Christmas Goose Dinner

The Perfect 2-Ingredient Upgrade for your Christmas Goose

Like a lot of people I love hunting geese. Part of the attraction is watching the bird dog. Some are naturals. Some learn on the job. I will never forget Keith, our 100 pound chocolate Lab’s first day ever in a goose blind. He was a brush-crashing, fiend when upland hunting, but as soon as we put him the blind, he planted himself in the front left corner, and moved nothing but his eyes, his body and head still as a statue. Not even breaking at the shot, but waiting for our signal to retrieve the bird. Gideon, our half Llewellyn setter/half Labrador retriever? He was a ‘good boy’ and a methodical upland hunter, but we made the mistake of putting him in a coffin blind on his first goose hunt. He couldn’t control his excitement, and would explode from the box if anyone in all of Alberta happened to shoot, or slam a car door.

But I have to say the attraction does not extend to the eating, so I’m pretty darn careful. As soon as possible, we dress the birds and rinse them carefully making sure all the stuff that was inside, ends up outside. We always age geese, in the fridge, 5-7 days, or until the feathers pluck easily. Then, we don’t cook them past 170°F. If I’m dry-roasting a whole bird, as in this recipe, I take it out of the oven 5-7 degrees lower, because a large chunk of meat absorbs more oven heat than a small chunk, and actually rises in temperature out of the oven.

Finally, if I’m cooking for friends or family, I almost always do a brine, and the best one for those who find Canadas, Specklebellies and/or snow geese gamy, there are two simple ingredients: buttermilk and salt. Salt is already a powerful tenderizer, but adding the buttermilk, rather than water for instance, adds more tenderizing, but more important, buttermilk is very effective in mellowing out stronger flavors. A lot of Montanans have used buttermilk and whole milk to marinate venison for years, for just that reason. In fact, when I wanted to do a veal recipe and had no veal in the freezer, I used this acidy, milky brine on a mature buck’s steaks. The meat turned paler and much more tender and made a perfect veal scallopini. Unfortunately I didn’t write anything down. Let’s write this one down right now.

2-Ingredient Fix for Gamy Flavors


  • 1 quart buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons non-iodized salt

Prep and Use

  1. Since this is an acidic combo, and a fairly large bird, it’s best to use an enameled container, one that’s pretty long, like an oblong crock pot.
  2. Combine the ingredients and place the goose breast down in the brine. Cover and refrigerate 24-48 hours. The brine won’t completely submerge the goose, but it will reach the ones with the most meat—the breast, highs and drumsticks.
  3. When you’re ready to cook, remove the goose from the brine, holding it over the pot to let the excess brine drip off. Toss the brine.  Place the goose on a wire rack with a drip pan, letting it come to room temperature, while you start the other ingredients.

Best Dressed  Christmas Goose Recipe

Serves 4-6


  • ¼ pound bacon
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 teaspoons dried leaf thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried leaf sage
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups dried bread cubes
  • 3 cups brut champagne*
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 plucked goose, 4-5 pounds
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • ¼ cup sweet hot mustard
  • 1 tablespoon prepared creamy horseradish

*In French, sec means dry, brut very dry.


  1. Ahead: Cook the bacon until crisp in a large skillet. Place the strips on paper towels to drain and reserve the pan drippings. When the bacon strips are cool enough to handle, break them up into 1-pieces.
  2. Remove all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon drippings in the skillet, and reheat over medium heat. Sauté the onion and celery in the drippings until tender. Stir in the dry mustard, thyme sage and black pepper and mix well. Then add this onion mixture to the bread crumbs.
  3. In a small bowl, combine 2 cups of the champagne (the third cup goes into the gravy) with the eggs. Drizzle over the bread cubes and toss the cubes lightly to coat all the chunks.  Stir in the bacon pieces.
  4. Cut a piece of cheesecloth big enough to cover the legs and breast, melt 3 tablespoons of the bacon grease, then soak the cheesecloth in it. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
  5. Stuff the goose loosely with the bread mixture and place breast up on a rack in a shallow roasting pan Cover the breast and legs with the bacon coated cheesecloth. Roast covered about 20-25 minutes per pound, checking the internal temperature with a meat thermometer about 30 minutes before you estimate it will be done. When finished the goose should register 165-170°F.
  6. Remove the dressing as soon as you can do it safely, and cover it to keep it warm. Allow the goose to sit 10 minutes before carving. Meanwhile, start the gravy. Pour off the grease in the skillet, then heat the pan juices over medium heat. Combine the flour with the last cup of champagne. Stir gently. Add this mixture and the sweet-hot mustard slowly to the pan, stirring continuously. When the mixture thickens, remove from the heat and add the horseradish to the gravy. (Adding it earlier will diminish its flavor. A lot.)
  7. Serve with your favorite Christmas and Thanksgiving side dishes: mashed potatoes, creamed onions, buttered carrots, Brussell sprouts and apple cider.

FYI: this recipe is from my waterfowl cookbook, Duck & Goose Cookery, published by Ducks Unlimited, but no longer in print. However, Stalking the Wild Jerky, Tenderize the Wild: Marinades, brines and rubs, The Wild Bowl: 100 soups, stews, and chilies, and Sausage Season, each have plenty of easy wild duck and geese recipes.

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