Any of many species of large, web-footed, wild or domestic birds. Geese are much larger than ducks, weighing from 5 to 18 pounds, compared to 3 to 5½ pounds for a duck. The female of the species is simply known as a goose, a male as a gander, and a young gooseof whichever sexas a gosling. Geese were bred in ancient Egypt, China and India. The Romans revered them because it was a noisy gaggle of geese that alerted 4th-century b.c. Romans that the enemy Gauls were about to attack. Geese are immensely popular in Europe, where they're traditional Christmas holiday fare in many countries. They're also renowned for two French specialtiesfoie gras, the creamy-rich enlarged liver from force-fed geese, and confit, goose cooked and preserved in its own fat. Because geese are so fatty, they have not achieved the same popularity in America and therefore, though they're domesticated, have never been mass-marketed. The U.S. government grades the quality of geese with USDA classifications A, B and C. The highest grade is A, and is generally what is found in markets. Grade B geese are less meaty and well finished; those that are grade C are not usually available to the consumer. The grade stamp can usually be found within a shield on the package wrapping. Most geese marketed in the United States are frozen and can be purchased throughout the year. A frozen bird's packaging should be tight and unbroken. The goose should be thawed in the refrigerator and can take up to 2 days to defrost, depending on the size of the bird. Do not refreeze goose once it's been thawed. Fresh geese can be found in some specialty markets and are available from early summer through December. When available, buy goslings (the smaller the better) because they are the most tender. One way to determine age is to check the goose's bill; if it's pliable, the bird is still young. Choose a goose that is plump, with a good fatty layer and skin that is clean and unblemished. Store loosely covered in the coldest section of the refrigerator 2 to 3 days. Remove and store separately any giblets in the body cavity. Because geese have so much fat, they are best roasted. Larger, older birds are tougher and therefore should be cooked using a moist-heat method, such as braising. The fat derived from roasting a goose is prized by many cooks as a cooking fat. Goose benefits from being served with a tart fruit sauce, which helps offset any fatty taste. Geese are high in calories but are a good source of protein and iron. See also game birds.
From The Food Lover's Companion, Fourth edition by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst. Copyright © 2007, 2001, 1995, 1990 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc.