How to Roast a Goose
When Dave asked me for my Roast Goose recipe, I realized that I have nothing in writing. (Nor do I have any photos.) I went to my mom, who has roasted geese for over half a century. We had a ball looking through her cookbooks. She certainly tried a lot of recipes. I now know where my inclination to write in cookbooks came from. She had helpful notations, like "not good" written in the margins. As we looked at them, we realized that the majority of the recipes focused on the stuffing. Two and three pages long, they were all about the stuffing! So, here's what my mom and I have come up with over the years.
There are a few things you should know about geese. Unless you have a butcher, your goose will most likely be frozen. My mother insists (and not just in regard to geese) that one should never buy the biggest bird (or roast) because the bigger it is, the older the animal probably was, which means tougher meat. The average goose will be around 10-12 pounds.
Geese, like duck, are all one color of meat. There's no light and dark meat like a turkey. I find that a duck usually feeds two to three people and a goose feeds four to six people.
Of course, I can't speak for all stores or all areas of the country, but over the past few years, I've been highly amused (and mildly frightened) by the prices on geese. Our WalMart and our upscale grocery store carry the exact same brand of goose. WalMart immediately prices them around $30ish. The upscale store starts them at $70ish and, within weeks, marks them down to $30ish. Last summer I was shopping at a super upscale store out of town and saw frozen geese (which were no doubt left over from the previous holiday season) still marked at $70ish. So, shop around.
I may lose some of you with this next part, since we Americans tend to be a bit squeamish about fat. Geese are very fatty birds. However, goose fat is good for us! Who'd have thought it? Goose fat is loaded with heart healthy fats and contains less saturated fat than butter or lard. In Germany and France (and apparently now, England), goose fat is prized as a cooking fat. Potatoes are fabulous cooked in goose fat, and it's even used as a spread on bread. You can actually buy rendered goose fat in a tub. Before you scream ewww, bleah, let me say one word -- bacon. It's not the meat that makes bacon so good, it's the fat. We love to use a little bacon fat in our cooking because the flavor is delicious. Ah, you're thinking, but I don't smear it on bread. No? Three more little words -- BLT. An LT doesn't have quite the same appeal.
That said, the traditional Christmas Goose dinner that I grew up with doesn't involve stuffing. It's all about roast goose and the fat drippings. Like everything that has evolved over the ages, your Oma may have made her German Christmas dinner differently. My mother and I grew up with roast goose. But my mother's sister switched to her German husband's family tradition of serving Weisswurst, a white veal sausage, for Christmas Eve dinner. Two years ago, I met a woman from former East Germany, who bemoaned the fact that she couldn't find carp for her traditional German dinner.
At our house, the roast goose is served with potato dumplings. If you're not inclined to make your own, Panni brand potato dumplings are an easy and popular substitute. The dumplings are cooked in barely boiling water, and then rolled in the goose fat. Along with that, we always have traditional German red cabbage, but roasted chestnuts are added to the recipe on holidays.
Traditional German Roast Goose
1/4 cup sugar
chopped garlic or onions
1. Remove the Goose from the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator 3 - 4 days in advance of cooking.
2. 36 hours before roasting it, you should brine the goose. Use a food safe container that can hold the entire bird. It must be refrigerated during the brining process. Remove the giblets and neck prior to brining if possible. Place the goose in the container and add the brine.
1/2 cup Kosher salt per gallon of water. Use enough brine to cover the bird. Add 1/4 cup sugar to the brine. Leave the bird in the brine about 8 hours.
3. Remove the bird from the brine, rinse inside and out, and place on a roasting rack, UNCOVERED, in the refrigerator until ready to roast. Leaving it uncovered allows the skin to dry out and crisp during the roasting process.
Do not brine a bird with any added solution. If there's a solution, it should say so on the label. I've never seen anything added to a goose.
If you brine your goose, do not salt it before roasting.
4. Preheat the oven to 425. Remove the big chunk of fat at the tail end of the goose and save to render. Prick the goose skin in several spots with a fork so that the fat can drip out during cooking. Bend the wings back behind the bird. Start the goose breast down on a roasting rack placed inside a large roasting pan. After 45 minutes, flip the goose breast side up and reduce the heat to 350.
While the goose cooks, use a baster or large spoon to periodically remove excess fat from the bottom of the pan. If you don't, it will accumulate and splatter. Some people recommend basting the goose with some of its own fat. I tend to skip that step.
Anticipate at least another 45 minutes in the oven, however that will vary substantially with the oven and size of the bird, so start checking on it after 30 minutes or so. When you have about 15 -30 minutes of cooking time left (yes, you have to guess), add the chopped garlic or onions to the fat in the bottom of the pan.
(Years ago, my mom went through gyrations sewing the goose shut and skewering the legs together. It makes for a prettier goose, and I often skewer the legs in place, but it makes no difference in roasting.)
5. The USDA recommends cooking goose to an internal temperature of 165. You can move the legs of a done goose, much as you can the legs of a done chicken or turkey.
Remove the roast goose to a carving board and let rest. Meanwhile, roll your potato dumplings in the garlic/onion goose fat and get ready to eat!
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