Why do most of us choose turkey for Christmas dinner when there are other birds like goose, duck or even pheasant?
History suggests that the turkey was introduced to the royal Christmas dinner table in England by Henry VIII. Prior to then such delicacies as wild boar, swan and goose would grace the tables of the aristocracy.
Goose remained the popular choice right up to Victorian times but by the end of the 19th-century turkey became the standard for Christmas dinner.
Goose vs Turkey
In 2020 we ate 10 million turkeys at Christmas compared to only 200,000 geese.
A good size turkey will feed a lot more mouths being meatier than a goose where much of the bird will reduce as the fat under the skin melts away. Goose fat makes brilliant roasties though.
Turkeys have been bred in the UK since being imported from Mexico via the Spanish conquistadors. The Norfolk Black which is now rarer was the predominant breed for nearly 200 years before being replaced by birds with larger breasts like the white, bronze or Norfolk bronze.
A great British goose breed is the Brecon Buff. It’s medium-sized, meaty and is a good egg layer. If you haven’t tried a goose egg yet, get one, they are fabulous with a large yolk and a more intense flavour.
A huge whole turkey, although a marvellous centrepiece on the Christmas table, is notoriously difficult to cook properly. The legs need more cooking than the breast and getting the balance right with basting to stop the meat from drying out during a protracted cooking period followed by a long resting period means an early start for the cook(s).
Cooking goose on the other hand is far more straightforward as the meat basically bastes itself.
Whether you choose traditional turkey or a festive goose, both birds will benefit from a resting period after cooking of at least 45 minutes. Resting allows the meat to relax and makes it much easier to carve.
Perfect Roast Goose
For the Goose:
- 1 goose
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 8 cloves garlic peeled
- 10 black peppercorns
- 4 cloves
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cm cinnamon stick
For the Stuffing:
- 2 onions peeled and finely chopped
- 1 tbsp sage chopped
- 60 g butter
- 100 g fresh white breadcrumbs
- 1 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley chopped
- goose livers or the equivalent quantity of duck livers
For the Apple Sauce:
- 1 kg apple Bradley ,peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 50 g butter
- The legs can be cooked hours before you’re planning to eat – or even a day or so earlier-then reheated and crisped up nearer the time.
- Pre-heat the oven to 160°C/ gas mark 3. Remove the legs from the goose by pulling them away from the bone and cutting them in half at the joint, then cut the wings off.
- Remove any fat and skin from the back, underneath the goose, and on the backbone and put them into a tight-fitting oven tray with the goose legs, garlic, peppercorns, cloves, bay leaf and cinnamon.
- Season the legs and cook them for about 2½ hours, basting every so often and until the meat is just coming away from the bone. Drain off the fat and use it for roasting your potatoes.
- Put the legs aside, ready to heat up 25-30 minutes or so before you serve the goose. If you’re cooking them a day or so before, just store the legs in the fat in the fridge.
- Your goose may well have the neck still attached-if so, cut it off as close as you can to the main body. With a heavy chopping knife, remove the backbone from the goose where you’ve cut the fat away, so you’re left with just the breasts on the bone. Separate the two breasts by carefully cutting down the centre breastbone. Chop the backbone and neck into small pieces for the gravy.
- To make the stuffing, gently cook the onions and sage in the butter for 2-3 minutes without colouring, then remove from the heat and stir the breadcrumbs in. Meanwhile, season and fry the goose livers in a hot frying pan for a couple of minutes on each side, then remove from the heat and leave to cool a little.
- Chop the livers into rough, smallish pieces and mix into the breadcrumbs with the parsley and season to taste.
- Transfer the stuffing to an ovenproof dish with a tight-fitting lid, or cover with foil.
- Meanwhile (or even the day before), put the apples into a pan with the sugar and butter, cover with a lid and cook gently, stirring every so often for 15-20 minutes until the apples start to disintegrate. You can keep the sauce chunky and natural, or blend it smoother in a food processor. Check the sweetness, and add more sugar if necessary, although it shouldn’t be too sweet to accompany goose.
- Turn the oven up to 200˚C/ gas mark 6.
- Heat a roasting tray on the stove top, season the goose breasts and place them in the tray, skin side down. Cook them on the skin on a medium heat for 5-6 minutes so they start to release some of the fat.
- Drain any fat off and reserve it, then cook the breasts in the oven for 25-30 minutes, keeping them nice and pink, then remove them and leave to rest.
- Put the legs and stuffing in a roasting tray in the oven while the breasts are cooking. Then, remove the breasts from the bone with a sharp knife and slice thinly across them with the skin down on the board. The leg meat can just be carved off the bone, or cut into chunks.
With goose, or any poultry come to that, you’ll never have enough giblets and neck to flavour your gravy, so you’ll need to bring in a few reinforcements. I’d recommend getting some extra chicken wings, necks and bones to make the gravy a few days before. This recipe should make enough for Christmas Day, so scale up the quantities accordingly for large batches to store in the freezer.
Goose Gravy Recipe
- 500 g bones including the goose bones and giblets, chopped
- 1 onion large, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 carrots medium, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 sticks celery roughly chopped
- 1 leek trimmed, roughly chopped and washed
- 2 cloves garlic peeled and chopped
- 1 tsp tomato purée
- 1 tbsp flour
- 2 litres chicken stock
- 6 black peppercorns
- sprigs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C/gas mark 6.
- Roast the bones, goose giblets and the vegetables and garlic for 15-20 minutes until lightly coloured, giving them a good stir every so often.
- When they’re a nice golden brown colour, add the tomato purée, then the flour, and stir well with the bones and vegetables in the roasting pan. Return the pan to the oven for another 10 minutes. Remove the roasting tray from the oven and put on the hob. Add a little of the stock and give it a good stir over a low flame. This will remove any residue from the tray and begin the thickening process.
- Transfer everything into a large saucepan, cover with the rest of the stock, and some cold water if the stock doesn’t cover the bones. Add the peppercorns, thyme and bay leaf. Bring to the boil, skim off any scum that forms and simmer for two hours.
- The gravy may need topping up with water to keep the ingredients covered. Skim occasionally as required. Strain the gravy through a fine-meshed sieve and remove any fat with a ladle. Check its strength, and reduce if necessary. If the gravy isn’t thick enough, dilute some cornflour in a little cold water and stir in.
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Grandads Cookbook may reference or include sections of text and images reproduced courtesy of:
- Mark Hix