When I think back on Christmas memories from my childhood, I remember a multitude of locations and experiences shared across the globe. My sisters and I traveled back and forth between our parents homes each holiday. One year we’d spend Christmas in Hawaii with our mom, the next in California with our dad, brother and stepmom, then Arizona with my mom and grandparents, even North Carolina with my aunt, uncle and cousins. Yet through all the back and forth, the one memory that I consistently associate with Christmas is my mother’s Roast Christmas Goose. My grandfather on my mother’s side (“Gampy” as we called him affectionately) could not eat turkey, so my mom would always prepare this glorious dark meat bird in the gobbler’s place.
My mother was a vivacious, passionate woman who enjoyed taking in all life’s experiences. She played in symphonies growing up, traveled throughout Europe in college with her quartet group, moved to a new state at the drop of a hat to pursue her dreams. Music was her first love: she played all string instruments but her specialty was violin. Exotic travel locations, fancy clothes and especially decadent, flavorful food were her companions. Following along the same path, Christmas was a day to celebrate in all its grandiosity. Not normally a fan of eating in, my mother made an exception on December 25th and embraced the festivus season with enthusiasm. Ornately decorated linens filled the house and countertops, holiday china with deep red poinsettias and green garland engravings dressed the table, crystal goblets served champagne and apple cider, and in the middle of it all was of course, the goose. I never got the chance to receive my mom’s famous recipe for this delectable bird, but I do remember the sight of its golden, glistening skin, the sweet aroma of apples and fresh herbs, the rich taste of dark meat upon my tongue, and the feeling of supreme contentment at the end of the meal.
It has been 16 years since I’ve tasted my mother’s roast goose, yet my memory of it is still very present in my 29 year old body and appetite. You see, a couple years after our last Roast Christmas Goose my mother was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, so her days of violin-playing, globe-trotting and especially feast preparing were unfortunately cut short. I remember the way my mom could captivate a crowd with a passionate Vivaldi concerto, how she’d delight your palate with her famous beef stroganoff, excite your ears singing in perfect pitch any of the hundreds of musical pieces she’d learned over the years, or bring a smile to your face with her contagious laugh. That is how I remember my mother today. I returned to Los Angeles earlier than planned this holiday because her condition has taken a turn for the worse and we are all preparing for what has been a long time coming.
Over the last couple days I’ve been thinking of the holidays and what they really mean to me. I’ve thought of my loved ones, my dear friends, my caring family, and the memories I’ve been lucky enough to share with all of them over the past decades. I realized slowly that what Christmas means to me is not just preserving these memories, but building new, positive ones on top of them. So it seems only fitting, that in perhaps my mother’s final Christmas, I take on the reins from her and prepare my first Christmas Goose in her honor. I’ve looked at many different recipes, trying to find the one that rings most familiar. I think I’ve merged a few recipes together and hope that the bird turns out as tasty and beautiful as I remember my mom making it. This one’s for you, Mom. Happy Holidays to all, I hope you enjoy.
Recipe: Roast Christmas Goose
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours
1) Where to buy a goose? I bought mine at Gelson’s and heard that Whole Foods and Hillshire Farms also have it during the holidays. Just a note – goose is not a cheap dinner option. My 12 pound goose was $8 a pound, so be prepared to spend about $100 on just the bird.
2) Overnight brining is the key to this recipe. The result is a moist bird infused with boatloads of flavour.
3) Filling the cavity with fruit not only enhances the natural taste of the goose, it also fills your kitchen with the sweet smells.
4) Don’t forget to prick the skin to ensure your bird has a crispy skin.
- 1 1/2 gallon cold water
- 1 cup kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 (10-12 pound) young goose, fully thawed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 Thyme sprig
- 1 Parsley sprig
- 1 apple, peeled and quartered
- 1 onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 stalks celery, cut into 2 inch pieces
- 1 orange, quartered
- 1 lemon, quartered
- Add the 1 1/2 gallons of cold water to a container, or stockpot large enough to fit the goose and brine mixture. Add the salt, sugar, bay leaves, and peppercorns, and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Unwrap the goose and remove anything in the cavity. Rinse and trim any excess fat from the neck and/or tail end of the goose and place into the brine so that it is completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or up to 24 hours.
- Remove the goose from the brine and pat dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Sprinkle the goose cavity generously with salt and pepper and rub on inside and outside of bird. Put the onion, apple, orange, celery, thyme, parsley and lemon into the cavity. Place the goose, breast-side up, in a large shallow roasting pan with rack, to keep the bird at least 1 inch off the bottom.
- With a small sharp knife, or large needle, prick the goose skin all-over, especially where you can see and feel fat under the surface. Be careful NOT to pierce the flesh, only the skin and fat. This will allow the fat to drain during the cooking and make for a crisper skin. Salt and pepper the goose to taste, and add 2 cups of water into the bottom of the pan.
- Roast at 350 degrees F. for 2 1/4 to 3 hours, until it reaches an internal temperature of 185 degrees F. Baste with pan juices every 20-30 minutes. Remove from oven and cover loosely with foil and let rest for at least 25 minutes before carving.