These days, we tend to use turkey as the centrepiece of a Christmas dinner. But it wasn’t so long ago that goose was the Bird of British Christmas. And some people still swear by it.
If you’re tempted to find out what your grandparents used to have for Christmas Dinner, here’s a quick guide to roasting a goose:
Choosing your goose
- Fat or lean? Goose is a very fatty meat. This makes it lovely and juicy. However, if you prefer lean meat to fat it’s probably a good idea to look for a larger bird. There is a lot less meat on the average goose than there is on the average turkey, even when you don’t take the meat:fat ratio into account.
- Get more than you think you need. The average goose will feed around 6 people. If you’re cooking for a large group, it’s probably a good idea to get more than one bird.
- Choose British. It’s always good to buy as locally as you can anyway, but British geese also tend to be larger, healthier, and generally of better quality than imported goose meat. This is due to a combination of having been breeding geese for the dinner table for centuries, and stringent animal husbandry laws.
- Look for even skin. Avoid bruised specimens. Gooseflesh is off-white, and should be an even tone all over.
Search in farm shops and markets. Some supermarkets stock geese at Christmas (and many will order one in for you if you ask), but you’re likely to find a better choice at smaller, independent venues. Farm shops, farmers markets, and independent butchers are your best bet.
Preparing your goose
- Keep the fat. Everyone knows that goose fat is the stuff you need to make the world’s best roast potatoes. You’ll find two large lumps of fat just inside the goose’s cavity. Cut or melt these out and save them for basting your roasties. Leaving these sections of fat inside the goose could result in a big mess in your oven, so even if you don’t put the fat on your potatoes you’re still best to remove them.
- Protect your oven. Even if you’ve done the above step, goose is still a fatty meat. The bird’s subcutaneous fat will melt and start dripping as it roasts. This will infuse the meat with delicious moisture and flavour – but could also make your oven messy. Make sure to prepare your oven with a drip tray or tin foil.
- Use the gizzards. Goose liver makes amazing pate!
- Be aware that legs and breast cook at different rates. It’s hard to cook a goose evenly. By the time the legs are done, the breast is likely to be overdone. For perfectly even results, take the legs off and slow-cook them while you oven-roast the breast.
- Goose is a versatile meat with plenty of its own flavour. However, there are a few fruits, herbs, and spices which will really bring out its best. Rubbing the goose with orange will help to offset any gameyness. Clementine, rosemary, fennel, and cinnamon are all popular seasonings (although not necessarily at the same time!). And every goose recipe every written calls for bay.
Cooking your goose
- Cooking a goose is a simple matter of roasting. Rub your goose in oil or butter, spice and season to taste, and pop it in the oven. A 5kg goose will take roughly an hour and a half to cook at 200C. Ideally, you want the meat to be slightly pink.
Carving and serving your goose
- Carving a goose is pretty much the same as carving a turkey – except that a goose is smaller and there’s less meat. Traditionally, goose is served with apple sauce.