On Friday people all around the Czech Republic began celebrating Saint Martin’s Day, which falls on November 11. According to a Czech proverb, it is the day which brings the first snow to the country. In recent years, however, the day has mostly been associated with the arrival of the season’s first wine and with the traditional feast of roast goose.
The tradition of Saint Martin’s festivities dates back to the Middle Ages, to the reign of Charles IV. It was the symbolic end of the farming season, when labourers received their pay, and it was also the time when the first bottles of wine produced that year were opened.
Traditionally, the first bottles of Saint Martin’s wine go on sale on November 11 at precisely 11 hours 11 minutes a.m., but this year the Czech Wine Fund (which owns the Saint Martin’s Wine trademark) decided to make an exception and allowed winemakers to start selling their bottles already on Friday.
St. Martin’s wines are fresh and have lower alcohol content because they have only been fermenting for a few weeks. They go best with roast goose, which is served in restaurants all around the country on the Feast of Saint Martin.
Jan Pípal is a chef at Vinohradský parlament, a popular restaurant in the Czech capital. He shares some of his secrets to preparing the best roast goose.
“We only use two basic ingredients, caraway seeds and salt. We make sure to rub the goose thoroughly with salt. If we bake it in one piece, we fill the inside with apples and onions. This adds flavour to the meat and makes it juicier.
“Then we put it in the oven, add some water or stock and let it bake slowly. We usually bake it overnight, for about twelve hours, at 90 degrees Celsius.”
Roast goose is traditionally served with potato dumplings and red cabbage. In Vinohradský parlament, it is accompanied by three different types of dumplings.
“We have prepared a dumpling set. We have the hairy dumpling, made from both boiled and raw potatoes, than there is a potato dumpling filled with pieces of bread roll and a bread dumpling with bacon and herbs.”
Mr Pípal confirms that since the tradition of Saint Martin’s Feast was revived in the early 1990s, it has grown more popular year by year.
“During Saint Martin’s Feast, we sell around 900 goose legs and some 40 to 60 geese. And we of course make other meals using goose meat. Of course we offer young, Saint Martin’s wine to accompany the goose. Saint Martin’s rosé is currently the most popular.”
Although roast goose is mainly associated with the Feast of Saint Martin, Czechs increasingly enjoy it throughout the whole year and goose meat consumption has been steadily increasing over the past years.