The Whole Goose

Whole Goose:
A whole roast goose makes a grand main course for a festive meal. The bird is 100 percent dark meat, richer than turkey and more flavorful. The leg meat is particularly luscious, and the breast, roasted and sliced across the grain, is reminiscent of steak. See the recipe for Christmas Goose with Stuffing » Back To: The Whole Goose: A Guide To Cooking With Goose »Todd Coleman

Before the turkey supplanted it in the 19th century, the goose was the bird of choice for festive holiday meals (see The Glories of Goose). Even today, the way geese are raised harks back to another era. Schiltz Goose Farms in Sisseton, South Dakota, accounts for 90 percent of the goose meat produced commercially in the U.S., though the scale we're talking about is minuscule compared with the typical turkey or chicken producer. Unlike those birds, geese have never been raised in close confinement; Schiltz, a family-run operation founded in the 1940s, provides plenty of room to roam. "The geese are just happier that way," says owner Jim Schiltz. And while chickens are butchered year-round, goose farming hews to the natural life cycle of the bird. Eggs are laid in the spring. In June, the flock leaves the hatchery to spend the summer outdoors, noshing on fresh grass and corn. By late October, the geese are ready for slaughter. In the kitchen, goose is a gift that keeps on giving: The meat is rich and flavorful, and each part of the bird can be put to use in different preparations. Below, tips from Jim Schiltz on how to use every last bit, whether you're buying a whole goose or individual parts sold separately.