St Martin’s Day is a celebration of the goose − all other connotations have largely been forgotten. In early November geese are ready for slaughter, and on St Martin’s Eve, November 10, it is time for the traditional dinner of roast goose.
Some people cook the dish themselves but the majority go out to a restaurant. The custom is particularly popular in Skåne in southern Sweden, where goose farming has long been practised, but it has gradually spread northwards.
A goose dinner is something of a banquet. It takes time to cook and is very filling. All parts of the goose are used. The dinner begins with a bowl of sweet and sour ‘black soup’ (svartsoppa), made from goose blood and goose broth, and richly seasoned with fruit pureés, spirits and spices such as clove and ginger. The soup is thick and reddish black in colour.
Black soup is served with entrails of various kinds, as well as goose-liver sausage, stewed prunes and potatoes. The goose is stuffed with apples and prunes and roasted slowly while being constantly basted in its own fat. The carcass is then boiled in water, which is thickened into sauce. The surplus fat is used to prepare the trimmings: red cabbage, roasted apples and potatoes. As if this weren’t enough, a proper goose dinner also includes apple charlotte.
Po Tidholm is a freelance journalist and a critic based in the province of Hälsingland. In the collection 'Celebrating the Swedish Way', he has written the main sections about how we celebrate in Sweden today. ||| Agneta Lilja is a lecturer in ethnology at Södertörn University College, Stockholm. She also writes reviews and appears on radio and tv. In the collection 'Celebrating the Swedish Way', Lilja has written the sections about the history of Swedish traditions and festivities.