Get all the tips on buying, storing, cooking and serving a beautiful golden Christmas Roast Goose.
Goose was once the traditional bird of Christmas in Ireland. Most farmhouses would rear a goose for their own consumption, plus a few extra for the market. These birds were raised in the old fashioned way, roaming free range, fed on corn and scraps from the lady of the house, plus what they could pick from the fields and hedgerows. This results in a jolly tasty and quite magnificent Christmas feast.
Geese are surprisingly lazy, in that they won’t fly away if there is a constant supply of food and shelter! Once they get into the swing of it, they are easy to shepherd to and fro between fields and a warm barn at night, away from the foxes. As Helena Hickey of Skeaghanore West Cork Duck says of the free range geese they rear each year for Christmas, ‘sure, they’d almost walk themselves inside!’ She has lost only one or two birds to freedom, over the years since they started farming free range geese beside the Atlantic in Ballydehob, West Cork.
Turkey has now taken over the top spot for Christmas Dinner. But discerning diners who want a really traditional feast still opt for a golden roast goose.
Here are our tips for the perfect Christmas goose:
GETTING YOUR GOOSE
- Goose is not as widely available as turkey. You will need to order from your butcher in advance, if you want to be sure to get one. Get your skates on as there are only two more weeks to go!
- Geese do not feed as many people as a turkey of the same weight. As a rough guide, a 4.5kg (10lb) goose will feed four people. Check with your supplier for the size you need depending on the number of diners.
- If you are in the West Cork area, Skegahnore geese are available to order direct from the producer. Pick up from the farm, or at a designated drop off point somewhere in the locality, can be organised. It has been known for Helena to pull up in her jeep at the side of the road on a misty West Cork Christmas Eve morning, to deliver a goose to a waiting customer! But obviously, she is a busy lady this time of year, so do make sure you place your order and make your collection arrangements now. Helena will be able to advise also on butchers and independent food shops stocking Skeaghanore geese in your area.
- In East Cork, order your goose direct from East Ferry Free Range .
- When you get your goose home, remove it from its wrappings and place in a large tray which will catch any drips. Cover the bird loosely in greaseproof and refrigerate if you have a big enough fridge. Keep it away from cooked meats to avoid cross contamination. A cold larder is also a good storage place. Failing these, store the bird in a chill box in the garden shed or garage. Weight down the lid to avoid any predators getting in.
- Your goose should come with its giblets in a bag. These will usually be inside the cavity. Remove them when unwrapping your bird. Rinse, pat dry, and then store in a covered bowl in the fridge. Giblets make fantastic stock for the gravy. See below for how to do it.
TO COOK YOUR GOOSE
1. Prick the bird all over with the point of a sharp knife. Especially in under the legs and around the parson’s nose which is where the fat stores are. This allows the fat to run during cooking.
2. Remove any lumps of fat which may be inside the cavity. You can render these down by placing them in a roasting tray in a hot oven where they will melt.
3. Season the bird inside and out with salt and freshly ground black pepper. If you are not stuffing the cavity, place a peeled and halved onion, a halved apple and some fresh sprigs of thyme, parsley and rosemary inside. For a traditional Potato stuffing recipe and method, see below
4. Calculate cooking time. Stuffed birds should be weighed with stuffing. Allow approximately 30 minutes per kg including stuffing weight. If you cover with foil, it will take longer. This is a rough guide and your oven may cook faster or slower, depending on type.
5. Place the bird on a trivet in a large roasting tray. Pre-heat the oven to Gas 6 400F 200C.
6. At the end of calculated cooking time prick the thickest part of the thigh. There should be no sign of pink in the juices. If there is, return to oven till juices run without the pink. This is hugely important with a stuffed bird which will take longer to cook because the cavity is full and heat does not circulate as well.
7. During cooking, regularly pour off the goose fat that will collect in the tray into a large bowl. Do this carefully. It will be very hot. Pour the cooled melted fat into Kilner Jars and refrigerate. It will set to a creamy solid goose fat, ready to be scooped out and used for roasting spuds whenever you want them, well into the New Year. Delicious.
ALL THE TRIMMINGS
- Good gravy needs good stock. Place the rinsed goose giblets in a pan with onion with the skin on, bouquet garni, chopped carrot and celery and a few whole black peppercorns. Cover generously with water. Bring to the boil. Simmer for an hour, skimming the surface occasionally. Strain and reserve for your gravy. This can be done in advance on Christmas Eve so you will be ready on the big day.
- Try this recipe for Traditional Potato Stuffing for Roast Goose
- For the gravy, strain the stock. Remove the goose from the roasting tray and allow to rest while making the gravy. Pour the excess fat in the tray off to leave 2 tbsp. Add 1 tbsp sifted flour (substitute a gluten free flour if you wish) and stir in well to the cooking juices in the pan. Gradually pour on the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few moments to reduce and thicken, stirring. Reduce the gravy a little to concentrate the flavour if necessary. Add a little splash of brandy if you like. Strain the gravy and pour into a warmed gravy boat.
- For goose fat roast potatoes – peel and par boil Kerr Pink potatoes for a few moments. Meanwhile, heat a couple of tablespoons of goose fat in a roasting tray in the oven. Drain the spuds and shake in a colander to rough up the edges. Place carefully in the hot goose fat, turning over to coat. Season and roast in the oven with the turkey for 45 minutes or until golden and crisp.
- Red Cabbage and Apple is a delicious accompaniment to roast goose. From our own Darina Allen of Ballymaloe Cookery School. Can be made in advance and reheated successfully.
450g Irish red cabbage
450g Irish cooking apples (Bramley’s Seedling)
1 tablespoon approx. wine vinegar
1 level teaspoon salt
2 heaped tablespoons approx. sugar
- Remove any damaged outer leaves from the cabbage.
- Clean and cut in quarters. Remove core and slice cabbage finely across the grain.
- Put the vinegar, water, salt and sugar into a cast iron casserole or stainless steel saucepan. Add the cabbage and bring it to the boil.
- Meanwhile, peel and core the apples and cut into quarters (no smaller).
- Lay them on top of the cabbage, cover and continue to cook gently until the cabbage is just tender, 30-50 minutes approx.
- Taste for seasoning and add more sugar if necessary.