We have far more Canada and snow geese in the United States now than at the time of European contact, and hunters around the country are enjoying extremely heavy harvests.
More than ever, people are looking for interesting and novel approaches to cook these large birds. One of my favorites is goose leg confit, an ancient preparation in which goose (or duck) legs are cured in a dry brine and then preserved in fat.
While pork lard works handily, it’s more rewarding to save and render your own duck and goose fat. The ratio is not perfect, though, as it takes the fat from several geese to make confit with the legs of one. So if you do render your own fat, you may still need to supplement with pork lard.
Luckily, once the confit is all eaten, the fat can be reused.
- 1 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper
- Leaves of 3 sprigs fresh thyme, minced, or 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp. allspice
- 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
- 2 geese legs, bone in, skin removed
- 2 quarts rendered goose fat (see above; supplement with store-bought duck or goose fat or even pork lard if necessary)
Also works with
How to Render Goose or Duck Fat
- Cube the skin and place in a pot.
- Add any chunks of fat that you find inside the bird’s belly. Warm the fat to the melting point, then strain through a wire strainer.
- Place the strained fat back in the pot and cook over low heat until it quits sputtering.
- Pour the clear fat off into a freezable container, leaving any solids or residues in the bottom of the pot.
- It’ll keep for a year in the freezer, but use within 6 months for best flavor. (Of course, if you smell rancid odors or see mold, toss it.) It’s great for many uses, including frying potatoes.
Goose Leg Confit
- In a small bowl, make the curing mixture by combining the salt, sugar, pepper, thyme, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves.
- Place the goose legs in a baking dish and rub them with the mixture, making sure as much of the cure as possible adheres to the meat.
- Arrange the garlic slices over the meaty parts of the legs. Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-3 days to cure.
- When ready to cook, preheat oven to 225°.
- Take the goose legs out of the fridge and rinse thoroughly; discard the garlic cloves.
- Pat the legs dry with paper towels. In a small roasting pan or wide low-sided pot, melt the goose fat over medium-low heat.
- Add the goose legs. Be sure the fat covers the meat; if it does not, add a little more goose fat or lard.
- Cover the pot with foil or a lid and place it in the oven.
- Cook about 3 hours, checking occasionally toward the end of the cooking time, until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender.
- When it’s done, allow the goose legs to cool to room temperature while still in the fat.
- Transfer both meat and fat to a tall, narrow storage container.
- Make sure the meat is covered with the extra fat, then top it off with about 1/2 inch of oil, to ensure a good seal against air.
- Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 1 month.
- As you take out what you need, make sure the remainder is completely covered with fat and oil. (Alternatively, you can freeze in vacuum bags, with the extra fat, for up to 6 months.)
- When you’re ready to use the goose confit, pick the meat off the bone and either reheat it under the broiler or sear it in a sauté pan. It can be used to top salads, tossed with potatoes or pasta, or used in casseroles. Trust me, it just makes everything better.