A plump, pampered domestic goose may be the Dickensian ideal of a holiday meal, but its wild-caught brethren are quite a different story. Wild geese, especially Canada geese, are the well-muscled avian equivalent of a marathon runner. Their meat is richly flavored, but remains stubbornly tough when cooked. Turning the birds' breast meat into jerky neatly sidesteps that dilemma, capturing the flavor of the goose but masking the meat's chewiness.
Preparing the Breasts
Remove the breasts from the goose by first cutting along the keel bone, then slicing the slab of breast meat from the ribs with long strokes of a sharp boning knife. Pull the skin and its thick layer of fat from the surface of the breast, and use the knife tip to remove any remaining pockets of fat or gristle. The end of the breast will have a thin sheet of gray connective tissue, called silverskin, covering it. This must also be removed. Finally, slice the breast into strips roughly 1/4-inch thick. Slicing across the grain at a long diagonal makes the finished jerky easier to chew -- but if you like yours extra-chewy, slice the breast lengthwise, with the grain.
It's the marinade that determines the final flavor of your jerky, simultaneously moderating the gamey flavor of the goose and adding desirable, savory tastes. Most dilute soy and Worcestershire sauce -- both rich in umami-producing savory flavor compounds -- with water, then add salt, sugar and spices to taste. The salt plays an important role as a preservative, as well as a flavoring. A tablespoon of coarse kosher or pickling salt for every 1 1/2 pounds of goose is enough to inhibit spoilage without making the jerky unpalatably salty. Marinate the goose strips for at least 12 and up to 48 hours, before drying it.
Drying the Jerky
Remove the strips of goose from their marinade and blot them dry with paper towels; then arrange them on the dehydrator's racks. Dry the jerky at 140 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 to 10 hours, turning it at least once, until it's dry and leathery. If you don't have a dehydrator, preheat your oven to its lowest setting. Suspend the strips from the upper oven rack by piercing one end of each strip with a toothpick, and propping the toothpick across the rack's bars. Your jerky strips will dangle freely, as they would in a smokehouse. Alternatively, simply lay them across the rack's bars. In either case, set a sheet pan beneath the strips to catch any drips. Prop the oven door open for ventilation, and dry the strips for 6 to 8 hours until leathery.
Salting and drying the goose breast renders it reasonably impervious to spoilage, and it should remain safe for up to a month at room temperature or nearly indefinitely in the fridge. Unfortunately, dangerous bacteria such as E. coli can survive the jerky-making process unless you take extra steps. One is to add curing salt -- variously known as "pink salt," tinted curing mix or Prague powder -- to your marinade. This is the same preservative used commercially in hams and bacon, and it will leave your jerky food-safe. Alternatively, heat your finished jerky in the oven to a temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit, and then let it cool before storage. Some recipes suggest heating the jerky to 160 F before drying, but this alters its texture unnecessarily.
- Photo Credit bhofack2/iStock/Getty Images
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