The traditional Christmas goose is making a comeback, after being set aside in favor of meats that are cheaper and just as tasty.
It’s easy to roast — as easy as roasting a chicken, according to farmer Susie Kliese.
“And it’s delicious,” she said. “I brought one to a barbecue this summer and it was a hit. It was gone in seconds.”
The bird has tender, dark, fatty meat, which tastes more like beef than wild game. The only trouble is that it’s more expensive than almost any other type of meat.
Kliese sells her geese for no less than $10.75 a pound, and a good-sized goose is only eight to 15 pounds.
Most butchers say that’s only enough for a family of six to eight people. They say the smallest geese — 8 pounds — can serve no more than four people.
At La Serre in Albany, one of the few restaurants that serves goose, servings are even larger: an 18-pound goose serves no more than four people.
That means a goose dinner is only going to work for a small family.
And it’s two to three times the price of other Christmas meat, according to the butchers at The Meat House in Albany.
Considering all of that, it’s no wonder that goose fell out of favor.
“The majority [of Christmas dinners] are tenderloin roasts and prime rib roasts,” said Dean Holtby, the general manager of The Meat House. “Definitely the majority have moved to beef.”
He thinks people have simply forgotten how to prepare goose.
“People aren’t going by the traditional dinners. They’re used to turkey and beef,” he said. “I think goose faded out.”
Now, he said, people think beef “is an easier thing to prepare.”
But it’s coming back. The Meat House now stocks it, though it’s not a favorite, and Price Chopper sells a limited number of frozen geese each Christmas.
At Kliese’s farm, there’s a six-month waiting list for fresh goose.
“I cannot keep up with the demand,” she said. “If I had 20 or 30 geese, I could easily sell them.”
But it’s not easy. She raises free-range poultry at Susie’s Climax Creations in Climax, Greene County, so she would need more land if she wanted to raise more geese.
“It’s also a hard animal to grow. It takes six months,” she said.
Every goose she will raise between now and Easter has already been spoken for, she added.
She thinks goose went out of favor because people feared the grease. A goose must be roasted in a rack above a drip pan to keep it from swimming in grease as it’s cooked.
“I think everyone was brainwashed to stay away from animal grease,” she said.
But somehow, people have changed their minds. And as soon as they taste it, she said, they want more — no matter what it costs or how long in advance they must order it.
“The people who want it don’t care,” she said. “It’s a special meal.”
And, she argues, it’s easy to roast.
“You can go as simple or as fancy as you want. You can baste it or not,” she said. “It’s very simple to prepare. You can stuff it with anything. It’s very easy.”
The goose fat also vastly improves the taste of anything that needs lard, from pie crusts to roasting potatoes, she said.
“I save the grease. It’s like gold,” she said. “And it’s delicious.”
At La Serre, chefs go through about 160 geese every Christmas season.
Owner Anne Trimble said the meal has become well-known among foodies. Every year, it’s featured in upscale-cooking magazines for the holidays, she said.
“We have a lot of customers who come in every year for it,” she said. “It’s a very seasonal and festive dish.”
She added that although it’s game, it isn’t gamey.
“If it’s prepared properly, it shouldn’t be tough,” she said.
And it’s her favorite.
“I look forward to it. For me, I’m having goose at least twice,” she said. “It’s Christmas. It’s the Christmas goose. There’s no doubt.”