There Never Was Such a Goose!

Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course -- and in truth it was something very like it in that house. Mrs Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah.
 In the past few days, I've learned a thing or two about goose.  In Victorian England, thousands of geese were marched from the countryside into the big cities in the month before Christmas.  They would be fattened one final time, then hung fresh in the butcher's windows just in time for the holidays.  Turkey, our modern favorite, on the other hand, was something of a delicacy.  Turkeys did not adjust well to the Old World, and were finicky, prone to illness.  Their feet were more delicate as well, and they were often fitted with special shoes to try and make the march into cities.  This means that the Cratchit's goose was most likely a very poor little creature, bought cheaply from a farmer and then fattened in their yard on what little they could spare, while the prize turkey Scrooge purchases for them was a massive feast, something only affordable by the elite and trend-conscious.  A princely gift for the family of his previously disregarded clerk. 

Now-days, though, the situation has reversed, and a buyer needs to be mentally prepared to spend more money for a 10 pound goose then you would a big turkey.  It's worth it.  Not only that, it's rich enough that everyone ends up having less.  Still, as frugal as I am, that was my biggest moment of self-doubt in our Yule experiment--will it all be worth it when we're scrimping to have this as our Yule feast? It was, in spades. Part of that cost is because geese DO NOT survive being factory farmed the way turkeys do.  They require much more care, and good conditions, so that means that higher cost means that you are 1) supporting a small farmer somewhere, and 2) buying a far more ethically-raised creature. 

Apologies for the poor quality of my phone.
The goose.  Proof I need a better roasting pan... Let it defrost in your fridge (will take 3-4 days), but bring to room temperature the day you're going to cook it.  Drain any liquid, and dry off the bird very well.

The first step I took was to pierce the skin all over.  I used a very sharp knife, but something like a shishkabob  might work really well too; the goal is control, getting through the skin, but not cutting into the flesh underneath.  Like a tattoo artist, it's a painstaking process, but after the first 5 minutes or so, you start to get a feel for where has deep fat (like trying to poke a marshmallow), and where you're directly over the flesh or bone.  Don't forget to lift the wings!  Those are long wings, with a big fat deposit hanging out underneath--I can see forgetting down there leading to a huge chunk of very greasy meat.

Next, I used a dry rub.  I looked at over a dozen sites trying to decide whether to brine or not(as I do with my yearly turkey), and the picture I started to see was that while you *could* brine, it made the goose much more greasy, and no crisp skin.  On the other hand, if you were using a wild goose, brining seems imperative, as the meat is much drier and darker(also making the cooking time significantly shorter). There will be some weeping you need to dry off before you put on a rub.

I used the spices I would have used in a brine in my dry rub:

Goose Rub:

1/2 cup Kosher salt
1T cinnamon
2 t. clove
2 t. cardamom
2 t. white pepper
1 t. fresh ground black pepper
1/4 home-made candied orange peel (the dry kind I made last January, not the sticky kind), chopped fine or run through a food processor.  Try to scoop up some of the citrus-flavored sugar that ends up in the bottom of your container.

Rub the bird, inside and out.  You might want to wear a glove for that, because even though a goose is smaller then a turkey, it's long.  Very long.  By the time I got my handful of rub all the way up to the neck I wasn't sure whether I felt more like I was aiding a delivery or looking for Narnia.

Holy neck, Batman!
Roast at 350 F for 2-3 hours.  This is key, and I'm very glad I did it:  Start the bird breast side up,  after the first 45 minutes, drain out the grease and flip it back side-up.  Another 45 minutes, do it again, so that it's breast-up, and put foil over the breast meat.  That first draining I poured out so much goose grease I had to stop and get another pie pan!  This will mean crisp skin all over, and no super-greasy meat, essentially a substitute for a spit back in the old days.  Watch closely after that second turning...let your eyes and nose tell you when it's done, and check by cutting down into the point where the leg meets the body--no pink in the juices, at all, and it should be fairly easy to tweak the knife and disjoint the leg. 

Don't throw that grease away, either!!!  That is schmaltz!  I wouldn't go so far as to serve it on bread the way some Ashkenazi Jewish families do, but it is wonderfully flavorful. Let it cool, strain it, then refrigerate or freeze it (I poured it into a large mason jar).  Use a little bit to fry up potatoes, or saute veggies...there's a ton of flavor, so you don't need much at all. 

There is a trick to carving goose,  you can find here.

Other recipes of the night:

Wild Rice Dressing

Note:  I put prunes in this, and didn't like them at all.  They made the rice very sticky and gummy....too rich. Everything else about it was good, but I omitted the prunes.

1 T. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
Splash dry white wine or Fre
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cups wild rice blend
2 t. salt
fresh ground pepper
2 t. summer savory
2 t dried parsley
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3 1/2 cups good chicken stock (preferably home made)
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans (optional)

Cook apple and onion in olive oil over medium-low heat until caramelized.  Deglaze pan with white wine, add celery, stir and cook for a couple of minutes while wine soaks into the fruit and vegetables.  Add rice and seasonings, and raise temperature, stirring well.  When you start to smell a slight toasty smell from the rice, add vinegar and stock.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, simmering gently for about 1 hour, then resting for 10-15 minutes.  Keeps warm well moved to a casserole dish in the microwave.  Toss toasted nuts in before serving.  If used as stuffing, rather then just on the side, wait until the last half hour of cooking.

I also made Lussekatter, Sweet and Sour Saurkraut, Brussels sprouts (since my kids don't like saurkraut), and roasted carrots and turnips in the hot roasting pan while the goose was resting.  A common recommendation to go with goose is a dry white wine, like Riesling, if you are so inclined(although Brussels sprouts seem to be notorious for not pairing with anything, so I'd avoid those).  

Had home-made fruitcake for dessert.

`A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us.'
Which all the family re-echoed.
`God bless us every one.' said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

 Additional links:
Gordon Ramsey's take
A traditional Swedish Martinmas goose (PDF)


~~louise~~ said...

I've only made Goose once in my life and I will never forget it!!! Delicious! The rendered fat is great as you say especially for baking.

Thank you so much for sharing your cooked goose with a dash of Dickens on the side Jesse. My eye is still on the mend and the computer is a huge no no. I should be back to normal real soon, (hopefully:) I'd like to wish you and yours a Very Merry Christmas. Stay safe and warm:) Louise.

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