Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell which activity is most enjoyable – pursuing wild game, preparing wild game, or eating wild game. What I do know is that all three endeavors rank high on my list of favorite pastimes which brings us to today’s outdoor topic – preparing the Christmas goose.
For our family, roast Canada goose is a time honored, decades long Christmas tradition. When paired with high octane side dishes and festive desserts, it is a meal we look forward to all year. Our all-time favorite waterfowl recipe is Chesapeake Barbequed Canada Goose. If you’ve never sampled this Holiday taste sensation, you really need to change that. Of all the fish & game recipes I’ve shared with readers, none have resulted in more repeat requests than Chesapeake Goose.
If you don’t already happen to have a supply of Canada geese neatly stacked in your basement freezer, don’t worry. You can still enjoy the amazing flavors of this ‘Down East’ entree by substituting a domestic, store-bought goose for its wild cousin. But if you do choose to go the domestic route, be prepared for some severe sticker shock. Currently fetching $7.99 per pound at local markets, a fresh frozen eleven to twelve pound farm raised goose will set you back anywhere from 87 to 96 bucks. Not kidding.
To each his own – but, all things considered, I’d much rather bring my dinner straight from the field. I doubt anyone will argue that grabbing a shrink-wrapped goose from the frozen foods section is a lot less exciting than bagging a wild bird for yourself – especially when a flock of noisy honkers comes sailing into your decoys with necks arched, wings cupped, and black webs extended. No offense to anyone, but I don’t think supermarket shopping will ever be able to match the sight and sound of that experience.
Here’s the Holiday recipe that I guarantee will be love at first bite. Merry Christmas to all!
CHESAPEAKE BAY BARBECUED CANADA GOOSE
1 whole, plucked Canada goose
½ pound salted butter
½ cup catsup
1 tablespoon sugar
1 ½ tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ tablespoons lemon juice
1 medium onion, chopped
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, pressed [may sub 1/8th tsp. garlic powder]
¼ tsp. Tabasco [optional, but highly recommended]
½ tsp. salt [optional]
Ground black pepper to taste
Bank two medium large beds of charcoal on opposite sides of a covered grill. Prepare goose by lightly brushing skin with oil and adding your favorite seasoning [Durkee’s six-pepper is a good choice]. When coals turn white place Canada goose, breast up, in center of grill and cover. [You can add color and create a more robust flavor by topping the coals with a few chunks of seasoned apple wood, hickory, or mesquite.] Cooking time for a large Canada goose is approximately 1 ½ hours. Since we’re cooking outdoors, times will vary according to ambient temperature, humidity, wind, and size of goose. After an hour and twenty minutes, begin testing the goose with a small diameter probe. Don’t bother with misleading meat thermometer readings; the bird’s internal juices will communicate everything you need to know. As soon as those juices turn a rich pink, immediately remove bird from grill. Rest the goose for 10 to 15 minutes and meat will be medium to medium rare.
NOTE: If you leave your bird in the grill until juices run clear, the meat will be completely cooked which means you’ve put your meal on the fast track to disaster. Keep in mind that a large, super-heated bird – like a Canada goose or wild gobbler — will continue cooking while it rests. Serve guests a helping of meat that is drier than toast and you’ll find that your goose is cooked in more ways than one! Whether we’re dealing with the Thanksgiving turkey or a Christmas goose, the most important thing to avoid is overcooking.
Chesapeake Barbecue Sauce: As [goose] cooking nears completion, combine the rest of your ingredients and slowly simmer in a saucepan for 8 to 10 minutes. Do not heat to a boil.
Note: Including the suggested small amount of Tabasco will not make the Chesapeake sauce spicy; you won’t even taste it. What Tabasco does accomplish, however, is to effectively pull all the flavors together into one happy medley. Handed down from Des Moines, Iowa’s Grandma Cox, it’s a trick that will enhance the flavor of virtually every sauce you’ll ever make.
Final Step: Carve rested goose into thin slices and place in a covered dish. Smother goose with simmering Chesapeake sauce and serve. Recommended sides for your Chesapeake Bay feast include baked wild rice & mushrooms, homemade oyster dressing, crab cakes, stuffed clams and red currant jelly. Gingerbread, pumpkin pie, and bread pudding make excellent cold weather desserts.