Michaelmas goose ‘spells prosperity for coming year’
The feast of St Michael and All Angels was traditionally celebrated as Michaelmas on September 29 in most of the UK (in Suffolk it is marked on 4 October and in Norfolk on October 11) by eating a well-fattened goose. It is the first day of the new farming year when tenants would often present their landlord with a goose on paying rent for the quarter.
At many top universities and public schools the expression is still used in referring to the ‘Michaelmas term’. Eating a goose at Michaelmas was deemed to ‘spell prosperity for the coming year’.
The festival is still celebrated in many European countries with Michaelmas goose nowadays regaining popularity across the UK. Michaelmas goose is often known as the ‘green goose’ as the birds would have been fed almost entirely on grass stubble and harvest gleanings – in contrast to the Christmas goose finished primarily on wheat. They are a leaner bird than the Christmas goose which develops more fat with the cold weather.
Restaurants Reviving Michaelmas Goose
At the Talbot Inn at Knightwick, in the Teme Valley, Annie Clift serves as many as 150 goose meals during the inn’s Michaelmas week. “We run our menu like a 19th-century farmhouse kitchen. That means taking full advantage of food that’s in season,” she said.
In Dorset the Brace of Pheasants at Plush introduces the bird to the menu at Michaelmas and serves confit of goose. “It makes a fantastic dish,” said owner Phil Bennett. “Each year more of our customers discover what a special treat a goose provides.”
The dining room at the Goring Hotel in Belgravia – designed, appropriately, by Tim Gosling – is one of the places well-heeled foodies can taste goose. “We started serving Michaelmas geese five years ago,” said executive chef Derek Quelch. “Within a couple of years goose proved so popular we extended the menu for the whole week. Our customers like it served in the very traditional way with braised red cabbage.”
Debut restaurant at Norwich City College is where a Michaelmas dinner is cooked by students under the expert guidance of Chris Busby, executive chef of Brasteds restaurant. This is part of the month-long Norfolk Food & Drink Festival.
The Horseshoe Inn, Pebbles have held a Michaelmas celebration with a mouth watering six course gourmet menu with goose as the centrepiece. Goose will be on the menu at the Horseshoe Inn most days from Michaelmas until Christmas.
Berry Bros & Rudd who are award winning wine merchants have featured Michaelmas goose at one of their food and wine matching events at their St James Street premises. Diners sample pâté de foie gras, roast goose, smoked goose breast, confit of goose legs, goose consommé and even chocolate brownies made from goose eggs – all matched with fine Burgundy wines.