Christmas in Germany
I’ve probably mentioned that Lisa won’t be here this Christmas and I’ll probably moan about it a few more times because I’m so miserable about it. I’ve received the first few photographs of the Christmas markets and, once again, I realize there’s no country in the world that celebrates Christmas quite like the Germans. Christmas is huge in Germany. Super huge. Germans even have Christmas-tree-fashion & decorations & colour schemes changes annually and, of course, the trees & streets are breathtaking.
Come to think about it, they probably have a quite a hefty electricity bill at this time of the year.Preparations begin on the eve of St. Nicholas (that’s the 6th of December) and every year the search for the right goose starts round about this time At the beginning of Advent the Adventskranz goes up and the Christmas markets begin; they’re just the best entertainment for Germans and tourists in Germany. Well, I think so, anyway. Walking through a Weinachtsmarkt is an adventure and the aroma of roasted almonds, sausages and stalwarts like Reibekuchen play havoc with diets and waistlines so if you do go, write off the diet until after Christmas. Make that New Year. Also take into account that nobody goes only once.
There’s so much chattering and laughter that you won’t really be able to hear yourself talk, but it doesn’t matter because everyone is very happy to be there and not only because the abundant beer warms them up. If you’re in Cologne, make sure you drink the local Kölsch which is made strictly in accordance with the rules of the Cologne Brewery Association. The beer is first warm-fermented at a temperature of 13 – 21 C and then cold-conditioned (lagered). It’s a clear pale, hoppy top-fermenting beer that’s supposed to be served at 10 C and is served in a Stange which is a long, thin, cylindrical 0.2 L glass. The connoisseurs drink the beer from smaller 0.1 L glasses called Stössche. Even if you don’t like beer, this is the one you have to try. I don’t drink beer but I love this. Germany is the country that gave the world Christmas and only when you visit Germany, can you possibly understand this.
- 1.5 kg waxy potatoes
- 1 large onion
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
- Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
- Flour for dusting (wheat flour or oat flakes)
- Grate the potatoes using a large grater (you don’t want mashed potatoes) & put in a large sieve (to get as much liquid out of the potatoes as possible) and then squeeze out any additional water.
- Grate the onions finely and combine well with the potatoes and the rest of the ingredients, should the potatoes be very wet, add some flour or oat flakes (beware not to get to solid a dough, though.
- Pour oil into a pan and, once hot, spoon some of the dough into the pan, flattening it into a pancake of sorts,frying them until they are golden and crisp before you remove them from the pan.
- Serve with apple sauce or smoked salmon and sour cream which is my favourite!
The focal-point of the Christmas period is the Christmas tree and you’ll find them in towns, cities and homes from about one week before Christmas. You will also find them in every shop, every business and there’s a pretty good possibility that you’ll find a tree in front of the shops, on the pavements. At one stage tradition dictated that Germans had to have their Christmas tree on the 23rd of December and they were decorated merely with candles and sugar covered biscuits. In areas like Rheinish Hesse and the Spessart, the sweets on the tree were more important than the lights!! Today it’s a different story altogether. In November shops start to stock the new Christmas decorations and each season is different. Christmas trees are sometimes called sugar trees and there are those families who maintain the custom today. Then there’s the Christmas music which is heard everywhere with the most famous carol of all, Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht to be heard often. The song was born on Christmas eve in 1818 in the small church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf, Austria – it’s on the German-Austrian border. It was written by Joseph Mohr, an assistant priest and composed by Franz Yaver Gruber, a teacher and organist. Goose is traditionally eaten at Christmas and for this reason I’ve concentrated on this here.
GINGER AND BLACKBERRY GOOSE
- 4,5 – 5 kg goose, cleaned and trimmed
- 450 g blackberries
- 1 orange, quartered
- 1 lemon, quartered
- 1 apple, cored and quartered
- 110 g spring onions
- 2 generous tablespoons grated ginger
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 500 ml sweet white wine
- 500 ml home made chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons goose fat
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 180 C
- Prick the skin of the goose with a sharp fork (it helps release the fat during cooking) and generously massage with sea salt, making sure that you tuck the wings well into the bird to prevent it from being exposed; stuff the bird with the cut fruit (orange, lemon and apple).
- Pour 1,5 cm water into the roasting pan and place the goose, breast side down, in a roasting rack, put in the oven for 45 minutes (check on the bird whilst roasting to ensure that the water doesn’t evaporate) & then remove and turn it breast side up, pricking the skin again (at this point pour out the excess fat by tilting the dish & remember using a baster here is quite handy).
- Add another 1,5 cm of water and continue roasting for another 2 hours, the goose is cooked only when the juices run clear if the thigh is pierced with a skewer; should there be any hint of blood, roast for a further 15 minutes and check it again.
- Using a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh now helps a lot ( 77 C).
- Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes, then pour out all excess fat (excepting for 2 tablespoons)
- Add the spring onions, ginger, blackberries and soy sauce, sauté for 5 – 10 minutes until the blackberries begin to break up and the juices are released; add wine and reduce by half and then add the stock and reduce by half again; pass sauce through a sieve and discard the pulp & serve this with the goose.
DECADENT DOUBLE NUT GOOSE WITH CRANBERRY STUFFING
- 4-5 – 5kg goose
- 110g dried cranberries (or dried apricots )
- 60ml ruby port
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 2 rashers unsmoked back bacon, cut into strips
- 45g butter
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 450g chicken sausagemeat
- 85g fresh breadcrumbs
- 2 generous tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- 1tsp fresh chopped thyme
- 150g peeled, cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Shallot, sage, hazelnut and orange stuffing
- 350g shallots, thinly sliced
- 60g butter
- 15g caster sugar
- 1 orange, zest and juice only
- 3 heaped tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
- 85g roasted, skinned hazelnuts, roughly chopped
- 150g fresh white breadcrumbs
- 1 egg, beaten
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Method (standard stuffing)
- Soak the cranberries in the port for 1 hour.
- Fry the onion and bacon gently in the butter until the both are cooked (the onion must be golden NOT brown),cool slightly then mix with all the remaining ingredients, including the cranberries and the port, adding enough of the egg to bind; check and adjust the seasoning.
Method (shallot, sage & hazelnut stuffing)
- Fry the shallots gently in the butter until golden, add the sugar and the orange juice, simmer until the liquid has almost evaporated and the shallots are thick and like jam.
- Pour boiling water over the sage and leave for 1 minute, drain and squeeze dry, add this to the shallots with all the other ingredients; check and adjust the seasoning.
- Preheat the oven to 190 C
- Trim all the excess fat from inside the goose, pack the stuffing into the neck end of the goose, press it firmly and then tuck the flap of skin neatly, securing with a tooth pick; fill the stomach cavity with the hazelnut and orange stuffing and prick the skin of the goose all over with a sharp fork.
- Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper, rub a little of the fat removed from the cavity over the thighs to keep them moist and then cover with foil and place on a rack in the oven with a tray underneath so that you can empty out the fat regularly.
- Roast a 4 kg goose for 3 hours, a 4.5-5kg goose for 3,5 hours and a 5.5kg goose for 4 hours.
- Remove the foil for 30 minutes before the end of the cooking time so that the skin can brown and crisp, rest for 20-30 minutes, oven turned off with the door ajar, before carving.
Because goose has tendency to dry out in the oven that by the time the fat is rendered and the skin is crispy, the meat can be tough and dryish. Why don’t you try soaking it in and orange juice salt brine?
For the brine
- 1 x 5,5 kg goose
- 1 liter orange juice
- 2 liters water
- 125 g coarse salt
- 1 tbsp white peppercorns
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs thyme
For the roasting
- 1 orange, cut in half
- 1 tbsp freshly cracked black peppercorns
- 1 large onion, cut into 8 pieces
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 bay leaves
- 100 ml cognac or brandy
- 100 ml orange juice
For the compote
- 400 grams kumquats
- 125 grams currants
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp cassis liqueur
- 125 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
- 75 ml water
- 2 tbsp champagne vinegar
- 125 ml good red wine
- 1 tbsp sugar
- stick cinnamon
- 3 star anise
- 2 tbsp cognac or other brandy
- 2 tbsp orange juice
- 250 ml home made chicken stock
- Coarse salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- Chopped fresh thyme
- Put the orange juice, water, coarse salt, white peppercorns, garlic, bay leaves and thyme in a large pot and bring to a boil.
- Cool and pour into a large bowl and put the goose into the brine, cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Preheat oven to 180 C.
- Remove goose from brine and pat dry with paper towels & remove all the fat from cavity.
- Rub inside and outside of goose with cut side of orange, season the inside and outside of goose liberally with pepper.
- Put orange, onion, thyme and bay leaves into the body cavity and make sure that the wings are tucked and the legs are tied, after which you put the goose on rack in roasting tin.
- Pierce all over with a very sharp fork so that the fat renders from the goose and then roast for the first 15 minutes, then reduce temperature to 160 C F and roast for another 30 minutes, remove and discard the fat from roasting pan.
- Combine 25 ml cognac and 25 ml orange juice and brush over goose before you continue roasting but remember the occasional basting with cognac mixture and discarding of fat from pan; roast approximately 2 ½ hours (temperature of goose at 77 C)
- Transfer goose to platter and tent with foil, then rest 20 minutes before serving.
- In a small heavy pot on medium heat add the olive oil and onion and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add dried currants, the cassis liqueur, orange juice, water, champagne vinegar, red wine and the sugar, star anise & cinnamon and bring to a simmer.
- Simmer 20 minutes or until the mixture thickens and fruit forms a compote texture, stir in the kumquats and the fresh currants and remove from heat, allow to cool to room temperature, set aside and serve with Roasted Goose.
- Skim fat from pan juices. (Use a gravy separator if you have one.)
- Deglaze pan with the 2 tbsp. of cognac and 2 tbsp. of orange juice, scraping up any browned bits from the pan.
- Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil on medium heat, season to taste & stir in the thyme.
- Serve the Roasted Goose with the Pan Sauce and the Currant and Kumquat Compote.
Because there’s always, but always some goose left – and nobody want’s to eat it anymore, I thought this was a great idea.
DAVID’S POTTED GOOSE
- 455g freshly cooked goose meat
- 2 – 3 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
- 10 juniper berries
- 40 g soft rendered goose fat
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Shred the meat and combine with herbs, crushed berries and the goose fat, season to taste and pack into individual ramekins or even espresso cups.
- Pour a generous layer of melted fat run over the surface will seal the meat as it solidifies to preserve it, cover and refrigerate until required; serve with toast or bread.