I was lucky to have even been in this cold, snow covered goose blind, or so I kept telling myself. My right boot had a hole in it and I was freezing my toes off. But I had accepted the late night phone call inviting me. Apparently the “normal” guy was out of town and the three man blind had an opening. I had been on the short list for this blind for several years, but had never managed to get in.
The morning started with setting out the decoys and fixing the blind. Our spread is good, about 100 decoys total. All of them facing into the wind and we even have an empty section of the spread for the “kill zone”. I was instructed not to “look up” at the geese as the captain was calling them in. I had always watched my game before, this was weird, I had to simply trust that that goose could be shot when I was told. The suspense was unbelievable.
But this last flock of geese over my head where smart. They can see something about our decoy set up and don’t like it. Maybe they know that we have the bodies of there dead brethren hidden under the hard plastic decoys. Maybe it is the slight skiff of snow that has formed; snow doesn’t stick to the back of real geese. Maybe it is all the human sized foot prints in the snow. They start to circle around but are not committing to the landing. I am having a hard time not looking right at the geese, revealing my face and blowing the cover. I can hear the wing flaps and the honking but force myself to look at my boots. Oddly, I am not cold anymore.
One goose finally locks up to come in for a landing causing a chain reaction among them all. When the honkers reach about 30 yards out I hear “blast-em” from my left side. I jump up and shoot the goose that is farthest to the right, keeping in my shooting lane in mind.
Two geese fall on that volley and it is time to pack up. Its only 10am. We shot a total of ten geese between the three of us. My father in law has limited out having shot four birds and I am going home with three for myself. It was a good morning. I got back in time to watch SpongeBob with the boys and even cook a little breakfast.
Speaking of breakfast, wild game tends to be overlooked for this meal period. It is a shame since most game meat packs more protein per ounce than the commonly consumed pig. Getting a good dose of protein in the morning is a great way to keep focused and healthy. With that I mind one of my favorite breakfasts is a corned beef hash. Cured beef simmered in spices, salt and sugar and served with roasted potatoes. Two eggs on top and nothin’ is better. Filling and a large amount of protein.
However it was only in the past year that I was given a recipe for corning wild game. Remarkably it was very similar to my beef recipe. Well, duh. Anyway, I started with a venison roast and moved onto smaller cuts. Eventually I landed on goose meat. It was a perfect fit.
But for a lot of hunters goose is a tuff nut to crack. Like duck it often ends up in the smoker as jerky. I know why, it has a very gamey taste. I like the taste but understand how it can a little over the top for some palates. An easy way to cure the gamey-ness from goose is to “corn” it. Basically the brine cures the meat and changes the flavor and texture to that of the brine. Not a bad idea for those who don’t want to waste the birds they shot.
To corn the goose I use the McCormick’s pickling spice mix. While purist might call this cheating I find it a heck of a lot easier to adjust a pre-done mix than keep fresh stocks of all the different seasonings that go into corned meat. To be honest the package has a decent recipe for corned beef on it. However, the flavor does not penetrate the meat as well as it could without a curing time.
To cure the goose meat I remove the breasts and reserve the leg meat. I cure only the breasts because they are easier to slice and I do not have to remove the bones. This recipe will work for whatever type of meat that you want to cure. I never simply trash goose legs, they are tasty and it is against most states wanton waste laws to toss the meat.
Recipe – Corned Goose
2 quarts water
1 cup salt, I use kosher
½ cup sugar
1 ounce Speed Cure (Prague Powder or Insta Cure #1 work the same)
3 tablespoons pickling spices
Six goose breasts, or up to one five pound roast
1 large potato per pound of meat, ½ inch cubes
1 medium onion per pound of meat, diced
Salt and pepper
Red chili flakes
Bring the salt, sugar, speed cure and pickling spices to a boil. The boiling of the spices will release the oils and flavors that might not otherwise fully develop.
The next step is to cool the brine to room temperature. If meat is added to the hot liquid it will start to cook and that can mess up the curing process. Not being one who likes to wait I have developed several methods of cooling the brine quickly after bringing it to a boil. An easy way is to simply cut the water amount in half that is brought to a boil and then add the remaining amount required in the form of ice at the end. So in this case I ask for 2qts of water. Bring one quart of water to a boil and then at the end add one quart of ice (32oz of ice, measure by weight not by volume on ice).
The method that I use a lot is the ice wand cooling. I have a frozen gel pack that I have vacuum sealed that I toss into brine. The ice pack drops the temperature very quickly and I don’t have to recalculate recipes. The icepack works well with soups and stocks as well. Make sure to vacuum seal it very well, no need to have any of that funky blue liquid in those packs in the brine! When I am done cooling the brine I simply rinse off the plastic and return it to the freezer, easy.
Next place the meat in the room temperature brine and place brine in the fridge, covered. For a venison roast, 5 pounds or so, it takes 5-7 days to cure. For a goose breast, about 1 pound each, it only takes 2 days. So all things equal cure for a minimum of 2 days and then add one day per pound of meat. This is a rough estimate of time needed. Adjust as your own to your taste.
When the meat is cured I rinse it off and let it air dry on a rack. Then I add it to a vacuum bag with a little butter and seal it closed.
Next I place the vacuum packed meat into a crock-pot on low for about 24 hours. The low temperature cooks the meat gently and the yield is typically higher than if the meat is simply boiled.
When the meat is cooked, it should be nice and tender. Cool it down in the bag. This will allow some of the juices to reabsorb into the meat. When cool dice or slice the meat as you see fit.
Next brown the onions in a cast iron skillet with a little oil. Then add the cubed potatoes. Simmer the mix for 15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked. Then add the corned meat and heat. Toss in the fresh thyme and fresh sage. Season with salt a pepper. Add a little heat with a teaspoon of red chili flakes.
Serve with two eggs. This is a little slice of corned goose heaven.
This recipe also makes great meat for Ruben sandwiches. Also, feel free to simmer the goose with some more pickling spice, potatoes, carrots and cabbage for the Irish classic corned goose and cabbage.