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advice on butchering geese?

 
Will Holland
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Does anybody have advice on butchering geese? I'm getting ready to dispatch mine. I've done lots of chickens, squirrels, woodchucks, rabbits and deer, but not geese. Thanks
 
Ann Torrence
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Following along. We have our first batch scheduled for the 24th of October. The only useful thing I've read is to try to do it in between molts if you are raising goslings. And I'm looking forward to making confit for the winter.
 
Will Holland
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So I dug through some resources I had here at home, mostly Hank Shaw's wonderful and gorgeous Duck, Duck Goose cookbook and I've decided to dispatch and hang my birds, and then dry pluck them one by one as time allows. I'm hoping to dispatch the geese sooner rather than later cuz I'm ready for that project to be over. I will continue to update my process in this thread.
 
Will Holland
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The plan is to go through with this tomorrow. I'll post more details after it's done, and hopefully some pictures.
 
Mike Cantrell
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I've done some. I found it not remotely with the trouble to pluck them.

Just skin the bastards.

Trying to scald a carcass that large and that waterproof is about hopeless, and they're STILL unbelievably fatty and delicious with the skin gone, so just skin them. Don't pluck 'em.


As far as dispatching, I catch them, straddle them, and cut the head off. The animal's only scared for a moment and has basically no time to feel anything.

(Don't even think about wringing them like chickens. They're completely different. You may have thought gooseneck trailers got that name because of the curved-over shape, but it's actually because a goose's neck is so strong you could tow something behind your truck with it. Not wringable. Use a knife.)
 
Will Holland
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Ok, geese are dead. We're dry ageing them in the fridge and planning to dry pluck them starting on Sunday.
20151009_185229.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20151009_185229.jpg]
 
R Ranson
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I'm curious how the feathers will be to pluck when it's dry.

I think, the best way to pluck a goose is to get a whole lot of friends to do it for you. My experience processing geese from live to dinner

We plucked them dry and it wasn't that much more difficult than doing a chicken wet. The down and feathers were saved for pillow stuffing. The flight feathers went to the fletcher and quill maker, and the meat we cooked up to make yummy dinner. I think wet plucking would make it more difficult to separate down and feathers for future use - but that's just me.

One goose we skinned and then cured the skin with the feathers on to make a vest for a kid.


For practical, quicker method. My neighbour takes the wings off at the first joint (first joint from the body), then plucks the bird by hand, no hot water or anything... sometimes while still alive which grosses me out, but to each their own. It just takes a bit of practice to get the right muscle memory and then it's quite quick to pluck the bird.
 
Will Holland
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Great blog post, R. I really liked the carcass picture. I can't wait to eat my geese!
 
Mike Cantrell
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R Ranson wrote:
sometimes while still alive which grosses me out,


That is seriously uncool.
>
 
Will Holland
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For the dispatch, we set up a heavy ladder in the garage with a rope with a loop in the end and a bucket for the blood underneath. We also prepped a feed bag with a hole cut in the bottom big enough to get a goose head through.

We grabbed the birds one at a time, fed it's head through the hole and dropped the goose into the sack, holding its feet, and strung it up. My wife held the bag with the goose in it to keep it from spinning or swaying. Then I'd grab it by the neck, hold its bill closed and slit from ear to ear.

I tried a couple things that did NOT work.

The first was bopping the goose to stun it before slitting. I found bopping to be ineffective, and it was just as easy without bopping

The second was not holding the head into the blood bucket. The first goose lifted its head up and swayed around and tried to bite. It was just reflexes, but it was pretty unsettling.

So, after I made the cut, with one hand, I held the neck and with the other hand I held the bill closed and aimed the blood stream into the bucket. The feed bag really helped to control the wing flapping and avoid bruising or breaking of the wings.

Then we'd let them drip out a bit, and then I had another bucket of water that I dunked the birds on to clean off poop or blood that was on the bird from being inside the sack. After that we strung them up in the fridge.

I'll post more about plucking when we get to that step.

 
Will Holland
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So far, we've plucked 3 birds. My wife and I each dry picked one bird. This is definitely the best way to save feathers, but it was slow going and hard to end up with a clean looking goose. We singed the last of the pin feathers and down off. This method is slow and messy, but doesn't require a lot of set up or equipment.

Next I tried wax picking. I used a big stock pot and some paraffin wax. I dry picked the outer feathers because I really wanted the wax to take care of the down for me. The wax took a long time to heat up, and the initial pick only took me 30 minutes. My stock pot was a little small for the goose nut I made do. The wax did a great job of cleaning the bird, but it was hard to get the last bits and fragments off. The result was a much nicer looking carcass, but I might end up eating a bit of wax.

Since I still have more geese to pluck and I don't use the stock pot often, I left the wax on the pot for later use. I'm planning to wax pick the remainder of the geese.
 
Ann Torrence
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We butchered 2 last weekend, wet plucked, wasn't that hard. Have made rillettes with the dark meat, and will be cutting medallions from the breast of one for a risotto tonight. The backs, necks and organs made 3/4 gallons of stock.

The next recipe to try is goose prosciutto. When I see recipes like that I forget that gluttony is a sin.
 
Will Holland
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Ann, I'm gonna make that prosciutto too! Hank Shaw's recipes are killer!
 
Ann Torrence
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I forgot to say that we wet-plucked, and the thing is: don't forget the dish soap in the scalding water to 1) break through the oils, and 2) make the pot easier to clean afterwards. We used our 20+ qt pressure canner, but the galvanized wash tub would have been better, if I'd remember to get it out. The one I have to ice drinks for parties.
 
Wes Hunter
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This comes a bit late, perhaps, but it can always be used for this year's batch.

For starters, it is a travesty to skin a bird. Plucking is always worth it. Skinning is for people who don't like food (don't take that too seriously).

Dry plucking is fine for a handful of birds. A bit tedious, but it's nice down (ha!) time. I'd love to find a way to profitably dry pluck on a small commercial scale (upwards of 1000 birds spread over an 8-month time period), but so far I've been relegated to scalding and wet plucking.

With the scald, time and temperature are everything. I've found that 160 degrees F for 2 minutes just about nails it. (The same holds true for ducks, especially Muscovies.). For what it's worth, I skip the soap. I don't even wash my dishes with Dawn, so heaven help me if I'm going to eat it. Be sure to keep the bird submerged for the duration, but also keep it agitated and moving around a bit. This requires, clearly, quite a large pot; I use a 9-gallon stainless steel one initially purchased for home brewing. If hand plucking you need to be quick, and re-dipping may be necessary--especially in cold weather when the carcasses cool quickly. If using a tub-style plucker, expect to have to hand pluck the armpits and on the back between the shoulders. If you timed it right (or just got lucky) you won't have to deal with too much down.

Wet plucking will change the dynamics of hanging/aging, if you opt to go that route. When dry plucking, you can dispatch the bird and hang it however long you like, since the feathers prevent the skin from drying out. With wet plucking, you have to pluck as soon as the bird is killed, since you cannot successfully wet pluck a hung animal (per a few trusted secondhand sources). But you still ought to be able to hang a plucked goose in the fridge for a good two to three days, and perhaps longer if you wrap it in muslin to check the drying. If you hang the goose undrawn, you might consider hanging it by the feet to allow any accumulating gasses to escape upward through the vent. (That's a tip gleaned from the comments on Hank Shaw's website.). The downside is that a hung, cool bird is more difficult to eviscerate than a fresh, warm one. I don't know that there's a particularly wonderful gastronomic advantage to hanging a bird undrawn, unless you're hanging for quite a long time or your taste buds are much more adept at picking up nuance than mine.
 
Andy Moffatt
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I was only ever taught dry plucking, usually done the next day when the bird was cold for wild ducks, geese and turkeys. Its just practice, thumb and forefinger full of feathers and pull straight back against the way the feathers point.
Only takes about 5 minutes per small bird if that, a bit longer for an old goose.
 
Wes Hunter
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Andy Moffatt wrote:I was only ever taught dry plucking, usually done the next day when the bird was cold for wild ducks, geese and turkeys. Its just practice, thumb and forefinger full of feathers and pull straight back against the way the feathers point.
Only takes about 5 minutes per small bird if that, a bit longer for an old goose.


I would absolutely love to see someone dry pluck a bird in 5 minutes--without ripping off chunks of skin. Maybe, maybe, if you're just plucking the breast and legs. I am by no means an expert, but a chicken consistently takes me 30 minutes, a duck 45 minutes. Recently killed or next day, doesn't matter.

Many of the old poultry books talk about piercing the brain and "rough plucking" a bird, then removing the pin feathers and singeing the remaining hairs. I believe I recall one book saying two men could process 10 birds an hour this way. I've tried this a few times, to no avail, and I've read others (Harvey Ussery comes to mind) who have had the same results.

Is this a lost art, or was it all overstated in the first place? Until I see someone (really, multiple someones) who dry plucks that quickly, routinely, I have two assume the latter.
 
Andy Moffatt
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Duck shooting opening is the first weekend of may here, I'll time it and let you know. I full pluck to the first wing joint pin feathers too and singe the whole lot after plucking everything. Up to 30 ducks on a good opening weekend
 
Heather Ahrens
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I steam my water fowl, prior to plucking them. This makes the removal of outside guard feathers an easy task while leaving the down dry.
This is done by placing a very large pot about 1/2 full of water on to boil. Drap burlap over the pot and secure it to the handles. Be careful not to get the burlap wet. Then place the bird on the burlap allowing it to rest on the burlap, yet never really letting go of the bird. Steam one area for a few minutes, check if feathers are loose, if so move to new area, if not resteam. Continue, steaming, checking, resteaming until all feathers are easy to remove with light pull. The wings and tail will need the most steam, breast and back area much less. Careful not to over steam or sick will rip out with down.
 
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