Disclaimer: This post about the killing and butchering of three glorified pets, so it's gonna have three parts, one with the emotion and the moral of the story, one with the facts and instructions on butchering, and one with some good food. Feel free to skip bits or the whole thing all together.
This past weekend my mum and I killed and butchered three out of my five geese. It was, unfortunately, a job which needed to be done; months ago I found out that four of my five beloved birds were male, and that I would only get to keep one gander. This weekend was also likely to be the last of the warm spells to occur before winter set in, so it was the only chance to butcher before spring and breeding season came around next year.
I think that this weekend was the hardest of my life. These geese had been my first, and I had loved them so much from day one. I had been betting on there being a female, because with four birds the odds were pretty good, and so I let myself love them. I lost that bet.
I should specify that I had two hatches of geese this past spring. The first consisted of four little grey Toulouse goslings who got to live in our dinning room until the weather warmed enough for them to go outside. The second hatch only yielded one gosling, a white Embden who we named Tintin, because when she was little she had this cowlick at the top of her head that reminded us of the comic character. The four Toulouse came several months before Tintin, and so I bonded with them the most. Unfortunately, all four of them turned out to be males, though I am glad to have one female in Tintin.
Despite the fact that I loved them, I had to get rid of three, because I was not going to have four barbed and corkscrewed penises ganging up on my one and only girl. That is just one of those things that one woman doesn't let another be exposed to. Also, when it comes to giving male poultry away, especially online, those birds basically act as free food, and so I wasn't going to do that, because if anyone's going to eat the creatures that I had loved and raised for so long, I'd be damned if it wasn't me.
So we killed them, and then butchered their carcasses for later meals to come. And already I miss them. There is a distinct lack of chorus noise now when I open the door to release Tintin and the remaining Gander, whom we have dubbed Willy.
At the same time, I knew from day one, the day I started to love these creatures, that I would not get to keep all of them. And so I enjoyed every moment I had with them, and now, with them gone, I have a whole repertoire of amazing moments with my birds that I can look back on. It doesn't lessen the pain, it makes it worse most of the time, but I respected and loved these creatures, and I want to do them the honour of remembering that joy.
The whole moral of this story is that you need to enjoy the good times. As Jenny Lawson put it, "Enjoy the non-shitty things now because shitty things are coming." Life is bittersweet, no matter how you spin it, so make sure you enjoy the sweetness.
And now, with all that emotion bubbling up, lets cut up some bodies.
I am not going to talk about how we killed the geese. This was our first time, and so I do not really have any solid info to give, except that a gun is less awful in my opinion than a pair of garden clippers, which was the best recommendation the internet offered.
So, once the birds were dead and had been drained of blood, I started the process of butchering with dismemberment. The feet, wings, and head all came off, making sure to cut at the joints to prevent unnecessary difficulties and waste. I put the wings aside for later processing.
Skinning was the method we chose to prepare the birds, rather than plucking, since pulling the feathers out is a ridiculously tedious, messy, and time consuming task. To skin, I started by flipping the bird onto its back and slicing from the opening at the neck, from where the head was, down along the breast bone to the vent, being careful not to puncture the intestine. Then I just peeled the skin back from the muscle, slicing the membrane to keep everything neat and tidy, until the only spot where it was connected to the body was around the vent and tail area. As a basic guide, I skinned the chest side first, flipped the bird, and moved down the spine from the neck to the feet, stopping when I encountered the oil glands at the base of the tail.
At that point, I chopped all the excess skin off of the body, just so that it wouldn't be in the way, leaving the tail and surrounding vent skin intact. I then proceeded to gut the carcass, a process which was very similar to that of a chicken, but a lot easier because of the extra hand space. I ended the gutting by cutting off the tail, oil glands, and vent in one piece, so that there were no more feathers or intestines left on the body.
The intestines were discarded for the most part. I took cares to save the fat, since we've got a lot of ideas on how to use that, and the livers were set aside, but we don't particularly favour any of the other goods, and so they were put to the compost.
My family prefers to cook with bits and bobs ;) of animal carcasses, rather than whole ones, so at this point the bird came inside for another round of butchering. For all three birds, the breasts and thighs came off, and the remaining rib cage and neck was deposited in a pot to cook down into stew. I also went back to those wings, severed the first joint, and skinned it, to reveal a pretty decent quantity of good meat.
In the end we gained about 15 lbs. of butchered meat, which I'm looking forward to for Christmas, as well as two massive pots of stunning broth. On the whole, three geese provided quite a bit, and I'm extremely pleased with the haul.
Here's about all the good stuff we've done with some of the goose products to date.
I made a soup which used the broth made from the goose carcasses, and it was amazing. I sautéd an onion until it was lovely and caramelized, threw in about a cup of cooked brown rice, drowned it all in broth, deposited chopped spinach, and crushed a large clove of garlic. Then I stirred in a bit of salt and went to town. That soup made my tastebuds so, so happy, and all the ingredients came from leftovers and stuff we had lying around. So good.
Every evening for the past week I have been salivating at the thought of popcorn for dinner. I didn't give into my cravings much, but they were still there, and hopefully that will convince you that I'm not some health nut when I say that I put nutritional yeast on my popcorn.
For a single batch of popcorn, about 1/2 a cup of kernels, here is what I did:
- Popped the corn.
- Melted aprox. 3 tbs of butter with a few (3) tbs of goose fat, allowing it to clarify and brown. I've found that clarifying it (cooking the butter till it's clear, and there are no proteins left) makes for less soggy popcorn, which I like.
- Drizzled the fat over the popcorn, tossed it all together, and repeated till there's no fat left.
- Sprinkled salt and nutritional yeast over the popcorn, tossed, tasted, and repeated till the flavour is satisfactory.
- Ate every single piece of popcorn.
That's all this time, thanks for tuning in! Check in soon for my specially crafted empire cookie recipe!