Standing in six inches of snow, I watched a man stand on the wings of a Canada goose, then grab it by the feet and pull. After some ripping and swearing, he had removed the breasts from the legs and then tossed the legs into the trash. I was appalled; it was just plain wasteful. We shook hands after the hunt and the man walked into his house. I dug the legs out of his trash, tossed them into the back of my truck and ate better for it.
I do understand that most hunters find goose legs hard to eat. If roasted whole, the legs are chewy and full of tendons. Fried up like chicken they are nearly inedible. The problem with those styles of cooking is that they do not allow enough time for the meat to break down. Goose leg cooking requires time more than anything. It takes a while to break down the connective tissue–count on at least four hours.
I get past this toughness by cooking goose legs “confit” style. To confit something is to slow cook it in oil, then let it chill completely covered in oil, which creates a protective layer of fat. Basically, confit is an old Egyptian preservation method for duck, which works great for goose, too. It was created for preserving meat in a time before refrigeration. To confit something, you need to follow three basic steps: cure the meat in salt, brown the meat, and then poach it in oil.
The reason that this cooking and preservation method works is because salt creates a hostile environment for microorganisms. Cooking the meat in the hot oil also kills most microbes. Top that off with a layer of microbe-inhibiting fat covering the meat and you can keep confit for up to six months in your cellar or fridge. Below is the basic method for cooking any type of meat confit style.
Clean the meat very well after the harvest. Pat the meat dry with a paper towel while looking for any extra feathers, arrowheads, shot, or undesirable blood clots that need to be removed.
Mix 1/8 cup kosher salt, 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper and 1 tablespoon garlic powder for each pound of meat. Toss the meat with the salt mixture and place it into a gallon sized Ziploc bag. Make sure to pour off any juice that accumulates. After 24 hours, rinse the meat and pat it dry.
Brown the meat in a couple tablespoons of hot oil.
The next step is the hardest–not technically, but emotionally. The smells from the cooking goose will tempt you. Ignore the temptation and let it cook! If you snack on it through the cooking process it will not be the same!
After the meat is browned, the next step is poaching in oil. Below is a list of ingredients for the oil poaching.
- 1 cup rendered bacon fat, or two sticks of butter
- Canola Oil — enough to barely cover the meat
- 8 cloves of garlic
- 16 black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs of rosemary
- 4 sprigs of thyme
- 10 sage leaves
Pack the browned goose meat into the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan. Sprinkle the goose with the garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme and sage leaves. Add the bacon fat, and then pour enough canola oil to cover the meat, or close to it depending on the size of the goose legs. Tightly wrap the whole mess in tin foil and place it on a cookie sheet. Put the goose into a 350° oven for two hours, then turn the oven down to the “keep warm” setting and let it cook for two more hours. Turn the oven off and let the meat cool for one hour.
Next, remove the meat from the pan and let it cool. Pull the meat from the bone and transfer it into clean and sanitized mason jars. Fill the jars to within one inch of the lid. Pour the poaching oil over the top of the meat, making sure all of the meat is submerged. If meat is exposed, it can turn faster than it should. Cool the jars in the refrigerator, and when they are totally cooled, cap the jars and store them in the back of the fridge. The confit can keep for up to six months. Keep the oil from batch to batch of confit; it gains more and more flavor over time.
To eat, remove the metal lid and band, then microwave the jar for a minute or so–just enough time to melt the fat, but not enough to heat up the meat. Remove the amount you would like to eat, and make sure the remaining meat in the jar is completely submerged in oil.
I use confit meat in a variety of ways. I have made pizzas, pastas, pot stickers, tacos and many other dishes from confit meat. I have even used this method for all sorts of animals, including jackrabbits, rock chucks and ducks. In all, confit is a great way to keep your freezer free of odds and ends, and it tastes great too!