When I set out to start a blog about learning to hunt, fish, forage, and farm in Colorado it was driven largely by a need for change. I’d spent the last six years as a firefighter and really felt like I needed to get out of that business. I loved my time as a firefighter–it is a job full of travel and adventure and it pays you good money for working really hard half the year, leaving the other half free to do whatever you desire. But over the summer there really isn’t time for anything else. You can’t ever make plans more than a few days out, and even then you might have to cancel them. Because missing a fire assignment means several thousand dollars of lost income. For years I dreamed about what it would be like to have a summer again. I could go camping with my friends, I could fish and have a garden. I could have a stable relationship where I wasn’t asking my girlfriend to be okay with me disappearing all summer into areas where I wasn’t likely to be able to even get a text out. All these things eventually added up and I decided it was time to go.
But leaving fire wasn’t easy. Over those six years I came to really define myself by the job and its requirements. Fitness became everything. I learned to be very organized, to always be looking for ways to assist the people around me. And I began to take a great pride in that work. Everyone respects firefighters, and that easy respect is hard to give up. It took me a few months to start letting go of that.
I am writing all of this to color how important my first goose was for me. I was and am in a period of great change in my life, trying to find a new path. Part of that path is this blog, where I teach myself to grow and gather food, skills that are not easy to cultivate. I had not shared this change with many people, but here was the opportunity: my 30th birthday. Seeing as I was turning into an old man, I decided not to throw a rager. Instead I would host a dinner party where I roasted a goose that I killed.
The goose came at sunset on the last hunt before my party. It was as a gift from the gods, the flock landing in the field just next to me after two long days in the field. I returned home with great pride that night. I had chosen a new path and I was taking my first uncertain steps.
1 plucked goose, around 10 lbs.
3 celery stalks
1 large carrot
1 medium white onion
4 cloves of garlic, smashed
½ cup dry white wine
Herbs de Provence
Salt + Pepper
Preheat the oven to 350.
Rinse the plucked goose inside and out and pat dry. Make sure to cut out the extra packets of fat just inside the cavity, as these can be rendered and used for roasting excellent potatoes.
Coat the goose liberally both inside and out with salt, pepper, and herbs de provence. Smash the garlic cloves, roughly chop the celery, carrot, and onion, and put these in the cavity. Rub a little olive oil over the top of the breast and legs. If you have a particularly fat goose, you may want to pierce the skin of the breast in number of places to let it baste itself as it roasts. Many wild geese will be too lean for this and should be treated more like a turkey, basted from drippings and with white wine.
Place the goose on a rack in a large roasting pan and pop it in the oven. Once some drippings have collected in the roasting pan, pour in the white wine. Use this mixture to periodically baste the goose.
Check the internal temperature periodically with a meat thermometer in the thigh or breast Geese are cooked at 165 degrees. They can become quite tough if overdone, so err on the side of pulling the goose out early. Internal temperature will often rise 5 degrees after the bird is taken out of the oven.
Goose Fat Potatoes
2 good packets of goose fat
6-8 medium yukon gold or red potatoes
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Salt + Pepper
Rendering the fat: take the packets that you removed from just inside the cavity of the goose and place them in a pan over low heat. The fat will slowly melt away and become liquid. That’s all there really is to it. So long as you keep the heat low, it will not pop or spray oil. For this recipe, throw a couple sprigs of rosemary in the pan as well, the flavor will infuse into the oil as it renders.
Potatoes: cut the potatoes into roughly one inch cubes. Once the fat is rendered, toss them in the pan and coat them with that delicious goose fat. Add a liberal amount of salt and pepper (it’s tough to over-salt roasted potatoes). If you want, you can also chop a bit more rosemary and sprinkle it in with the salt and pepper.
Toss this pan in the oven with your goose for around 45-60 minutes. You can’t really overdo roast potatoes, so err on the longer side. The crispier and browner they get, the better.
Those delicious goose drippings
2 tbsp arrowroot powder for each cup of drippings
4 cups chicken stock (or goose if you have it)
Salt + Pepper
Pour the drippings into a saucepan over medium heat. Add the arrowroot powder slowly, stirring frequently. This should start to congeal a bit. Then begin adding the stock a bit at a time, to ensure that you do not add too much. Stir frequently through this process. When you reach the desired consistency, add salt and pepper to taste. Remember that as the gravy cools it will thicken, so opt for a thinner gravy than you want in the pan. Arrowroot can turn your gravy to the consistency of snot if you add too much.