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by Caroline Downs

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The goose is cooked . . .

Posted 10/17/12 (Wed)

By now, you’ve probably heard the news:

NO Wild Game Feed during Wednesday night, October 24th, of GooseFest any longer.

There will STILL be a community supper that evening--barbecued roast pork with mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, buns and the much-beloved homemade apple pies that have become one of the GooseFest traditions.

The Hall of Fame induction ceremony will STILL take place that evening, and this year’s inductee has good stories, let me tell you. More about that in next week’s paper.

So the Wednesday of GooseFest week will continue to be a major part of the celebration.

Except without the goose...and bear, elk, venison, pheasant, alligator, octopus, wild boar, moose, grouse and antelope of past years.

I know First District Health Unit has rules to enforce, and I know this change has been brewing for a few years now. GooseFest committee members have discussed it.

It’s no surprise, but I am registering my disappointment here.

As a volunteer server who turned into a volunteer cook--goose, of course--I take a little offense at the health inspector’s comments about how the meats were prepared. I know how careful I am in my own kitchen and how concerned I am about the quality of anything I prepare when I’m going to share it, and I know how many hours I spent rinsing and trimming the goose meat I used in my recipes in order to offer only the best quality product.

We didn’t keep any secrets there in the serving line. We answered a barrage of questions through the hour it would take to fill everyone’s plates--inquiries about the type of meat and how it was cooked and what other ingredients were used and what it tasted like.

Considering we fed anywhere from 350 to 400 people each year, who were told every time that the dishes were prepared by volunteer community members, I’d say we should have satisfied a whole lot of inspectors.

Thinking of the faces I’ve seen up and down the serving line, I sure wouldn’t challenge any of those volunteer cooks, either. Some shared family recipes for wild game; others researched recipes for days and weeks ahead of time; and several have worked in food service at one time or another and know plenty about the rules.

For me, the cooking was all about convincing reluctant eaters that goose CAN and DOES taste fabulous. I agreed with longtime GooseFest committee member Arlen Gartner when he said the Wild Game Feed served as a way to educate the public about cooking and eating wild meats. I’ve heard too many people, including hunters, rant on and on about their distaste for wild meats, especially goose, and I say to every one of you, “You just haven’t had it done right yet.”

So, in the spirit of the GooseFest Wild Game feed, I’m going to offer some goose recipes in this column for the next few weeks. I hope you sample these if you’re curious about eating Canada, whitefront and snow geese. If you have any questions, give me a call. I’m always happy to talk goose!

Doing wild meat “right” starts with proper handling of the game in the field. Keep the birds cool and gut them carefully. When I handle goose meat, I trim off any fat and sections damaged by the steel shot before cooking.

This first recipe is a North Dakota special. I created it with locally grown honeycrisp apples and garden onions, along with wine made by the Pointe of View Winery in Burlington. You can substitute your favorite flavors of apples, onions and wine.

Using a slow-cooker, layer goose breasts, frozen or thawed, with pats of butter or margarine, apple wedges and onion slices. Sprinkle liberally with minced garlic.

You can add the wine now or after the herbs, whenever you think about it. If I’m using my slow cooker, I like to splash up to a cup of wine over the meat. As long as you don’t drown the goose in it, you’ll be fine.

Season with your favorite herbs. I’ve used basil, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, poultry seasoning, parsley and even Mrs. Dash--whatever I happen to grab from the cupboard. Pepper is always a nice touch.

Turn on the slow cooker. The idea here is to allow the goose to cook at leisure and absorb all the other lovely flavors you’ve included. If I start with frozen meat, I’ll use the “High” setting most of the day and maybe turn it to “Low” about an hour or so before we eat. If the meat is thawed, try the “Low” setting instead.

Cook for at least six hours; eight or nine hours, or whenever you get back from a day of hunting, work well, too. You’re looking for tender chunks of seasoned meat.

Serve with a green salad and some crusty bread, homemade buns or a basic herbed rice dish, and you have a special occasion meal, with a wild goose entree.

Let me know what you think.