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The Warsaw Voice » Special Sections » December 21, 2011
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Polish Geese on European Tables
December 21, 2011   
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Although Poland is Europe’s largest producer of goose meat, Polish people do not consume much of it, as they prefer other meats. Most Polish geese are exported—mainly to Germany.

Polish goose meat can be regarded as an organic product because in most farms the birds are fed natural feed, grains, grain mixtures and grass. The goose meat, free from biological or chemical contamination, contains up to 23 percent protein and less than 4 percent fat, while the fat content of pork is almost 30 percent. Additionally, goose fat is a healthy animal fat—it lowers the level of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) in the blood while at the same time raising the level of “good” cholesterol (HDL). Goose fat is also widely used in cosmetology and pharmacology. Goose meat is recommended by dietitians and physicians, especially for people weakened by disease. It contains many vitamins: A, B1, B2, D , E and PP as well as phosphorus, iron and magnesium. This means that goose meat may be eaten by people of any age without restrictions. It is also not without reason that since antiquity goose meat has been considered to be an aphrodisiac—the meat enhances vitality and energy levels.

Geese have been bred in Poland for a long time, enjoying the greatest popularity in the 17th and 18th century. They were mostly served at Christmas and family celebrations rather than at ordinary dinners. The reason is that preparing goose dishes is quite time-consuming and requires some skill. The meat has to be roasted for a long time, but can easily get too dry. But if prepared properly, it is juicy, aromatic and tender.

Goose meat featured prominently in old Polish cuisine. It was a traditional dish on royal tables from the 16th century onwards and among its fans was King Jan III Sobieski. Roast goose was also present on the tables of the nobility. Goose with apples, goose with red cabbage, famous smoked goose breasts and goose paté were fixtures of old Polish cuisine. Also popular was boiled goose served with cream, dried mushrooms and three kinds of groats. Roast goose and stewed goose meat were also highly valued. Soup made of goose blood, called czernina, was another important dish on Polish tables for many years.

Goose liver is a delicacy in many countries. It is best if the liver is fatty, a bit yellowish and weighs around 0.8 kilograms. Goose liver is used to prepare melt-in-the-mouth dishes, including the famous French foie gras, also called Strasbourg pie. It is one of the world’s most expensive dishes. Goose fat, which can be compared to the best olive oils, is also worth appreciating. Dishes prepared with goose fat have an exquisite aroma, golden color and crispy skin.

Once very popular in Poland, goose meat was gradually squeezed out by other meats. These days, with annual consumption estimated at around 20 grams per person, Poles probably eat less goose meat than any other European country. However, this does not prevent Poland from being the largest producer of goose meat. It is estimated that only 700 metric tons of goose meat, or 5 percent of the geese bred in Poland every year, finds its way to Polish tables. The remainder is exported, mainly to Germany.

At present, geese are mainly associated in Poland with St. Martin’s Day on Nov. 11. This feast day came to Poland from the Alsace region. In Germany, goose plays a similar role on St. Martin’s Day to turkey at Thanksgiving in the United States, marking the end of the harvest season. Now, as the forgotten tradition is being revived in Poland, goose is returning to Polish tables.

There are various campaigns designed to promote the consumption of goose meat. One example is the campaign conducted from the end of October to mid-December 2011 by the office of the Kujawy-Pomerania Province Marshal under the slogan Goose Meat—the Best for St. Martin’s Day. The highlight was the Kujawy-Pomerania Goose Meat Festival held Nov. 11-13 in the village of Przysiek near the northern city of Toruń. It continued on from similar events held in previous years and attracted much interest from the media, restaurant owners, goose breeders and consumers. There is a reason why Kujawy-Pomerania province promotes goose meat. It is in this province, in the village of Kołuda Wielka, that Poland’s leading goose research and breeding center is located. Drawing on the center’s 45 years of work, researchers there developed the model genotype of the white Kołuda goose, achieving a world first. Another goose species raised in the province is the Rypin goose, descended directly from the Pomeranian goose. The latter, in turn, is directly descended from the greylag goose.

One of the most highly valued regional products in Poland is smoked goose breast from Kujawy-Pomerania. The product is made of boneless goose breast, pickled in brine, then rolled and sewn carefully into a spindle-like shape covered with goose skin. The goose pieces are then smoked for a long time in cold smoke produced by deciduous wood. The most popular wood for this purpose is alder and cherry wood. The smoked product is the perfect ingredient for carpaccio dishes and salads.

A.R.

Roasted Goose
Ingredients:
1 young goose (2.5-3 kg)
0.5 kg of tart apples
salt, pepper, marjoram

Clean the goose, then rinse and dry it.

Season the goose with salt, pepper and marjoram on the outside and inside. Set aside for two hours.

Peel the apples, cut into small wedges, stuff the goose with them and stitch it up.

Put the goose into a roasting tin, roast at 220 degrees Celsius for 30 minutes and then at 180 degrees Celsius for around 1.5 hours. Baste the goose with the melted fat and a bit of water from time to time while it is roasting. If you like spicy dishes, put two spoonfuls of good mustard into the roasting tin and baste the goose in the juices while it is roasting.

Serve with baked potatoes.

A.K.
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