The greylag geese have been hanging in the container for a few days and are now ready to be dealt with. Unfortunately, this coincided with the clocks changing at the weekend, meaning it was dark by the time we could get round to dealing with them. Coupled with the wind and rain, the imperative to pluck the geese outside was not an option. So let the mess begin…..
Confining ourselves to a small room in the house, we don our waterproof clothing to stop feathers sticking to us (what a state). We began plucking the geese over black bags in the vain hope of containing the feathers and down.
There’s a lot of fuss if you do a web search on prepping geese. Suggestions include pluck them while they are still warm, dip them in x, y and z to loosen the feathers, but really, if you are only doing a few whole geese a year, the job isn’t that onerous – it’s just fantastically messy. Proceed something like:
Start plucking the breast of the goose, pulling out the feathers and underlying down against the direction of growth. Take only a few feathers at a time or you risk tearing the skin. This is particularly important where there are puncture wounds caused by shot as skin will tear away around the edge of the wound.
Continue plucking, removing all feathers on the body and up to the first wing joint.
Before completing the job, it will help to remove the wings. Feel for the first joint along the wing and cut using shears. It may help to expose the ball joint and cut the tendons and ligaments if your shears are not up to the job.
Blowtorch the body to singe off any remaining feather pins and down.
At this stage we had to have an interlude, not to prepare for what was to come but to watch the must-see for Halloween – Horror Europa with Mark Gatiss (the purveyor of horror documentaries of late) on BBC4. As one of our very favourite film genres, European Horror cinema at last gets the documentary treatment it deserves.
From early German expressionist origins, including the iconic Nosferatu to modern masterpieces such as Guillermo del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone, the documentary served to explain the evolution of the genre across time and place and included interviews with many of the most influential directors of the genre. What a treat and no better preparation of real life evisceration that was to follow!
So, back to the geese. I have opted to leave this section without photographs as it’s not pretty.
Cut the head/neck off a few cm above the body.
Make an incision around the duct, as small as possible, just enough to get your hand inside the body cavity. Remove all of the contents. The intestines come away first (evisceration on Halloween – perfect), then the organs and you need to reach in as far as you can to get out the heart, lungs, trachea, oesophagus and crop. Wash the insides of the geese thoroughly. If geese have been shot and not reared and bled, there is a lot of congealed blood that requires considerable rinsing with cold water.
Also worth mentioning for any game birds shot that have been hanging for a while, the intestines almost putrefy, so best hope you have a cold, a strong breeze or disposition, preferably all three.
Two geese bagged and in the freezer, just after the witching hour on All Hallows’ Eve. Done.
Recipe: Greylag Goose, apple and thyme sausages
Yes, it is tantalising, I go to all the effort of detailing goose prep and stick the birds in the freezer. Hence, I will share my greylag goose sausage recipe. The geese prepared above were this year’s birds. Older birds can be tougher and roasting them whole may not bring out the best in them. Also, because the open season can yield a lot of geese at once here (there are too many greylags eating crops and they need controlled!), occasionally we may be faced with a pile of old birds. In this case, rather than be wasteful, the breasts can be excised and will contribute to wonderful sausages.
Not everyone in the Hebrides agrees that greylags are palatable, but to me that is sacrilegious. They are wonderful, edible beasts. I hope this sausage recipe will convert even the most dyed-in-the-wool goose critic. Greylag goose sausages are amoung the finest I have tasted.
1 kg greylag goose breast
200g pork fat
100g breadcrumbs or rusk
2 apples, peeled, cored and grated
handful of thyme sprigs, stripped
Mince the breasts and fat.
Mix the dry ingredients together with the grated apple then add the water
Mix everything together in a big bowl with your hands until well combined.
Stuff into casings using a sausage attachment on a mincer (as I do) or attachment available for the job on a KitchenAid.
I only use natural sausage casings. They are more delicate, but have a superior texture to collagen casings. I prefer sheep to hog as they are smaller and not too overwhelming, particularly for game sausages, which I mostly make. I purchase these from the wonderful Weschenfelder website – a dangerous place to visit if sausage and salami making gets you excited! They also sell rusk and breadcrumbs if you do not make your own.
The sausages take a day or two to mature and can then be frozen. Enjoy!