TRADITIONAL WELSH FOOD -
BWYD CYMREIG TRADDODIADOL
MODERN WELSH COOKING -
COGINIO CYMREIG CYFOES
Roast Welsh Goose With Fruits & Nuts
Plated Roast Welsh Goose With Fruits & Nuts
Photos by WDA - Welsh Food Directorate
A Child’s Christmas……..Festive
During the Prosperous Times of the
Ken Thorne, Food Editor
It is about seventy years ago or so. A Christmas goose slowly turns on a
spit in front of a large coal-burning fireplace, the bird’s amber color
darkening with each turn. The sights, sounds and smells of the slow roasting
bird will be riveted into the memory of a child as she plays with new toys. Her
Christmas stocking, found at the bottom of the bed is emptied of its annual
fayre of a tangerine, an apple and a bag of nuts, now lies on the kitchen floor
Still early morning, a mother
draws back the drapes, finds the single pane windows are covered inside with
large sharp sprawled crystal forms of hoar frost. Shortly, the warmth from
cooking melts the frost revealing today is not a day of commerce. The mines are
quiet and the pithead mineshaft wheels are still. It is a day of rest and
celebration all over, not even the sounds of shrieking whistles and the snorting
sounds of steam engines (locos) are heard. Outside, the ground, trees and
buildings are still hoary frost white contrasting with the summer seaside blue
of the cloudless sky. It is a beautiful Christmas Day in
Inside, the mother, Esther,
perfectly in control, continuously rearranges her saucepans and kettles on the
hobs of the fireplace, compensating for their uneven temperatures. Likewise, she
would periodically rotate the baking and roasting contents of the fireplace side
oven. Roast potatoes are on the menu today. Widely varying temperatures within
the oven will make a uniform browning difficult but the potatoes will be near
perfect! This, she takes all in her stride, a challenge that would be daunting
Thelma Grammar School Picture - 11 Years Old. George and Esther Crocombe in Later Years.
Father, George is in charge of the
fireplace; he stokes it, carefully adding new coal yet maintaining its vigorous
red glowing heat. Today, he has a second job; he helps by peeling potatoes and
vegetables. Both give great attention to the Christmas exuberant children.
Roasting essences run haphazardly
over the bird, seemingly always racing while enriching themselves as the goose
turns. Eventually, becoming thick, heavy, deep amber droplets, they fall to the
pan as mother’s flavorful ingredient for delicious giblet gravy. As mealtime
approaches, all feel the intense hunger pangs.
Such were some of the childhood
experiences of Thelma Burgess in Tondu, near Bridgend, South Wales (now living
in Concord, Ohio) as she played with two brothers, three sisters and a cousin on
a Welsh Christmas morning. Above her, the brightly colored paper chains and
tinsel decorations hung high from corner to corner of the room. Father and
mother could name everyone who sent the scores of Christmas cards. Draped over
strings hung across the walls, they are now part of the room decorations. Holly
red paper bells hang, some over a picture or a door, but the biggest reserved
for over the table attached to the ceiling or light. No house was without a
branch of mistletoe, hang over a doorway, it is source of screams and laughter
as kisses were stolen.
“We always had a Christmas tree.
We did not have electricity (gas was used for lighting), so we put small candles
(about twice the size of modern birthday type) into tiny candleholders and
clipped them to the branches. The gaslights off, the candles were lit for only
thirty minutes each year. All around we sat, staring in enraptured amazement at
our beautiful tree. We were so thankful for such good, kind, parents.”
Thelma says, “My childhood was
wonderful, my family would have been considered comfortably off with my father
working as a Goods Manager for the GWR (Great Western Railway) in the
Marshalling Yards at Tondu. Tondu in those days was a hub of activity as the
confluence of three busy coalmining valleys. We had a good life; we had rail
passes and could go all over the country for free.”
“Accompanying dinner,” she continued, “we would have lots of winter vegetables with mashed potatoes. We loved our roast potatoes! Served also, were great quantities of carrots, roasted parsnips, rutabagas, chopped cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. My father had a big garden so he always had plenty of fresh vegetables.” Every mother served varieties of vegetables at festive dinners. Even today, the writer’s Welsh cousins and Welsh restaurants still serve copious amounts of vegetables with dinner; people love it, everyone can enjoy generous amounts of their favorite veggies! Family members look forward to servings of Bubble and Squeak made from leftover vegetables. This love of fresh vegetables may be a throw back to the past when meat was scarce, expensive and the diet mostly vegetarian.
No dinner was complete without
Christmas Plum Pudding. The boiling of the pudding for hours in a basin, its top
wrapped with linen goes back hundreds of years. With the lack of baking ovens,
boiling was the only viable alternative. Even going back to earlier centuries,
puddings were completely wrapped in linen, and then boiled with meat in a
cauldron for hours. The pudding may be a savory one, eaten with the meat and
vegetables, or a sweet one, eaten as dessert.
“My mother,” said Thelma,
“would make the Christmas Pudding several weeks ahead so that all the flavors
would blend. She would insert little silver threepence pieces (2/3 the size of a
dime) into the mix. We, as children would search for the coins, which would
bring good luck for the following year, and not eat the pudding. No pudding was
ever wasted, the adults saw to that!”
“Mother saw to it the pudding
was given a spectacular entrance to the table,” Thelma related, “It was
always flamed with brandy. Garnished with a red-berried holly sprig, she would
pour white hard sauce over the pudding with a little on the holly leaves to
imitate snow. The thick sauce, heated by the pudding would quickly run over its
sides, sometimes making little pools on the serving plate. The icing pools were
the kid’s delight.” As she continued, she relived a child’s innocent
wonder, “We played with our new toys, but my memory of Christmas mornings is
with the sight of the goose as it slowly turned, roasting to moist, glistening
tones of ambers and browns.”
Christmas day evening was also
eventful, more food, but especially good was the promise of sweets (candies) and
chocolates! The list reads like an encyclopedia. There were spreads of cold ham
and chicken with salad fixings, The desserts were endless: trifle, chocolate
Christmas log, mince pies, Christmas fruitcake hard iced on a marzipan (almond
paste) base, Cadbury’s Flake
chocolate bars, Turkish Delight, Maltese chocolates and boxes of assorted
chocolates from Cadbury’s or Fry’s
Thelma was especially excited to
tell about the chocolate catalog club, “That was my job. I collected sixpence
every week from relatives and friends all year, and in December, I would order
these great big boxes of assorted chocolates. We opened them Christmas day and
spread the boxes over the rooms for anyone to nibble on. There was plenty,
everyone had lots of their favorite chocolates.”
Father and mother would enjoy a
glass of homemade wine together while father puffed on his annual cigar. Later
in the evening, relatives would come over to visit, enjoy a glass of wine and
sing around the piano. The singing was spectacular. With church and choir
practices, they sang several times a week. It was a night for mainly carols, but
they would often break into the traditional Welsh four-part hymn singing style;
no singing was better, not even at The Royal Albert Hall!
Laughingly, Thelma related,
“Father was a good winemaker; his favorites were elderberry (red) and
elderflower (white). He graded all his wines. It was a dead give away how he
felt about someone. The better he liked you, the better grade bottle he brought
out. What I remember of my father was he was a good kind man, especially to my
mother and all the kids.”
In more recent times; the writer first met Wyndham and Thelma Burgess in 1962, at which time they were already well established in the Welsh Community in Northeast Ohio. Over years, the writer would be continually asked the question, "Are you Welsh?" "Yes", I would say, "and I know your next question. Do I know Wyn and Thelma Burgess?"
Years of volunteerism by both and Wyn's love of showing slides on Wales to numerous groups, lead to their wide popularity. Wyn, with his engaging personality and Thelma, as the perfect hostess, were frequently engaged as travel group leaders to Wales.
Both Wyn and Thelma were recipients of the Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award. Given in different years, the Cleveland Cultural Gardens Coalition recognized each for their contributions to the enrichment of ethnicity.
Both were educators in the local schools. Wyn was a principal and Thelma, a caring and motivating school teacher - when she wasn't a stay at home mum! Everyone should be so fortunate to have the benefit of such educators. They brought up four wonderful children, Suzanne, Tony, Chris and Jane. Just as Thelma said her parents were kind, Wyn and Thelma were also the most kind, thoughtful and helpful of people.
Very sadly, Wyn passed away
several years ago. He is solely missed. Thelma continues to be very active
and finds happiness with her
family, church and many friends.
The goose was the bird of choice
for festive occasions up until the 1940’s when it lost favor. Gareth Johns,
Executive Chef at the Wynnstay Hotel and
Arms in Machynlleth, Wales writes, “The probable reason was perhaps the
urban drift during the war since geese require large open spaces to graze, and
it is also no coincidence that this same period saw the virtual demise of the
cottager’s pig. Then, of course, American servicemen brought the turkey!”
From the writer’s experience,
because of wartime scarcities and rationing, most of our villagers starting
breeding chickens; less fat, more meat relative to bone. There was a big black
market in chickens all through the rationing period. Gareth is of the opinion
that goose is on its way back. He prepares it by tunnel boning it before
roasting it stuffed with sharp apples and prunes for a sweet and sour taste.
Tunnel boning is a technique of removing all the bones while leaving the carcass
intact. Not difficult, it takes about twenty minutes.
Copyright © 2003 by Ken Thorne.
Moist and Tender Crock-Pot Turkey Breast
This is an easy recipe for cooking a turkey breast. Guarantees good results every time! Everyone who has tried this recipe became an instant believer! If you don’t have a crock-pot? Best deals are at garage sales (boot sales in Wales), about $5 or less!
Also, cooking whole turkeys (20lbs
or less) breast side down is good technique for moister meat.
Cook for two thirds of the time breast down, finish for last third breast
side up! Test for doneness.
Servings: 4 to 6
1 can chicken stock, 14 oz
turkey Breast on the bone, 7 lbs
onion, large, chopped
2 ea stalks celery, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
butter, melted for initial basting
Add chicken stock to crock-pot (
4 ½ quart), turn on high. Thoroughly wash and dry the turkey breast,
sprinkle cavity with salt and pepper. Place onion and celery in the cavity, rub
the breast generously with celery salt and place in crock pot. Baste with melted
butter, cover and cook for 3 hours. Turn crock-pot to low heat and cook for a
further 3 hours. Check internal temperature, should be at least 175°F. Cook
further if needed.
Allow to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving. May be stored in the
refrigerator up to two days.
This will be the most moist, tender breast meat you have ever tasted! Don’t worry about a little paleness of the skin, when it is plated everyone will complement you.
With the lid off turn the crock-pot up to high. Add ¼ cup of flour
to ½ cup of cold water, mix well and add to warm liquid in the crock-pot. Stir
periodically for about 15 minutes to thicken
Eich Pryd – Enjoy Your Meal!
Contact Ken Thorne: Email - WelshFoodie@aol.com.
Phone – 440 255-2214.
Copyright © 2003 by Ken Thorne.