A goose is a large bird that lives in both domesticated and wild forms. The birds are raised for their meat, eggs, fat and feathers. (They may sometimes also be kept as “guard geese”, as they can be quite belligerent at times.)
Goose meat is dark and fatty, though not as fatty as duck. A goose can be up to 18 pounds (8 kg) big. But as there is a lot of fat on Geese which will melt off, you have to allow more poundage per person than you would for other poultry: about 1 ¼ pounds (575 g) per person.
Wild goose is tougher than domestic goose, and has a gamey flavour.
Goose is almost always sold whole, and only rarely in cut-up pieces.
Geese have two layers of feathers: the outer layer you see, and under that, a fine layer of down. Plucking them can be a lot of work.
Most geese in Europe are domesticated from the species called “Anser cinereus.” Geese in Asia are domesticated from “Anser cygnoides.” The two can interbreed and produce fertile offspring.
There are three main breeds of geese: grey (Toulouse), white (Embden), and dark-feathered back (saddleback.) Table geese tend to have shorter necks (about 9 inches / 23 cm) than ornamental geese, which have longer necks.
Geese are monogamous, mate for life, and can still breed even when old. Geese kept in isolation don’t thrive. Breeders recommend, though, keeping no more than 40 to 50 geese per acre.
Geese are more vegetable eaters than ducks are, which are more omnivorous. Most geese are raised outdoors (aside from those in the foie gras industry) as their primary food is grass, so raising them industrially indoors doesn’t make sense economically.
Geese are born in the spring, and are at their prime when they are eight to nine months old — which is convenient for those who like roast goose at Christmas. The main growth and fattening period for Christmas for most breeds starts around the first, second week of November. Some advise to keep geese away from water during this period, as swimming burns up some of the fat you are trying to put on them.
Some consider that geese older than eight to nine months old are too tough to roast; that they are better braised or cut up into casserole dishes for slower, low-temperature cooking. Toussaint-Samat. Maguelonne. A history of food. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell. 1994. Page 349.
Young geese are called “goslings”; they are more tender and consequently more expensive.
Remove any fat that is visible in the cavity. Remove the first two joints of the wing, as they contain very little meat, and will just burn (you can boil them to make a stock for gravy). Prick the surface of the skin (just the surface, not the meat) with a sharp knife all over to allow fat to escape.
Some people advise not to dress a goose with a stuffing; the stuffing will absorb too much fat (though other people do anyway and don’t mind it.)
Ideally, goose should be cooked on a wire or roasting rack put inside a roasting tin, to allow the fat to drain.
The goose will not need basting to brown it; it has enough fat in it to baste itself. Drain fat every half hour from the pan if you don’t have it on a rack, or if you are, whenever the rising tide starts to touch the goose.
High-fat meats like goose are generally cooked at a high temperature. Cook for 15 minutes per 500 g / , plus 30 minutes. For the first 30 minutes, roast at 220 C (425 F), then lower the temperature to 175 C (350 F) for the remainder of the cooking time. If stuffed, allow an extra 20 minutes per 500 g / pound of bird.
|Cleaned goose weight||# of people served||Cooking time (Hrs. Unstuffed.)|
|4 to 5 kg / approx. 110 pounds||6 to 8||3|
|5 to kg / approx. 112 pounds||8 to 10||3 ½|
|6 to 7 kg / approx. 14 pounds||10 to 12||4|
When you are removing a goose from the roasting pan, tilt the open cavity / leg end downwards to allow any excess fat to run out. Let rest 20 to 30 minutes, covered, before carving.
Dark meat from turkey or chicken
Consider turkey instead if you need to be mindful of your animal fat intake.
Domestic geese are descended from wild geese. Geese have been domesticated in Europe since at least Roman times.
Nottingham and Nottinghamshire have long been “goose” centres in England. Nottingham has held a Goose Fair every October since the 1200s. After the fair, the geese were herded down to London, so that they could fatten along the way on grain left in the fields after the harvest.
In England, it was traditional to roast a goose on Michaelmas, the 29th of September. Goose was also traditional on Martinmas — St Martin’s Day — on the 11th of November. In Alsace, such a goose was called the “Martinsgans.”
In those days, before home ovens, geese — anywhere in Europe — would be taken to the baker to be roasted in his ovens. Even in 1843, Charles Dickens describes this: “And now two smaller Cratchits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that outside the baker’s they had smelt the goose, and known it for their own… Master Peter and the two ubiquitous young Cratchits went to fetch the goose, with which they soon returned in high procession.” — Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol. Chapter 3. 1843.
Literature & Lore
“The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest amount of feathers with the least possible amount of hissing.” — Jean Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683, Contrôleur général under Louix XIV).
“Goose, if I had you upon Sarum plain, I’d drive ye cackling home to Camelot.” — William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616. King Lear. Act II, Scene 2.)
“Green goose” was a term for a young goose about 3 or 4 months old. A Green Goose Fair was held annually at Stratford Bow on the Thursday after Whit Sunday (sometime between the first week of May and the second week of June.) The fair seems to have started by the early 1600s. “Green goose” was also used to mean a “loose woman”: the two meanings seem to have met at the fair. In 1630, the poet John Taylor alluded to these women, calling them “sharp and deare”:
“At Bow, the Thursday after Pentecost,
There is a fair of green geese ready rost,
Where, as a goose is ever dog cheap there,
The sauce is over somewhat sharp and deare”
In 1694, an anonymous person published a long poem called “The Three merry wives of Green-Goose Fair.” Here is one of the verses:
“The Fair is full of Feasting then,
from one end to the other,
And Maids are Treated by the Men,
who can’t their Passions smother:
Then they to Courting, and frequent Sporting,
with Kisses out of measure…”
The fair, and its reputation, continued until 1823, when it and other such fairs which had acquired scurrilous reputations were suppressed by the Vagrancy Act of 1823.
Sykes, Tom. Have a flutter on goose for Christmas. London: Daily Telegraph. 12 November 2010.
|↑1||Toussaint-Samat. Maguelonne. A history of food. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell. 1994. Page 349.|