So, what is it to be? A turkey? A goose? A leg of pork? A ham? Pheasant or venison? A rib of beef on the bone? The choices of delicious meat for that special Christmas dinner are wide and varied nowadays. But it was not always so.
For thousands of years the goose was the dish of choice in Britain and across much of Northern Europe for feast days from Michaelmas onwards and for Christmas in particular. This is still the case in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and most of Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. In fact the breeding of geese goes back to ancient Egypt, when they had an almost religious significance. And that religious link was continued in Norse culture with geese offered to gods, Odin and Thor, as thanksgiving.
Geese are hardy birds, good breeders, strong, resilient, happy to feed on grass and not prone to disease, so even relatively poor labourers over the centuries were able to keep geese on common land or in their gardens for the festive meal. As our population became more urbanised, however, it was still the goose that was the dish of choice over Christmas. Huge flocks of these birds were driven along the roads to London to be fattened up and then grace the festive table, even into Victorian times. And it was still a very affordable meal. For example, in Charles Dickens’ story, “A Christmas Carol”, poor Bob Cratchit says, “there never was such a goose….its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness.”
While turkeys were first imported from Mexico in the 1600s, they proved very difficult to breed and rear, so they were very much an unusual dish, afforded only by the wealthy. This remained the case until the second half of the twentieth century when modern breeding techniques, intensive farming methods and the use of antibiotics enabled turkeys to be grown in huge numbers to stock the supermarket shelves. However, cost-cutting, the use of feedstuffs full of additives and the development of intensive, commercial breeds, led to a loss of taste and texture in the meat.
However, there were still many people who wanted the wonderful taste of the traditional Christmas goose or turkey like it used to be. And, thankfully, the traditional breeds of bronze and black turkeys have been preserved for us now by dedicated breeders.
That is why at Top Meadow Farm we have specially selected a local Cornish farm that can provide traditional, outdoor-reared, free-range geese and turkeys of the highest quality, full of that traditional old-fashioned succulence and taste for YOUR festive table. SO HAVE A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS, EVERY ONE!