Why the duck do some Swedes feast on goose blood in November?

traditional goose herding in southern sweden
And you thought pickled herring was weird. Photo: AP Photo/dpa,Matthias Bein
Despite being a fading celebration, this week some southern Swedes will still keep the tradition of Mårtensafton alive by gathering the family to eat goose and goose blood soup.

WHAT did you say they will eat?

A traditional Mårtensafton supper consists of three courses: goose blood soup (called svartsoppa, black soup) as a starter, roast goose as a main course and Scanian apple cake as dessert – a menu invented by a Stockholm restaurateur in the 1850s.

Sorry, but… goose blood soup?

Yup! It consists of blood (preferably goose, but pigs’ blood is sometimes used), spiced with syrup, wine, cognac, vinegar, cloves, ginger and allspice. “The idea is gross, but it’s actually really nice. Tastes all spicy and Christmassy,” said a British member of The Local’s team. 

Oh, and because it’s blood, when it cools it congeals. What a treat.

(article continues below)

See also on The Local:

And people eat this?

Well, some do. To be honest, the tradition is dying out, but many older generations in southern region Skåne (Scania) will still mark the occasion on the evening of November 10th with a goose supper on Mårtensafton, or Mårtensgås/Mårten Gås as it is also called (St Martin’s Eve or St Martin’s Goose).

READ ALSO: Cook your own Mårtensgås dinner

Who’s this Martin fellow?

The celebration of Mårtensafton is in honour of Saint Martin of Tours, a Roman soldier born around the year 316 who deserted the Roman army due to his Christian faith and established the first monastery in Gaul. He was later canonised as a Christian saint.

St Martin is said to have resisted his election as bishop by hiding in a goose pen. The honk of the birds eventually revealed his location and forced him to take the bishop’s office. Logically, he asked the townspeople to slaughter a goose once a year and eat it as a form of revenge. As you do.

His name rings a bell…

St Martin’s Day is celebrated each November 11th in a long line of countries, mostly as a harvest festival. Because Swedes like to celebrate each holiday the evening before it actually happens (Christmas Eve, we’re looking at you), they will mark the occasion on November 10th.

READ ALSO: 17 dialect words you need to survive in southern Sweden

Traditional Scanian svartsoppa. Photo: Tanzania/Wikimedia

How long has this goose blood tradition been a thing?

First, don’t get hung up on the blood.

Secondly, to answer your question, eating goose on Mårtensafton in Sweden can be traced back to the 16th century, but it did not become a staple food on most tables until hundreds of years later. The reason it stayed a tradition in southern Sweden had to do with a 19th century agricultural land reform making it hard for geese to find food anywhere but the rich and fertile soil of Skåne.

Where can I celebrate this?

If you don’t have a Scanian grandmother to invite you to dinner, try a traditional southern Swedish gästgivaregård (an inn or pub of sorts). There’s one in almost every town and they usually organise special Mårtensgås dinners every year. Or go to Denmark.

Member comments

The Local is not responsible for content posted by users.

  1. Sounds good, I’d love to try sometime. Though, with my diabetes, I might need a smaller slice of the dessert.

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.