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Little Skellig seen through a window of the hermitage of Skellig Michael.

Slainte: Feasting With Angels, Irish Recipes for Michaelmas

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Little Skellig seen through a window of the hermitage of Skellig Michael.

In addition to its significance as Michael’s Feast, September 29th also marks one of the ‘quarter-days’ on the old Irish calendar. These four dates during the year, corresponded to religious festivals (12/25/Christmas, 3/25/Lady Day/The Annunciation, 6/24/Midsummer/St. John, 9/29/Michaelmas). Magistrates visited outlying towns to adjudicate legal cases, servants were hired, and rents were due, expanding Michael’s patronage to the legal and business professions. Frequently outstanding accounts were settled with payment of a Michaelmas goose. 

Since September 29th arrives on the heels of the Autumnal Equinox, it also heralds the shortening of days when light from the sun begins to dim and the work of illuminating manuscripts such as The Book of Kells and in later years the setting of type had to be done by candlelight. Irish printers marked this changing of the year by treating their staff to a Michaelmas roast goose feast.

In view of Michael the Archangel’s many patronages, not the least of which is protection against temptation itself, it is not surprising that his name ranks in the top tier of popularity for Irish boys. Personally, I am most fond of Michael’s tie to publishing the written word, one of Ireland’s most lauded talents. For me, at least, it implies “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Think about it. Sláinte!

Recipes

Michaelmas Roast Goose
with Potato-Apple Stuffing
(Festive Food of Ireland – Darina Allen)
Goose
    1     10-pound goose (with giblets – neck, heart and gizzard)
    1     onion
    1     carrot
        Bouquet garni (1 sprig thyme, 3-4 parsley sprigs,
        1 piece celery)
    6-7     peppercorns
Stuffing
    2     pounds potatoes
        1⁄2     stick butter
    1     pound chopped onions
    1     pound Granny Smith apples, peeled & chopped
    1-11⁄2     tablespoons chopped parsley
1-11⁄2     tablespoons lemon balm (optional)
        Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Stuffing: Boil the unpeeled potatoes in salted water until cooked, peel and mash. Melt the butter and sweat the onions in a covered pan on medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the apples and cook until they break down, then stir in the mashed potatoes and herbs. Season with salt and pepper. Chill until cold before stuffing the goose.

Goose: Remove the wishbone for ease of carving. Put the goose into a saucepan with the giblets, onion, carrot, bouquet garni and peppercorns. Cover with cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for about 2 hours. Remove the bird carefully from the stock and pat dry. Season the cavity with salt and pepper and fill with the cold stuffing. Sprinkle some sea salt over the breast and rub into the skin. Roast for 2-2 1/2 hours in a preheated 350°F oven. Pour off the excess fat three or four times during the cooking (store this fat in your refrigerator as it keeps for months and is wonderful for roasting or sautéing potatoes). To test whether the goose is cooked, prick the thigh at the thickest part. The juices that run out should be clear; if they are pink, the goose needs a little longer roasting. When cooked, remove the goose to a large heatproof platter and put it into a low oven (200°F) while you make the gravy.

Gravy: Pour or spoon off the remainder of the fat. Add about 2 1/2 cups of strained giblet stock to the roasting pan, bring it to a boil and, using a small whisk, scrape the pan to dissolve the meaty brown bits. Taste for seasoning and if the gravy is weak, boil for a few minutes to concentrate the flavor, if too strong add a little stock. Strain into a gravy boat.

Before serving the goose, remove the stuffing to a medium bowl. Bring the goose to the table, carve it, and serve stuffing, applesauce and gravy separately. An 8-10 pound goose will serve 8-10 people.

Blackberry Apple Crumble
(Good Food From Ireland – Georgina Campbell)
    2     pounds Granny Smith apples
    1    pound blackberries
    2     tablespoons water
    6     ounces sugar
    4     ounces cold butter
    4     ounces whole wheat flour
    2     ounces oatmeal flakes
    2     ounces brown sugar

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