The Great Goose Experiment
Pun fully intended, a goose is one tough bird. I'm not talking about the farm raised specimens offered at Whole Foods, perfect for a Christmastime roast. I'm talking about wild Canada Goose, shot instead of bought. A description of a food product that includes the words "fresh," "local" and "wild" usually means that the item will be of the highest quality. Fresh, local wild goose is the exception.
According to longtime hunters, wild goose meat has not always been the tough, livery product that it is today. Back when corn fields were harvested by less meticulous, modern machines, there was a bounty of kernels for the geese to feast on. This was the wild fowl alternative to "grass raised, corn finished." When applied to cows, this term means that they have been raised naturally on grasses, but given corn in the months before slaughter make their meat more tender and less gamey. For geese, this meant a diet that was based primarily on field and aquatic grasses, and corn when it became availably at harvest time.
My friend is an avid and morally inclined hunter who likes to cook what he kills. This is a problem when he shoots wild geese because of the unsavory nature of their meat. Tired of making jerky (the one preparation that seems to make it palatable), he decided to collaborate with me in a culinary experiment. I have 8 goose breasts in my oven as I type.
Originally, we wanted to make sausage with his kill. From online hunter's forums, sausage seemed like an ideal vessel for goose meat because one can mix it with spices and a good amount of pork butt to mask the livery flavor (vegetarians avert your eyes: one recipe on a hunting/cooking blog even elicited the reaction "mmmmmmmmmm, i want to shoot a goose or duck now for sure just to try this.") Unfortunately I own neither a sausage maker nor a meat grinder. When I called my local butcher to beg the use of his, I got a firm "no, we have inspector come."
Without the sausage option I was forced to take another route. After much consideration, I chose the confit method. In confit, typically duck or goose legs are rubbed with salt and aromatics, left to marinate over night (or even longer), and then cooked at a very low temperature in their own rendered fat. Stored in this fat, confit can last for weeks if handled properly. I was hoping that the dry rub I used (a combination of star anise, fennel seeds, brown sugar and salt) would cut the gamey flavor, and the "low and slow" cooking method would turn the tough breast meat into fork tender deliciousness. In case of emergency, I threw in a few Pekin duck legs to feed my dinner guests.
The breasts have a few more hours of cooking, but I'll let you know how it goes…