Each year on the 11th of November, the feast of St. Martin is celebrated around the world. St. Martin, who was the bishop of Tours, France in the 4th century is known as the patron saint of beggars, wool-weavers and tailors, soldiers, vintners, innkeepers, as well as the country of France.
However, in many regions of ancient agricultural Europe St. Martin is closely connected with horses and geese. One of hypothesis explains that St. Martin’s day connection with geese is a relict of ancient, most likely prehistoric time, representing the feast of geese migration, which later was also adapted by the Christianity.
St. Martin’s day in Lithuania
St. Martin’s day had a strong ethnographic tradition in Lithuania. It was the end of pasturage season marked by specific customs, beliefs, superstitions and eating of specific dishes. One of those special dishes was roasted goose. In one of classic Lithuanian gastronomy books – „Lietuvos virėja (“Kucharka Litewska”, ‘A Cook of Lithuania’) by Vincentina Zavadzka (Wincentyna Zawadzka, first edition, Vilnius, 1853), we can find an interesting roasted goose recipe called ‘Lithuanian roast goose with apples and sauce’. The main ingredients of the „Lithuanian roast goose…“ are goose and apples. One of which should be discussed separately thus trying to ‘read’ the features characteristic to the ancient Lithuanian gastronomy and the relicts of geese migration feast in this recipe.
The traces of eating goose can be found in many settlements of prehistoric Lithuania, perhaps since the Bronze Age. Lithuanian tribes that resided in the region of the poorest lands established the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The studies show that until the 20th century, especially before the spread of rye in the 10th-11th century, the crops in this region were so poor that people necessarily had to look for some additional food in natural environment. So the time of geese migration was an opportunity to obtain lots of good, fat and rich food, and was perceived as festive time. The origins of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania has formed a mixed gastronomic tradition of cultivated and “wild” food, thus a wild goose may be considered to be an excellent symbol representing this tradition.
The second dish ingredient is apples, which is not less interesting than a goose. Wild apple trees, also known as an ancestors of crab apples, are one of the few fruit trees that naturally grow in the northern latitudes of Europe. The cultivated apple trees came to Lithuania from Eastern Europe via the Teutonic Order and Poland. In the 15th-19th century cuisine semi-wild apples were widely used for making various dishes, while cultivated apples were used as a dessert that was eaten after dinner. Furthermore, they also differed in price. One of the most important aspect of the recipe given by V. Zavadzka is that these two ‘species’ of apples are used to make one dish. The small apples were used for goose stuffing, while the large ones (i.e. cultivated apples) were used for decoration.
Lithuanian Roast Goose with Apples and Sauce
To honour St. Martin’s day, we are sharing with you today the recipe of ‘Lithuanian roast goose with apples and sauce’.
You will need: 1 goose, salt (according to your taste), 0,5 spoon cumin, 2 onions, bunch of small and sour apples, 16 big apples, 1 spoon flour.
Remove goose fat from the opening of the cavity. Rub goose outside and inside with salt and cumin. Stuff the cavity with small and sour apples. Roast the goose in stewpot sprinkled with chopped onions, and water it with goose broth and grease. Place the goose on the platter dressed with separately baked big apples. Use stuffed apples to make a sauce. Mix them with goose grease and put one spoon of flour. Cook them for a while and pour some over roasted goose. The remaining sauce is served separately.
11th of November – National Independence Day of Poland
11th of November is also the National day of Poland. This day is celebrated to commemorate the anniversary of the restoration of Poland’s sovereignty as the Second Polish Republic in 1918. A lot of recipes of Polish geese can be found in the recipe book “11 listopada. Poradnik świętowania”.
Best wishes for our neighbours and project partners!
Lithuania loves Austria
Did you know that the Central European country Austria had close relations with Lithuania through a traditional cuisine? Europeana Food and Drink has been a great opportunity for partners from Austrian National Library and Vilnius University Faculty of Communication to explore historical gastronomic relations that are rather unknown to develop an eCookbook based on traditional recipes. The foundation for this research was old cookbooks, recipes, pictures and illustrations that were found on Europeana and other online sources. We have a look at Europe from a different angle and consider it to be a net of culinary connections where invisible historic threads leads to the traditional cuisines.
Stay tuned to learn more about the result of this European culinary exploration with historic dishes travelling from Lithuania to Austria and vice versa.
By Rimvydas Laužikas and Ingrida Vosyliūtė, Vilnius university Faculty of Communication.