This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
"The flesh of Goose (Anser)," declared The London Pharmacopoeia (1696), "is exceedingly hard of digestion, but being digested nourishes well; the liver is of great nutriment; the grease is exceeding hot, and of thin parts, piercing, and dissolving." Goose-grease (Adeps anseris) got from a roasted Goose is highly emollient, and very useful in clysters; this readily proves emetic. It is chiefly, however, to the liver of Geese artificially fattened for its adipose enlargement (this liver being mixed by foreign confectioners with truffles, and various condiments) regard may be had for helping patients who are atrophied, and wasted. Constant heat, and deprivation from water, or exercise, develop enormously the fatness, and size of the Goose liver, it being a curious fact that charcoal powder helps materially towards producing this excessive growth of the said liver in size. At Alsace a trough of water, in which pieces of wood charcoal remain to steep, is placed in front of the Geese under treatment. Liebig taught that charcoal powder will so hypertrophize the Goose's liver as to cause finally the death of the bird; by this fatty degeneration the liver becomes surcharged with a phosphoric oil.
Geese livers in pates, and in terrines, with truffles, are now consumed all over Europe. When the birds are considered ripe enough of liver enlargement, they are killed, and the livers are taken to the truffling house. Meantime the carcases, shrivelled out of all knowledge, are sold for about one shilling apiece to the peasants, who make soup of them. The next step is to take each liver (from two to three pounds in weight), and to lard it with truffles, half a pound of truffles to a pound of liver; then to convey it to an icehouse, where it must remain on a marble slab for a week so that the truffle-perfume may thoroughly permeate its structure. At the end of a week each liver, being removed, is cut into the size required for the pot which it is to fill, and introduced into that pot between two thin layers of mincemeat made of the finest veal, and bacon fat, both truffled with the liver itself; and one inch depth of the whitest lard is then spread over the whole so that none of the savour may escape in baking, which process takes about five hours, the fire being carefully regulated. Nothing remains afterwards but to pack the dainty, either in earthenware, wood, or tin.
With the livers of Ferrara Geese fattened to excess, "exquisite as the food was, did Heliogabalus" (as Smollett relates, in Peregrine Pickle) "regale his hounds." Macaulay has said in his essay about Horace Walpole: "His writings rank as high among the delicacies of intellectual epicures as the Strasburg pies among the dishes described in the Almanack des Gourmands. But as the Pate"de foie gras owes its excellence to the diseases of the wretched animal which furnishes it, and would be good for nothing if it were not made of livers praeter-naturally swollen, so none but an unhealthy, and disorganized mind could have produced such literary luxuries as the works of Walpole".
Mahometans, and Jews who abjure the use of lard, find in countries where butter is scarce a substitute for it in Goose-fat, clarified, and made excellent of taste. Goose oil has long been a popular remedy of sovereign use externally for croup, or a swollen throat. The whimsical version of "Old Father William," by Alice, to the Caterpillar, in Wonderland, runs thus:-
"' You are old,' said the youth, "and your jaws are too weak For anything tougher than suet; Yet you finished the goose, with the bones, and the beak; Pray, how did you manage to do it? '
"' In my youth,' said his father, ' I took to the law, And argued each case with my wife; And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw, Has lasted the rest of my life.' "
To prevent indigestion from the richness of a Goose, after cleaning, and trussing it for roasting, rub it all over (inside and out) with coarse kitchen salt; then put into the bird's inside two large handfuls of salt; get a basket woven loosely enough at its bottom to let the salt drop through into a pan put underneath; hang up the bird thus prepared in a cool place over the pan to catch the salt, and let it remain like this for three days; then before cooking wash the Goose thoroughly from the salt, and all the coarse, fatty material comes away in the water, whilst the bird's flesh will prove as tender, and delicate as that of a. turkey. The male Goose is known as a Gander (and a "Goosey Gander" means a blockhead); young Geese are Goslings, which are called green Geese until about four months old; these were formerly eaten with raisin, or crab-apple sauce. Kate Wiggin, in her Diary of a Goose-girl, recounts certain characteristics of the bird. "As to going to roost, ducks, and Geese, unlike hens, whose intelligence prompts them to go to bed at a virtuous hour of their own accord, have to be practically assisted, or, I believe, they would roam the streets until morning.
Never did small boy detest, or resist being carried off to his nursery as these dullards, young and old, detest, and resist being borne off to theirs".
"An ortolan is good to eat,
A partridge is of use; But these are scarce, whereas you meet At Paris, ay! in every street,
A goose! "
And yet, as saith an old proverb, "A Goosequill (pen) may be more dangerous than a lion's claw;" though "le moineau en la main vaut mieux que l'oie qui vole." "A sparrow in the hand is worth more than a goose on the wing".
During the days of middle England, Goose was eaten pickled with cloves, and ginger. The fowl is rich in fat. "This fat," as Lemery taught (1674), "eases the piles; and those parts of the body which are troubled by rheumatism should be rubbed therewith." As is commonly known, sage and onions are the usual condiments for stuffing a Goose. That the use of applesauce with roast Goose is an old custom can be proved by a reference to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet: "Thy wit is a very bitter sweeting" (i.e., a sweet apple) "it is a most sharp sauce, and is it not well served with a sweet Goose?" In the fourteenth century a Goose was often stuffed by Italian cooks with garlic, and quinces. The Germans fill this bird with apples, and chestnuts, and serve it with red cabbage. On July 3rd, Lord's-day (1664), Pepys, as his Diary tells, "went to dinner where the remains of yesterday's venison, and a couple of brave green Geese, we were fain to eat alone, because they will not keep, which troubled us." For a vegetarian dish, "Savoury Goose," soak half a pound of brown haricot beans for six or eight hours, boil them till tender, and rub through a wire sieve; peel, and chop coarsely three onions, and fry these in butter; mix together the beans, and onions, and add half a pound of bread-crumbs, two ounces of butter, two tablespoonfuls of finely-chopped sage, four raw eggs beaten up, and salt, and pepper to taste.
Grease a basin, and pour in the mixture, cover with buttered paper, and steam for two hours; turn it out, and allow it to become cold, and to set. Flour a board, and cut into slices of two fingers' breadth, and an inch thick; dip each into beaten-up egg, sprinkle all the sides with finely-crushed brown breadcrumbs, and fry a golden brown. Serve with brown gravy (made with fried onion, lemon-juice, brown sugar, cornflour, and water, boiled together), and apple-sauce.
Gastronomers pronounce a March Goose insipid, and a Michaelmas Goose rank. The Hebrews are said to eat more Geese than any other class of persons. "Three women and a Goose" are supposed to make a market. We have a proverb "As wise as a Goose;" and it is a matter of history that Geese saved the Roman capital. Saint Martin's Day, November 11th, when a second little summer is proverbial, stands denoted in old almanacks by the sign of the Goose. "Whom all people worshippeth with roasted Goose, and wine." The quaint Nursery Rhyme with its subtle religious significance, is familiar to us all:-
"Goosey, goosey, gander, Whither shall I wander?
Upstairs, and downstairs, and to my lady's chamber. There I met an old man Who wouldn't say his prayers, I took him by the left leg, And threw him down the stairs".