive oils. Meat fried in goose fat smells nice, they say, has an amber tinge and is crunchy on the outside.

Once highly popular in Poland, goose meat gradually became replaced by other kinds of meat. At present, Poland has probably the lowest goose meat consumption rate in Europe, at a mere 20 grams per consumer per year on average. At the same time, Poland is the largest and most renowned producer of goose meat in Europe. It is estimated that Polish consumers eat no more than 700 metric tons of goose meat every year, which means that only 5 or so percent of all geese bred in Poland are consumed domestically, while the rest is exported, mostly to Germany.

Today goose dishes are most commonly associated in Poland with St. Martin’s Day on Nov. 11. The tradition originated in Germany, where goose is consumed to mark the end of the autumn harvest season and plays a role similar to that of turkey on Thanksgiving Day in the United States. This somewhat forgotten tradition is now being revived in Poland. In November and December last year, a promotional campaign for goose meat was conducted in Poland for zl.2.5 million from the Poultry Meat Promotion Fund. Most of the money was spent on advertising in the media. As part of the project, a new website has been launched at www.gesina.info.pl with recipes and comprehensive information about goose breeding.

Goose paté (Pasztet z gêsi)

half a goose
1 turkey leg
500 g chicken livers
3 large carrots
2 parsnips
3 egg yolks
3 eggs
150 g shelled pistachios
100 ml port wine
3 bay leaves
5 grains all-spice
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
Cut goose into four pieces. Place in a pot with the turkey leg, whole peeled vegetables, bay leaves and all-spice, cover with salted boiling water. Cook over a slow heat with the lid partly off until the meat is well done (about 3.5 hours). In the meantime fry the livers in butter.

Take out the cooked meat, drain, leave to cool and carefully remove bones. Grind meat and livers three times over. Add stock, wine, yolks, eggs, pepper and pistachios. Mix well, add salt to taste if necessary. Grease a long baking dish and fill with meat mixture. Bake for 40 minutes at 200 degrees Celsius.

Serve cold, sliced, for example with cranberry jelly.
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