Abundant populations of Canada geese have drawn many a waterfowler to good goose-hunting sites, but all too often those hunters fall short in ways to cook their geese in palate-pleasing ways.
A corps of area hunters devote their time mainly to goose hunting, and many of them put as much effort into preparing meals as they did in putting up blinds and setting out decoys.
Jon MacSwan follows goose flights throughout the year in ways that a devoted deer hunter watches whitetails. His hunts result in good numbers of goose breasts that will eventually begin simmering in his Crock-Pot or baking in his oven.
"Before starting any cooking method, curing is a big concern," he said. "I put goose meat into a salt brine with some ice and let it cure in the outside cold, or on a bottom shelf of the fridge in warm weather, for about 24 hours."
The brine curing draws out blood and strong flavors that give goose meat an off-taste. After draining and washing, MacSwan then cubes the meat and mixes it in a Crock-Pot with two ounces of barbecue sauce, chopped celery, onions and carrots, a half-stick of butter, one can of cream of mushroom soup, a pinch of salt and three to four ounces of water.
Cook the mix on high for four to five hours. If the liquid begins to dry, add barbecue sauce instead of extra water. The result is great for snacking or for main meals.
MacSwan's baked breast recipe calls for stove-top cooking in a single layer coated with fresh orange, apple and onion chunks coated with enough water to cover the mix. Boil for 90 minutes.
Make a batch of pre-mixed stuffing. Drain the breasts, place them in a baking dish and coat with the stuffing mix. Bake at 350 degrees for about a half hour and serve with a vegetable of choice.
Arnie Jonathan of Newfane, a licensed goose-hunting guide, has a smooth recipe for making goose jerky.
"Too many times my hunters would get good numbers of geese, take pictures but then leave the cleaning and meat with me after the hunt," Jonathan said.
Not wanting to waste the excess meat, he would make up big batches of jerky that went back out with him on later hunts for geese, woodcock or any other group outings where hunters can take a break and have snacks. His goose jerky has become a staple on many a hunt in recent years.
He starts with a milk marinade to draw out strong flavors. "This also works on other game meats and fish fillets," he notes. To get uniform slices, he freezes the meat and then slices breasts into quarter-inch strips after they are partially thawed.
In a large mixing bowl of five to seven pounds of goose strips he adds a half-cup of salt, three cups of brown sugar, three tablespoons of garlic powder, three tablespoons of onion powder, a quarter-cup of teriyaki, quarter-cup soy sauce/or Worcestershire sauce, an eighth-cup liquid hickory smoke and mix in three to four quarts of water. Add hot sauce to taste.
Marinate for 24-48 hours in a refrigerator and then strain -- don't rinse -- the strips. Place on dehydrator racks, sprinkle with ground pepper, and dry at 140 degrees for six to eight hours per batch.
When grilling, Jonathan places breasts in a jar of orange marmalade with three shot glasses of Jack Daniels bourbon and marinades in the fridge for 12 hours. He then wraps each breast with bacon slices and grills them until they are "just slightly pink in the middle."
Brothers Bob and Don Keicher have an interesting variation on goose grilling.
"We start by splitting breasts in three sections and marinating in Italian salad dressing for three to four hours," Bob said. Drain the marinade and insert cream cheese and jalapeno peppers between the breast layers and wrap with bacon strips held in place with toothpicks. Grill slowly on medium heat.
"This also works well on duck breasts," he added.
The Keichers also have their goose meat commercially ground with 15 percent of pork butts and then smoked.
"If you're going to freeze the sausage links or cold cut loaves, add spices before grinding," he suggests.
Every goose cook has variations on these preparations, but care in removing wild flavors and odors plus slow, thorough heating -- stewed, baked, dried or grilled -- could get fair nods at these cooked fowl.