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Mortensaften: Danish version of Thanksgiving?

Leaves in all shades of fall brilliance blanket the landscape, cracking and squishing as we walk. It is November. That means one thing: Mortensaften or in English, Eve of Saint Martin’s day, which falls on November 11.

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By Sanobar Elahi

Call it a Danish version of Thanksgiving if you will, minus the NFL games and change turkey with a different kind of bird, as in Denmark, on the 10 November, it is duck you should have for dinner.

History has it that Martin of Tours (Morten in Danish), was a soldier who later on became a monk. Deeply pious and religious, he was to be appointed the next bishop. Not wanting to attain higher office and preferring isolation over company, Martin hid in a goose pen trying to avoid the detection.

Obviously not used to having a human hiding in the midst, the geese cackled and gave Martin away.

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He went on to become first a bishop and later on a Saint. Furious at this betrayal, Martin declared that every November 10, goose be served as the main meal.

Mortensaften is celebrated on November 10 in commemoration of this event, which for some believers, also marks the last day of feasting before the start of the 40 day pre-Christmas fasting period. It is also the end of autumn and the harvesting season, and the welcoming of winter.

Since Danes are not deeply religious people, the day holds no religious value but is celebrated nonetheless with full vigour in the embrace of family, a traditional menu and general merriment.

Goose has since been replaced by small birds like duck. The menu itself is very traditional: Roast duck (not many have goose these days), roasted potatoes, brown sauce, red cabbage and lots of red wine.

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Where to buy?
You can buy your duck from any grocery store like Netto, Rema, Føtex, Meny etc.

Since it is Mortensaften, all grocery stores have deals in place for all kinds of poultry as competition is tough.

Finding fresh goose can be difficult in the smaller supermarkets, whereas big ones like Bilka and Kvickly usually do have both fresh duck and goose. Meny is also advertising both.

Which duck to choose?

Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten recently made their own small roast duck test, in preparation not only for Mortens Aften but also for Christmas where roast duck is one of the Danes’ preferred dishes.

In Denmark you will mostly find duck of the race called Peking And (a more traditional duck used for roast duck) or Berberi And.

The Peking And is a descendent of the common duck found in lakes and ponds, in Danish Gråand. As this is a born swimmer, it has quite a nice layer of fat, and the roast duck made from a Peking And is often very tender and juicy.

Contrary to the Peking And race, the Berberi duck is a descendent of a duck variety which lives in South America, it is not so attached to water, preferring staying ashore raking up lush green grass. The Berberi duck thus has less fat than the Peking variety, and it is important to roast it for less time as it otherwise becomes to dry.

A few duck picks:

If you live close to a regular Føtex grocery store, you might want to opt for their Peking ducks. Both the one called Victor’s Traditionel And and Oscar Frilandsand came out well in the test, respectively number 2 and 6 (from a total of 8 test ducks).

The winner was also the second most expensive and bought at Kvickly, also a Peking And called the Grønnemark Frilandsand.

Jyllands Posten’s sample placed the most expensive one second last, proof that price is not the only parameter for good quality. Of the eight candidates, six were of the Peking And race and 2 of the Berberi race.

You will find that most sold whole ducks in Denmark tend to be of the Peking And race, whereas breast pieces often are of the Berberi And.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you up for trying out a roast goose – find our recipe – courtesy of Arla.dk

Roast Goose With Fried Potatoes, Kale Salad & Grandmother’s Dressing