I have recently written a piece for Spectator Life on why goose are back in fashion this Christmas – following the news Theresa May favours goose over turkey. Here is a photo story about how I plucked and gutted my own goose for Christmas, making sure to save the fat for the roast potatoes – just like our Prime Minister likes them.
Last year I wrote about processing turkeys for The Spectator. This year I joined a team from Queen Margaret University Gastronomy Course to help process 21 geese on a farm in Angus. Like many smallholders, the farmer raises geese to give as gifts during the festive season or to barter for other meat. The geese are a white strain of the domestic Embden geese and live on grass in the summer and grain in the winter. Come Christmas, the farmer relies on a group to help dispatch, pluck and gut the geese.
As an enthusiastic bunch of foodies, the team from QMU were eager to barter labour for a share of free-range goose. They also wanted to learn some basic poulterer skills. We all wanted to see how free-range birds are raised in comparison to intensively-farmed turkey. I’m not saying everyone should pluck a goose or turkey at Christmas, but as I argued in The Ethical Carnivore, learning where it comes from not only forces you to take responsibility but makes the meat taste better.
Just like my experience helping to process turkeys, I found it a strangely festive affair. It is noisy, exhausting and smelly work. But it is also an opportunity for social bonding and to discuss the animal you will feast on in a few days. At the end of it all, it feels like you have truly earned your Christmas dinner. As Nadine Pierce, who kindly let me use some of her photos in this blog, described it, it is a weirdly ‘intimate and insane experience’.
Apologies if some readers find these images too graphic. Do please comment as usual.