Plucking Our Christmas Dinner

Goose is not an everyday kind of food. Some find it too greasy to eat, but others love it because of the oils.

I like it because it is all dark meat. I have never really been partial to the white meat of chickens or turkeys.

All summer they eat grass, but in the fall, geese naturally start to gorge on grains. Instinctively, they know they need the extra fat stores to keep warm in the winter or to fly long distances if they migrate.

Domestic geese are too heavy to fly, so they can’t migrate, but they still feel the need to store up fat for the winter.

Last winter, our geese must have been very warm. They wouldn’t go into their house until it got to -40 or close to it. Even when a wind came up, they seemed to revel in it instead of looking for shelter.

The hardiness of geese is very attractive in a meat bird. They are easy to raise – they eat grasses along with turnip tops, cabbages and parsnips. Commercial feeds aren’t necessary.

Ravens don’t bother them once they are fully grown and even dogs are wary.

The only drawback is they are difficult to pluck.

It was windy the day we butchered the geese. Not all of them, mind you, just three. But even with three there was lots of work to do.

Waterfowl have a larger number of feathers than land birds such as chickens or turkeys. They also have a higher content of oils in their skins to make their feathers waterproof. This also makes plucking them very difficult.

We have, over the years, tried several different methods. The worst was when we butchered them the same day as our turkeys. I won’t do that again.

Once scalded, the oils greased up the skin and feathers, it was next to impossible to get the smaller, downy feathers plucked off. The oils that stayed in the scalding water seemed to coat the turkeys as well.

This year we tried dry-plucking them. We didn’t scald them at all, just started to pluck once they were killed. Other than the cold and the feathers being blown back into our faces by the wind, it seemed to work quite well. It was time consuming, though, so it was a good thing we weren’t doing very many.

I wanted to save the down so I placed a clean garbage bag on the windward side of us, hoping the feathers would not blow out of it.

The down seemed to levitate… around our faces mostly. There is nothing more annoying than a feather stuck to the end of your nose while the wind twitches it ever so slightly – unless it’s one that gets stuck in your eye.

We brushed them away, but more often we exchanged one feather for another, placed in a slightly different location on our faces. It seemed to be a losing battle.

With some determination, the job isn’t too bad. What we couldn’t get off with our cold, tired, cramping fingers, we decided to singe off. After that, it took no time at all to complete the job of cleaning the goose.

Now, I have a goose for Christmas dinner, and that seems to make all the work worth it.

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