Sweet • Sour • Savory

Food blog on scandinavian style food done right.

Mortens And - Roasted Duck

Christmas, Dinner, Holiday, Meats, Sides, Vegetables, PoultryTove Balle-Pedersen2 Comments
Duck roasting - from the oven cam.

Duck roasting - from the oven cam.

Mortensaften - is celebrated on November 10th. 

The tradition that Danes and some parts of Germans eat duck on this night, dates back to before 1616. 

The story tells us that a monk called Martin or Morten in Denmark was forced to become a bishop, but he didn't want the job, so he hid in a pasture filled with geese. Not the smartest place, cause the geese honked and  Morten was revealed. As the tail goes Morten Bisp, now bishop ordered everyone to eat geese on November 10th as a punishment for the geese for ratting him out. 

Over time people switched to eating ducks, maybe because of the smaller size. 

The traditional way is to serve the duck with caramelized potatoes, pickled red cabbage and gravy, kinda the same way as the traditional christmas dinner/pork roast. To change things up, I caramelized an assortment of root vegetables and kept the red cabbage.



  • 1 duck (7-8 pounds)
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 apples
  • 2 handful of pitted prunes
  • a handful salt and some pepper
  • 1 star anise
  • 3 whole allspice
  • 5 whole cloves

Pickled Red Cabbage:

  • 1 medium red cabbage
  • 25 g butter, salted
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar (I mixed half balsamic and half blackberry-ginger balsamic for a sweeter taste)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Caramelized Root vegetables:

  • 3 large carrots
  • 2 parsnips
  • 3 sun chokes (Israeli artichokes)
  • 1 small root celery
  • 3 small beets
  • salt
  • a splash of oil for the baking
  • sugar and butter for the caramelizing



Preheat the oven to 265℉ (130℃).

Chop the oranges and apples in the size of the prunes. Mix star anise, allspice, cloves and the broken cinnamon stick with apples, oranges and prunes. Have the salt in a clean cup.

Take neck and giblets out of the duck. Make sure that all feather sacks are out of the duck, you don't want a hard part of the feather in the crispy skin.

Pad the duck dry with some kitchen towel. Salt the duck inside, and fill it with the fruit mixture. Close the opening with a  trussing needle. 

Truss the duck by placing the duck on a tray with the legs towards you. Tuck the wing tips under the duck. Cut a piece of cooking twine about 3 feet (1 meter), and center it on top of the neck end of the breast. Lift the neck end of the duck and pull the twine down around the wings and under the duck, then bring the ends up over the breast, towards you, and knot the twine, pulling it tight to plump the breast. Bring the ends of the twine around the ends of the drumsticks and straight up. Tie as before to pull the drumsticks together and form a compact bird; tie again to secure knot."

Well, I did it my way, and tried my best to get the compact duck. Sometimes I just pull the wing onto the back of the duck, and use a cooking rubber band to tie the legs together.

Salt the duck with a lot of salt. 

Put the duck in the oven, breast side down, and cook it like this for 3-3½ hours. Have a pan under the duck, and put the giblets, neck and water in it. This water/drippings will be the base for the sauce. 

After 3½ hours turn the duck breast side up, and roast it for another 1½-2 hours until the temperature in the duck reaches 158℉ (70℃). If the skin isn't crispy, give the bird a few minutes under the boiler, be careful not to burn the duck.

Take the duck out and let it rest. Pour the drippings from the pan through a strainer into a saucepan. Skim the fat from the surface. I use a fat separator, which makes this process a breeze. Save the fat in the refrigerator or the freezer. Duck fat is a flavorful fat, and is perfect to roast potatoes in.

Add some cream, blue cheese and red currant jelly to the drippings and thicken the sauce.

Remove the twine and carve the duck. 

Red Cabbage:

Remove outher leaves of cabbage, and cut cabbage into quarters and remove the white core. Thinly slice the cabbage across the quarters width-wise. To get uniform slices I use a mandolin.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the cabbage and sear it for a couple minutes. Add vinegar and sugar.  Simmer the cabbage for 10-15 minutes until cabbage is tender.

Season with salt, pepper, vinegar and sugar. Serve heated to pork roasts or roasted duck. 

Caramelized Root vegetables:

Preheat the oven for 400℉ (200℃).

Peel the root vegetables and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Keep the beets separate even during baking, to prevent all the vegetables from turning red. Dress the vegetables in oil and season with salt. Bake the vegetables in ovenproof dishes for about 30 minutes until tender, but not soft. Cool the vegetables. Just before you are ready to serve, heat a large skillet over high heat, pour in the sugar and melt it. When the sugar has turned the color of light amber, add the butter and stir with a wooden spoon. Carefully pour the vegetables into the hot caramel. Lower the heat and make sure the vegetables get covered in the caramel and get heated through. Serve immediately, otherwise the vegetables looses the shine.