In the past, some very strange things were eaten around Christmas. At lavish Christmas feasts in the Middle Ages, swans and peacocks were sometimes served "adorned". The flesh was painted with saffron dissolved in melted butter and the birds were served wrapped in their own skin and feathers, which had been removed and set aside prior to roasting.
Around Victorian times another traditional Christmas feast was roasted goose or roasted turkey. In Victorian times, most Londoners would have been familiar with the "goose club", which was a method of saving to buy a goose for Christmas. Goose clubs were popular with the working-class, who paid a few pence a week towards the purchase of a Christmas goose. The week before Christmas, London meat markets were crammed with geese and turkeys, many imported from Germany and France, although some were raised in Norfolk, and taken to market in London. The birds were walked from Norfolk to the markets in London and to protect their feet the turkeys were dressed in boots made of sacking or leather and geese had their feet protected with a covering of tar. The traditional Christmas goose was featured in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol".
Nowadays, if you sit down with a typical family on Christmas day, the starter is probably going to be prawns or smoked salmon. The main course is more than likely to be turkey, often free-range and the bigger the better, although goose has been making a bit of a comeback, and for the vegetarian in the family (there's always one) a nut roast is normally served with potatoes (roasted, boiled, mashed, or maybe all three), vegetables (including the devil's vegetable - brussel sprouts), roasted parsnips, and stuffing with gravy and bread sauce. This is usually followed by Christmas pudding; a rich fruit pudding served with brandy sauce or brandy butter.
Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat
Please put a penny in the old man's hat
If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do
If you haven't got a ha'penny, then God bless you!
Roast Christmas Goose
Tired of the same old Christmas turkey or ham? Then give this traditional roast goose recipe a try. Carefully pricking the skin is the secret to a beautiful crispy finish.
One 12-pound goose, neck and giblets reserved, visible fat removed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 1/4 cups warm water
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon Tabasco
1 teaspoon potato starch dissolved in 2 tablespoons red or white wine
Beginning at the neck end, work your fingers under the goose skin, snipping any fibers and sinews with kitchen scissors; work your fingers as far down over the thighs as possible. Using a sharp knife, cut halfway through the wing and leg joints to help the bird cook evenly. Generously season the goose inside and out with salt and pepper.
Set the goose on a rack in a heavy roasting pan, breast side up. Add the neck, gizzard, heart and 4 cups of the water to the pan. Cover the goose with foil and seal the foil all around the edge of the pan. Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and steam for 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Transfer the rack with the goose to a rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate uncovered overnight, until the skin is very dry, like parchment. Strain the pan juices and refrigerate. Bring the goose to room temperature before roasting.
Preheat the oven to 350°. In a bowl, mix the honey with the Tabasco and the remaining 1/4 cup of water. Return the rack to the pan and roast the goose for 1 hour, basting occasionally with the Tabasco mixture. Carefully turn the goose breast side down. Roast for about 30 minutes longer, basting occasionally. The goose is done when an instant-read thermometer inserted in the inner thigh registers 170°. Turn off the oven and let it cool to 160°. Transfer the goose to a heatproof platter, breast side up. Return the goose to the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the jus
Pour off the fat in the roasting pan. Scrape the solidified fat off the refrigerated pan juices and refrigerate for another use. Add the juices to the pan and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom. Pour the juices into a small saucepan. Stir in the potato starch slurry and simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Season the jus with salt and pepper and strain it into a gravy boat. Carve the goose and pass the jus at the table.
And finally ...
How does Good King Wenceslas like his pizzas?
Deep pan, crisp and even!
What did the grape say to the peanut butter?
"'Tis the season to be jelly!"
What do ducks do before Christmas dinner?
Pull their Christmas quackers!
What do you drain Christmas dinner brussel sprouts with?
An advent colander!
What happens when you eat Christmas tree decorations?
You get tinsel-itus!