Raised for Christmas, a goose is a symbol of the full years cycle on the farm. As seasonal breeders’ geese take a special place amongst our livestock.
A goose for Christmas dinner was quite normal in the 16th and early 17th century, remaining predominant until the Victorian era when the Christmas turkey made its mark, although if money were no object then dining on peacock or swan was de riguer! And maybe more common these days as the centrepiece of a Christmas meal in Scandinavian countries, goose and duck are, quite rightly, regaining their popularity in the UK.
Our roast goose recipe benefits from many years’ experience of preparing a Christmas meal and in particular feeling the pressure of family expectation to prepare and cook a feast, for a farming family, that reflects the weight of the occasion. Always served on the ‘family china’ this is a meal that brings us together and reminds us of our family and its roots.
My best advice is don’t be scared – good organic goose and duck benefit from an unhurried approach. Rushing and undercooking the bird may lead to it being tough, much better to be laid back, enjoy some festive spirit, let the oven take the strain, roast for longer at a lower temperature and the result will be a tender, succulent bird full of wonderful flavours.
A large goose (5.5 - 6kg) will feed 6-8 people. If you have more guests (as we usually do) then why not prepare a piece of organic gammon as well (which can be roasted in advance and simply glazed at the last minute) making that wonderful goose go a little further.
Remove all packaging 24 hours before cooking. The goose is better kept unwrapped to allow the skin to dry a little, naturally, ready for roasting. Remove the bag of giblets (inside the cavity) and any extra fat. Rub the goose with a little sea salt all over (inside and out). Pre-heat the oven as hot as you can go, 240C/Gas mark 9.
While the oven is heating up roughly chop some apples, prunes (chunky apple eighth’s and prune halves will be fine) and prepare some handfuls of whole, seasonal herbs, sage, thyme, rosemary and parsley are ideal. Stuff the cavity of the goose with equal proportions of apple and prunes along with the whole herbs. There’s no need to stitch up the opening, oozing appley, pruney, herby juice will only benefit the gravy.
Rub the base of a heavy roasting tray with a little warmed goose fat so that the bird doesn’t stick. When the oven is hot, place the bird in the tray with breast down and then into the oven for about twenty minutes to colour and seal the skin. To achieve colour all over this side you may need to shift it about a bit.
After twenty minutes check that the skin is browned and turn the goose over (breast side up). Turn down the oven to 140C / Gas mark 1-2. Pour 750ml of liquid into the tray around the bird. We like to use cider, but water or light stock would also work. Allow the bird to roast slowly for at least 45 minutes per kg (about 4 hours). Check periodically to ensure the liquid doesn’t dry out, add a little more if necessary.
While the goose is roasting, we like to prepare some apples and figs (if we can get them) cutting them in half, dotting with a little butter and sprinkling with brown sugar. Roasted in the oven or in a pan until caramelized, they will be a soft, unctuous addition to the roast goose.
To check the goose is ready, insert a knife into the thickest part of the breast and pull it straight out. It should come out with very little resistance. Lift the goose out of the roasting tray and onto a warm plate or board where it can be held to rest for at least twenty minutes before carving. Lay the apples, figs and some fresh rosemary around the carving plate.
The remaining liquor in the roasting tray will probably require separating. A nifty piece of equipment such as a fat separating jug is ideal, but if you don’t have one, you should be able to pour off most of the goose fat from the top of the liquor. The remaining liquor is ideal for the base of the gravy. Thicken it by adding a little slaked cornflour, stock from giblets or boiled vegetables. In a final flourish, reduce the gravy to taste and finish with cream … well it is Christmas!