A traditional alternative to a Christmas turkey, goose is packed with flavour, with rich, densely-textured meat. Although it has a high fat content, most of this is under the skin, rather than in the meat, which means that, during cooking, it melts and bastes the breast, keeping it juicy. The extra fat layer, and the fact that it's bonier, with a large rib cage, means that, weight for weight, a goose will feed fewer people than a turkey.
Choose the best
Look for a goose that is plump, with pale, unblemished skin beneath which there is a good layer of fat. A good indication of the bird's age is to check its bill: if it's flexible, it's young. The best geese are organic or free-range, reared in the traditional way.
Find out more about animal welfare at the Food Standards Agency.
Take the goose out of the fridge 1 hour before cooking, to make sure it's room temperature. Remove the wrapping and the giblets, but don't cut the trussing strings as they'll help to maintain the goose's shape while it's cooking. Wipe the inside of the cavity with kitchen paper, then stuff, prick the breast with a fork and sprinkle with a little sea salt.
The giblets can be stored in a covered bowl in the fridge for up to 24 hours and can be used to make stock or gravy (apart from the liver, which is too bitter - use it to stuff the bird or fry it on its own).
Any excess white fat that you may find inside before you stuff the bird can be cut away and melted very slowly over a low heat (a process known as rendering), then cooled, strained and kept in the fridge for up to 6 months - it's good for frying and roasting.
The fat that is produced when the bird is roasted will also keep in the fridge for 1 month, and can be used in the same way.
Keep the goose in the fridge, on a tray, covered with foil or greaseproof paper for up to two days. Make sure it's on the bottom shelf, so that any juices don't contaminate any other food; it's particularly important to keep the goose away from any other cooked meats in the fridge.
Roast (weigh the bird after it's stuffed, then allow 15 minutes per 500g, plus an extra 30 minutes) and serve with a sharp, fruit-based sauce such as apple or cherry.
Goose fat is the consistency of butter and has been used for hundreds of years to cook the world's best tasting roast potatoes. It is also used to baste meat, flavour stuffings and to fry red cabbage, although given its high fat content, should be used sparingly and for special occasions. Keep it in the fridge and keep and eye on the use by date.
Try duck, turkey or chicken.
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