Cead Mile Failte !

A 'hundred thousand welcomes' to friends of all things Irish, organic, and environmentally friendly. I hope you enjoy my anecdotes and little vignettes. I appreciate comments. If you like it, why not become a follower? Click on Archive and then scroll down to the very bottom for the beginning of our story. Or see: http://Ioncehadafarminireland.blogspot.com/

Monday, December 20, 2010

Plucking the Xmas Dinner

In previous postings I told you about the parent pair of geese we acquired in our first year to provide us with Christmas roasts for years to come. The first was slaughtered for St. Martin's day, a tradition in Germany. In the weeks leading up to Christmas, word spread in the village and at the farmer's market in the parochial hall, that we had geese for sale - if only 4. Though not a traditional Irish Christmas dish, there were more people interested in getting these rare birds than we could provide.
What you need: a goose, buckets of scorching but not boiling water to dip the goose in head down and some stamina, ie not too delicate a nose. I had practiced before in Germany on our annual birds. But to do 4 was a a challenge. Each takes at least 90 minutes to pluck.
So my trusted helper and housekeeper put the kettle on to bring the water to a high temperature, on an AGA that can take an hour, while Mac and I chose and caught the poor first victim straight from the goose hut. Lifting the roof of the hut carefully, Father Goose became extremely aggressive, hissing and nipping at Mac's hands and jeans-clad legs. Their nips hurt! You have to grab the goose by its neck which pretty much renders it defenseless. On the yard, near the compost heap on the wall, we had a timber block for splitting kindling. Mac carried the goose over there speaking in soothing tones to it and caressing it with his second hand. He then put it on the block, I held its neck and Mac grabbed the axe. I didn't really dare to watch but necessity made me blink and double check that my arm was outstretched far away enough out of the danger zone.With one swift swing, the goose was in goose heaven. In contrast to chickens, you can't really wring their necks.They are too strong . But they don't flutter headless around the yard either. You have to let the blood drip out of the animal before you can proceed to plucking. Dip it into the hot water and the plucking can begin. We had a big double basin originating from a youth hostel so that my helper and I could stand comfortably over a basin and bucket with a goose each. Goose feathers are stubborn. Harder to pluck than chickens'. They were everywhere.Worst are the pin feathers. And geese do smell. Raised on a diet of pure grass, it's funny how much their intestines stink.After about an hour, your hands, legs, and feet have gone properly cold and numb, the feathers are done. At this stage, the chicken in me opted out due to a hypersensitive nose, and volunteered to put the kettle on for a tea brake. Pauline didn't mind. She finished the job cutting up the animals and pulling out the entrails, a very messy and malodorous job. Then she washed them many times with cold water and neatly presented them on a plate. Grateful, I had the tea and refreshments ready. Most times we had to remove little hairs that stubbornly stuck to the skin with tweezers without tearing the skin. After a while, Mac had the idea to use a little flame torch like restaurants use for making Creme Brule now, and just singe them off. Again, be careful not to burn or singe the skin. I think our reward was about 30 Irish Pounds per animal($70 today)of which I had to pay Pauline 10 for her work. Every year I toyed with the idea that we could collect the eiderdown and feathers to fill pillow cases. Somehow we never got round to it. The idea of washing these mountains of feathers was too much to undertake.Today I prefer to buy a goose, if I can find them organically grown. Thank goodness, my plucking days are over.
I was asked for a recipe: Stuffed with a mixture of bread, apples and onions, the bird requires slow roasting at 180C/375 F under continuous basting with water, its own juices, and occasional turning.2-3 hours as I recall. Delicious accompaniments are potatoes and red cabbage and apple sauce. Go for a lean bird; geese can be fatty.Ours never were because they were grass-fed, free-range--the sporty, muscular type.
Happy Holidays!

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