One clever and one silly bird: Hungarian duck and goose

One clever and one silly bird: Hungarian duck and goose! Although the term “silly goose” is derogatory, in Hungary they are considered to be clever creatures, since they can feed a whole family for several days, providing such delicacies as roasts, soups, stuffed liver, and goose drippings (the latter being good both for cooking purposes and as a spread), By contrast, Hungarian chefs do not rate the duck very highly.

hungarian duck

They consider them to be “silly” creatures, since they provide too much meat for one, and not enough for two (regardless of the fact that this is the case only with young, tender birds). It is also said that the tasty liver cannot compete with the wonderful delicacies obtained from well-hung goose livers. Hungary has a centuries-old tradition of breeding geese and ducks, and especially of fattening geese, which are famed for their delicious livers. Hungary’s “goose region” in the southern part of the Great Plains reaches from Kiskunhalas in the west to Orosháza in the east.

It has the ideal natural conditions for such discerning fowl: sandy soil and lots of sun. For over 100 years, a number of slaughterhouses and factories in the region have concentrated on breeding and fattening geese. An understanding of the right conditions and the art of fattening is passed down from generation to generation. Small family concerns merely keep a few geese for their own consumption. Commercially available stuffed livers (libamáj) come from large companies who specialize in their production.

hungarian duck

Once the goslings have left the hatching house, it takes about another eight weeks for them to grow into tender-fleshed “roasting geese.” At this stage, some of them go on to be fattened, as it takes more than a natural appetite to produce a nice, fat goose with the highly prized colossal liver.

About two weeks before slaughtering, the fattened geese are given substantially more feed than they require, which is literally forced into them. In former times this was done manually, but today it is done using electric equipment. The process is actually extremely gentle, and lasts only a few moments, but animal-lovers still regard it as a form of torture. The Romans loved a delicious stuffed liver, and chose to fatten their geese with chestnuts or figs.