Succulent goose from the land of Hans Christian Andersen
The heady aromas of roasting goose, pork, and of pastries baking with butter and marzipan waft through many Danish homes at Yuletide. Roast goose is a tradition in Denmark at Christmas - and there's nostalgia involved as well as taste. In older times preserved wild goose was a staple among the inhabitants of Denmark's hundreds of tiny islands, so goose for the Danes has the same sentimental significance that Thanksgiving turkey has for Americans.Skip to next paragraph
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On a recent trip to Denmark, Mrs. Tove Kjaerboe, a writer and historian, gave a group of American and Canadian journalists an old recipe from the island of Aero for preparing and preserving this delicacy:
The long process involved soaking the goose in cold water, boiling it, then adding vinegar and boiling some more.
After cooking, the meat was packed in a stone crock or glass jar with sugar, allspice berries, peppercorns, salt, and bay leaves. It was served cold with hot potatoes and melted butter.
Today the typical Danish farm-raised Christmas goose is roasted with a prune and apple stuffing and served with sweet and sour red cabbage, sugar-browned potatoes, rich brown gravy, and a jelly such as rose hip or currant.
Not feather-light nouvelle cuisine to be sure. But this nation of hearty agricultural folk can boast a ratio of five pigs to every human being - that is to say, 5 million Danes and 25 million Danish pigs. Denmark is No. 1 in the world in pork export, No. 3 in cheese export, and No. 4 in butter export.
Needless to say, goose is not the only star at holiday time. It is traditional for many families to serve a tender pork loin roast studded with prunes, also served with classic red cabbage and other Danish dishes.
''Oh, the baking that must be done for Christmas! The cookies! There must be hundreds, thousands of them!'' exclaims Ester Rasmussen of the Denmark Cheese Association, one of my hostesses in Denmark, recalling the Christmases of her childhood.
Her mother would begin baking around the first of December all of the traditional cookies - like almond and macaroon, sand cakes, sweet biscuits, and marzipan fantasies - so dear to Danish hearts.
And the cheese delicacies, the cheese straws, the pungent biscuits oozing Danish blue, or Samsoe, or Havarti, the herbed cream cheese spreads, the small whole Camemberts and creamy Havartis covered with puff pastry or crusted with caraway seeds, almonds, or breadcrumbs and baked in the oven.
Denmark produces over 50 varieties of cheeses and it is estimated that every Danish farmer is able to satisfy the food demands of 130 people.
The big meal is on Christmas Eve. The Christmas tree has been decorated by the parents - usually with homemade ornaments and Danish flags - and, if possible, hidden in a room so the children won't see it until directly after dinner when the candles are lighted and the tree is displayed in all its glory.
At Christmas dinner three kinds of biscuits are traditional: Kleiner, which are deep-fat fried; crisp golden vanilla rings; and brown wafers pungent with spices whose dough, to be especially good, must be made a month in advance.
The meal begins with sweet almond rice: A whole almond is hidden in this dish and whoever finds it receives a present. Homemade fruit juices are welcome beverages. Drinks made with elderflower syrup, a syrup made from purple plums, and rose hip syrup have been made during the summer and bottled.
If the family is a large one, a roast goose and a roast of pork - whose crackling skin is considered a great delicacy - are the main meats.