PROCESSING TIPS FOR HARVESTING A LOT OF BIRDS!
PROCESSING TIPS FOR HARVESTING A LOT OF BIRDS!
Like any migratory gamebird, wanton waste, which means to intentionally waste, neglect, or use inappropriately, comes into play. The job of cleaning hundreds of birds can be daunting, but a production line of hunters can make short work of a mountain of snow goose meat. Few people pluck snows, and the birds are typically breasted. The legs and thighs are some of the best eating, so make sure to include them in the processing line. Hundreds of pounds of meat can accumulate, and here is the best way to process and prepare snows.
Use Sorting Totes
Sort the meat, making a meat tote for breasts with no shot holes. These will provide top-grade meat for unique recipes where whole breasts are required. Breasts with shot holes go into a second tote and can be dissected to remove feathers, shot, blood clots, and bruising. The second tote is for ground meat, so do not worry if there are smaller pieces, as they will all add up to clean ground protein in the end. A third meat tote can collect legs and thighs. Take the legs and thighs in good condition (in some states it is illegal not to process them), as they are versatile and delicious.
Using a brine on waterfowl helps to draw blood from the muscle, allowing you to see the difference in the color of meat before and after. Giving the harvested meat a short brine on cleaning day will allow them to go directly into a pot or onto the grill when it is time to put them to use. A salt and cold water bath for 20 to 30 minutes before rinsing and packaging, or further processing, will have the meat in good shape. Mix a quarter cup of salt for a gallon of ice-cold water to make the perfect short brine.
Freezer Care and Labeling
Any waterfowl needs to be washed and packaged in airtight butcher paper or bags for prolonged freezer life. Vacuum and chamber sealers work well, as they remove air which can cause freezer burn. Drip dry the goose meat or pat dry with a paper towel to reduce the risk of freezer burn further. Always put the species, specific cut of meat, and the date it was packaged. Knowing the specifics on any package makes it easy to have the right product to work with for any recipe.
Sorting the breasts when they are removed allows them to be cleaned and trimmed if required. Grinding the trimmed pieces opens the culinary door to new uses for snow geese. The minced meat can quickly be transformed into extruded jerky, but using ground goose for sausage or cooking recipes (substituting it for beef or pork) requires the addition of fat.
Ground goose is exceptionally lean, so mixing it with pork shoulder will add enough fat and moisture to provide more cooking options. A 50/50 blend of goose and pork makes excellent sausage, burgers, meatballs, meatloaf, chili, or anything else that would use ground meat. Regular ground beef can also be used to mix with ground goose.
The processed meat can be ground directly into burger bags that come in different sizes. Make a 10-pound chunk for a future batch of sausage or use one-pound bags for making a quick meal for the family. Snow goose pepperoni, breakfast, garlic, or Italian sausage is easy to make as well.
The pieces of trimmed goose meat can also be cold packed, and pressure canned. Canning meat was a necessity 100 years ago and is becoming a lost art. Canned goose is versatile for a quick meal, as the meat is extraordinarily tender and generates its own broth. Canned snow goose can be quickly heated up to eat on its own, or transformed into stroganoff, stew, or other quick meals. A jar of goose can be used like any canned meat to make sandwiches or heated up in the blind for a snack.
Goose can be cold-packed with a bit of salt or can include a medley of vegetables to fill the jars. Canning can free up valuable freezer space, so ask grandma if she still has a pressure canner in the basement and get a lesson on how to process wild game in jars.
It may seem hi-tech, but sous-vide is nothing more than a temperature-controlled water circulator. Vacuum seal goose breasts with some butter, garlic, and fresh herbs, then set the temperature to 125 degrees, and leave them in the water bath for three to four hours. Remove the breasts from the sealed package and sear one minute per side in a hot cast-iron frying pan. The snow goose will be tender and flavorful and rival any other types of wild goose at the table.
Get creative with your ingredients to flavor the goose, but always try to include butter or oil so they can be browned quickly on the grill or in a pan. The trick is to brown the breasts without cooking them anymore. A breast done at 125°F will be medium-rare, while one done to 135°F will be medium.
Corned meat makes excellent breakfast hash and Reuben sandwiches, and can be eaten hot with cabbage for special events, like St. Patrick’s Day. Corned beef is typically made from brisket, but goose breasts brine well, producing corned goose that will disappear quickly around any meat eater.
Corned goose is made by brining the breasts in a mixture of salt, pickling spices, cinnamon, garlic, and other savory ingredients for five to seven days. When the brine has fully penetrated the meat, the breasts are removed and rinsed well. The last step in the corning process is to boil the breasts with carrots, onions, and celery. Another option is to bake the breasts with the same vegetables but covered with a dark beer.
A similar brine to corning is used to make pastrami. The most significant difference is that the meat is smoked to finish pastrami, and there is often a glaze with cracked pepper and ground spices applied to the surface. Snow goose breasts are brined for a week, rinsed, and air-dried, then smoked to finish. The lean meat of a goose is ideal for pastrami that will keep well in the fridge, if friends or family do not find it first. Pastrami presents well on a charcuterie board and makes great sandwich meat, or a high-protein snack. Make lots and freeze any extra that won’t be consumed right away.
Goose bacon is a favorite at our house. Hi-Mountain Seasonings makes an Original Black Pepper and Brown Sugar Blend, and Buckboard Bacon cure that is easy to use. A tablespoon of cure per pound of meat transforms goose breasts in less than a week that can be smoked to 130 degrees to create lean bacon. Slice thin and brown quickly for a special treat with any meal where you’d enjoy bacon.
Legs and Thighs
Waterfowl hunters often overlook the legs and thighs of ducks and geese. The legs and thighs on snow geese are meaty, and when braised are excellent tablefare. Braising is cooking or simmering the meat in a liquid. A crockpot is ideal for braising goose legs and thighs to breakdown muscle groups. The finished meat is exceptionally tender and often falls off the bone. Waterfowl do not have the tiny bones in their legs like you find with many upland species, making them easier to eat.
Braised legs and thighs can be dry-rubbed or sauced to make them taste like a favorite chicken wing. Get creative and roast the legs in a tomato sauce or bone the meat and use the pieces to stuff manicotti.
Hearts and Gizzards
If you have a production line to deal with hundreds of birds, why not collect the hearts and gizzards while you are at it? Pickled hearts are great snacks and soaking them in a brine before grilling will produce hors d’oeuvres any hunting crew will devour.
Roasted gizzards in beef broth are a meal of its own. The solid muscle becomes tender in the cooking process and has a flavor and consistency of roast beef. The gizzards do need to be split and cleaned before cooking, as the bird uses this muscle, along with grit, to grind up seeds for its digestive system.