Roast goose was a traditional holiday dish in Regency England, for the simple reason that it was relatively to both ‘keep’ a goose, and fatten one for a season or two until Christmastide.
Roast goose at Christmas is a culinary tradition steeped in rich flavours and festive indulgence. The succulent, golden-brown bird takes centre stage on holiday tables, offering a delightful departure from more common meats. Its crispy skin offers tender, juicy meat, creating a mouthwatering combination that embodies the essence of Christmas feasts.
The choice of goose is not just a culinary preference; it's also of historical and cultural significance, harking back to medieval Christmas feasts where the goose was a symbol of abundance and prosperity.
“If the skin is thick and tough, and the bill and legs a dark reddish yellow, rough and hairy, do not buy the goose.” Miss Leslie’s Complete Cookery
Roast goose features rather heavily (and deliciously) in my most recent Regeny-era release, so I figured it was time for a recipe.
“Oh, and we must have a goose,” Carter added. “For the Christmas feast.”
“The lady Lydia is attempting to procure such a bird.” Chal shook his head. “I do not grasp the significance of fowl among the English at Christmas, but she insists it’s necessary.”
“I must agree with the lady.”
Preparing your goose:
When preparing your goose for cooking, reserve the giblets for making gravy.
To reduce its strong taste, soak your goose in a weak solution of salt and water for several hours before cooking.
For older geese, briefly immerse them in boiling water for five minutes. After washing the goose inside and out, truss it to give it a round and compact appearance, as its spacious body requires ample stuffing.
To accompany your goose, serve plenty of apple sauce made from juicy apples stewed until dry, sweetened, and flavoured with grated lemon zest and juice.
An ugly vein throbbed at the curate’s temple. “I’m not claiming anything, Mr Clifton. My poultry house has been rifled, sir. I’m told three of my geese are gone.”
Roasting your goose:
Wipe the inside of the goose with a cloth and sprinkle salt and pepper.
Stuff your goose with well-boiled potatoes mashed with butter or gravy. Alternatively, sweet potatoes or boiled chestnuts mashed with butter or gravy make excellent stuffings.
Fill the goose with stuffing, pressing it firmly without completely filling the cavity to account for swelling during cooking. Then coat your goose with sweet lard or butter. Place in a pan with giblets, neck, etc. Add two tea cups of boiling water, then roast in a hot oven, basting frequently. Turn for even browning. Serve with gravy or onion sauce.
In my novella A Holiday Season at Clifton Hall, the geese take most of the day to cook - but that’s me using my regular old gas oven. Regency-era cooks use something like this:
Mrs Edwards looked at Stari. “I’m coming to tell you of three geese we found in the scullery this dawn, fresh-killed and fat. Farmed geese, too. Large as the birds are, Cook and I set them to roast soon as we could else they’ll never be done through. We’ve the Romany princess to thank for her rosemary, sage and black pepper leaves.” She rounded on Mr Oates. “There, now. Are you satisfied, sir?”
Some version of a stove, or cooktop, was available from 1735, invented by a Frenchman and knows as the Castrol Stove. This was improved upon by Count Rumford in the 1790s. Rumford's designs for his 'Rumford stove' or 'Rumford roaster' was only really suited to large, industrial-sized kitchens. Indeed, his intended his design for use in Bavarian soup kitchens for the poor, and he never patented them.
Within three decades, several American manufacturers began showcasing cast iron stoves suitable for installation and use in domestic ranges, negating the requirement for an open hearth.