Today I want to talk about the Christmas goose. I know this article is a bit late, but consider it research for next year. After all, you might not want turkey again, or prime rib. I did say MIGHT, but you could be feeling a bit adventurous and want to try this out.
When it comes to the Christmas goose, you have two options. You can buy one from the store, where you actually have to have a golden egg to pay for it. It is at least as expensive as prime rib, alternatively, you can raise one up for eating. It’s still as expensive, but more fun. Since I already have geese, I chose to eat one. On the one hand, it wasn’t an easy decision to make. I have a small flock, and I’ve raised raised them all from cute little bitty peeping fluffballs. I can’t help but be attached to them. On the other, it helps if one of the geese is a jerk.
Pullo was a good size, and had a bad habit of trying to attack everyone. He liked to chase after me if I was carrying the mail up from the mailbox, or if had a bag of freeze-dried worms. I felt like a matador finessing the bull, or at least like batting it soundly across the beak. Needless to say, the decision to eat him was pretty simple. That was the easy part.
Next, I needed to pick a day to do it. After reading Duck, Duck, Goose by Hank Shaw I decided the best thing was to kill the goose, allow it to season over night, and pluck the next day. So, a couple weeks before Christmas I decided it was time to get it done. I don’t have a garage, so I decided I would season the goose in my husband’s workshop. To season a goose, or any waterfowl, you hang them un-gutted, with their feathers intact, for a day or two (I just did it over night) somewhere where the temperature is between 45 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. He very nicely strung the twine up for me, carefully placed plastic down over all of the sawdust and random junk, checked the thermostat, and made sure the knife for killing the goose was sharp.
The next morning I dropped the kids off at school, and waited for it to get light out. Then I made sure I had everything prepared. We use a killing cone for culling the flocks. You can get fancy and make one using sheet metal, there are lots of videos and blogs on how to fashion one, or you can do what we did and buy a traffic cone. It has the correct shape, is inexpensive, and just has to have the end cut off and be mounted on a board. I placed a bucket under the cone for catching the blood, laid out the knife, and then went to catch the goose.
I expected this part to be a fiasco, but Pullo seemed to know it was his time because he stood there and let me pick him up. For the next part, I really recommend you have help. By the time you get to the cone geese, ducks, and chickens have an inkling about what’s going to happen. Understandably, they don’t want to have any part of it. Pullo probably weighed 15 lbs, and was pretty big. I’m five feet tall, and only slightly taller than the top of the cone. After thinking about it for a minute, I grabbed the goose’s feet, and flipped him upside down, and then I grabbed his head, put it in the cone, and started guiding the rest of him in with my other hand. After the initial struggle, I got him all in, with his head and neck sticking out of the bottom.
I then picked up the knife, took a deep breath, apologized for taking his life, said thank you for the gift of his meat, covered his eyes, and cut his throat. It was quick, clean, and is the worst part of having birds you are going to eat.
After killing him, the hardest part was actually getting him out of the cone. Since we use a rubber traffic cone, the end doesn’t have a lot of structure, so is smooshed in a little bit. The result is the bird most often gets caught by the head at the end of the cone. After some thought, I used my knee, and one hand to round the hole back out, and stretching up, was able to grab his feet with my other hand and pull him out. After that, I carried him into the workshop and hung him up by his feet to season.
The next day, we plucked and gutted the bird. If you can, I recommend you pluck the bird outside, or in a garage. It being below zero, I couldn’t go outside, and I don’t have a garage, so I plucked in the kitchen. It was very messy, and I’m still finding the occasional feather in random corners.
Everyone seems to have a favorite plucking method. I don’t do it terribly often, so I’m still working on which was works best for me. In the Duck, Duck, Goose book, Shaw recommends wet plucking. At first I thought he was referring to the scalding method. This is where you get a pot that’s big enough to submerge a goose, fill it with water, get the water up to 145 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit, and vigorously dunk the goose, making sure the water penetrates through to the skin. It usually takes about 1 1/2 to 3 minutes to scald a goose. This is how we usually pluck our birds. It’s effective, but feathers stick to everything.
After further reading, I discovered Shaw was talking about using wax. This calls for two pots, and lots of paraffin. He recommends a full block of paraffin for a goose. You put the paraffin in the pot of water, and let it melt. Then, you pull off the tail feathers, the big wing feathers, and some of the regular feathers on the body. After the initial plucking, and the wax is melted, grab the goose by head and feet, carefully put it in the pot, and swirl it around a bit on the surface because that’s where the melted wax is. Make sure the bird is well coated, and then put the waxed bird in a pot of cold water. Let it chill for a few minutes, and then drain. You then start cracking the wax on the bird to pluck it. The other option (the one I went with) is to dry pluck. All this requires is patience, and a good set of kitchen shears for clipping the wing tips and chopping off the head. You pluck the feathers against the grain with your thumb running across the skin. Any feathers that won’t come out can be singed off. I found this easier than scalding, but it was definitely time consuming.
After that, you gut the goose, save the giblets if you want to use them, remove the fat (the best part) for rendering, and when you are done, rinse the goose out really well. Since Christmas was still a week out when I butchered the bird, I put him in the freezer. There are lots of good recipes for cooking goose out there, so find one that works for you, just remember to poke holes through the skin before you cook it. This will allow the fat to drain out.
The goose was good on Christmas, and I was able to get a couple more meals out of the bird after that, but I couldn’t help but think of all the effort that went into it. There was selecting the goose, killing it, and then all the processing after that. I think it made me appreciate the meal more, and it’s something I will do again next year.