The goose, an integral part of the Lomellina diet. We are going to cover its history and local products
"Gioachino, why did you dedicate your whole life to the goose?"
"It is a childhood memory, as a child we always went to graze geese on the banks of the ditches, in the middle of the fields".
The house of Gioachino Palestro is completely full of geese: inside, outside, live, dead, in ceramics, in plastic; in glass, in the flesh, sausages. In fact one could not speak of Lomellina goose without him, because nobody knows this palmipede better. But the goose is inextricably linked to all the inhabitants and to the territory of Lomellina, this region in the southwest of Lombardy that has always been characterized by a strong agricultural vocation. And at the base of this vocation, along with rice and frogs, there is the goose, present here certainly already from the beginning of the nineteenth century, when every family had at least a couple in the garden. There is a local saying that reads: "If we have wine and goose, you can also snow".
The breed present in Lomellina is the Bianca Romagnola, one of the oldest, as well as more fruitful and laying hens. Think that when they go in love, in May, they have about 6 reports a day! At the same time it is one of the most active and destructive animals there is, so much so that in the past it was held precisely so that it kept clean undergrowth and ditch banks: "Where she passes, she leaves nothing", tell the farmers. "Eat everything, rice, herbs, corn … Looks like Attila!" For the same reasons, in fact, they also tried to prohibit it: a municipal document of 1833 reports the ban on grazing geese "Because they do damage to crops and vegetable gardens". But the goose in Lomellina has always remained, also because here it has found its habitat; its presence has continued over time thanks to the arrival of the Jews, which around 1500 were confined to the area. Thus, we can imagine that the goose is certainly present in Lomellina well before the nineteenth century, and the presence of the Jewish community has certainly contributed to the maintenance of this animal. Today, for obvious reasons and changing times, geese are no longer so widespread in gardens, but they are far from being extinct.
Goose in the kitchen
The goose is an integral part of the diet in Lomellina, where it is traditionally eaten between autumn and winter. The most common way is in the dishes that maintain its simplicity, allowing you to better enjoy its meat: roast primarily, braised, in wet, to the oven, filled (all). Alternatively there is a winter classic, the kosher version of the cassoeula, or the ragò d’oca, which differs only in the presence of goose meat instead of pork. But basically "here hunger has always sharpened ingenuity", so there are various recipes, even different and innovative, from family to family. Gioachino, for example, also prepares it in the lean fillets with Breme onions, simply by blanching the thigh in the oil, blending it with a little wine and then cooking it for about an hour with the onions. Where is it? At the Court of the Goose.
The Court of the Goose
In 1988 Gioachino Palestro opened the Court of the Goose, right under his house, animated by a healthy enthusiasm of wanting to recover ancient recipes of Lomellina, as well as creating a sort of reference point for the White Romana goose. They were years in which agriculture and local products certainly did not have the importance of today. Yet the Court of the Goose is not born and has never been a restaurant, but, as he says, "this is a big mess": in reality the Court of the Goose is a meeting place, where to breathe the air of a time, where to invite friends and organize dinners by reservation for small groups and where he always takes care of the goose. Its main task is first to select the best geese from breeders and check them before birth; then slaughter them, work them (directly on his patio) and produce excellent products that he distributes almost everywhere, even at home.
Goose based products
In addition to the goose breast, the melted goose fat and the liver mortadella, among Gioacchino's products there is the torcione, or a raw and cleaned fatty liver, also present in the version of free range rooster, or in the case in which the geese in the last six days of life have eaten figs (which arrive directly from Calabria). Recall that it is now illegal, fortunately, any practice of fattening induced geese, so the animal fattens naturally, for other even in total respect of the IGP protocol.
The only product to be part of the specification is the known one Salca d’Oca PGI of Mortara, where every September is celebrated, even if Gioachino is trying to bring other goodies back. This sausage requires cooking before being consumed; it is prepared with lean goose meat, fattening and addition of pork meat, stuffed with aromas in goose bumps. There is also the Kosher version, that is, only with thinly sliced goose meat with a knife and stuffed by hand into the skin of the animal's neck, which is no coincidence that it is a typical product of Jewish culture, alternative to that prepared with pork.
Another great product of the area is the Marbré d’Oca di Mortara, which instead has the De.C.O., made with goose and pork and salted pork tongue, all minced with a knife, adding salt, pepper and natural flavorings and then marinating in marsala wine. After cooking, add seared and peeled pistachios and black truffle pieces; the mixture obtained is poured into molds and “gelatinato” with the cooking sauce, served cold, in cubes, as an appetizer.
Needless to say, perhaps, that in the past they also prepared down jackets, jackets and cushions with its feathers, then over time replaced by less expensive and easier to work and find materials, albeit of much lower quality.