Gone huntin’: Goose sausage proves to be good stuff

A handy machine answered the vexing question of how to convert geese into tasty table fare.

A hunting dog retrieves a goose from a cove on Tisbury Great Pond. — File photo by Nelson Sigelman

The large flock of geese continued to swim up the cove as I crouched behind a pile of brush fashioned into a blind overlooking Tisbury Great Pond Saturday morning, my ancient Browning humpback shotgun at the ready, as I anticipated the moment when the birds would take flight and, if all went as I expected, fly past my hunting companion Alley Moore and me.

The geese continued to talk to one another, their pace of calling quickening. Perhaps, absent air traffic controllers, they all have to agree when it is time to lift off.

Honk — What do you think? Honk — Looks good to me. Honk — Should we wait? Honk — What about that field we went to yesterday? Honk — See those guys over there? Honk — What guys?

With one final round of excited honks, the flock of geese lifted off the water, gaining speed and altitude. I shot once but made a critical error — I looked at all the geese, instead of focusing on one goose, and did not bring down a bird. I know better, and mentally berated myself.

Otis looked disappointed, but quickly got over it, as black Labs do — it is a breed that does not bear a grudge — and he began scanning the sky, optimistic that his owner, Alley, and I would not fail him when the next group of geese flew by us on the last day of the early regular duck season. A short time later, we redeemed his faith.

I never squeeze the trigger of my Browning shotgun with its well-beat-up stock without thinking of builder, decoy carver, and longtime quintessential Yankee selectman, Herbert Hancock of Chilmark. Herb shot plenty of ducks, geese, and deer with that beat-up weapon, already an old gun when he handed it to me unceremoniously just weeks before his death in April 2001. I suspect he is pleased it is still being used to take the odd goose or duck, and I am equally pleased to be its owner.

The legendary American gun designer John Browning’s genius is evident in this well-scarred 12-gauge shotgun, which continues to operate flawlessly. Production of the Browning Auto-5, the first mass-produced semiautomatic shotgun, began in 1902 and ended in 1999. Not a bad run.

I had two geese in hand. Ordinarily, I would have been thinking about who might be willing to take the birds. Wild goose has never been a favorite of mine, despite numerous attempts to find a good recipe.

Years ago I plucked a whole bird for a holiday dinner. I turned the oven into a greasy, sooty mess, and ended up with a dry, tough bird that reminded me of overdone roast beef. Cooking a goose breast on the grill was hit or miss, mostly miss.

When I have time, I like to turn my tougher cuts of venison into sausage. I figured I could do the same with the goose breasts. The September early goose season provided an opportunity to experiment.

The very helpful butchers at Reliable Market in Oak Bluffs provided me with casings, sweet Italian seasonings, pork trimming, and pork fat. The final product was delicious. The sausage process, however, was a chore.

The meat-grinding attachment on our KitchenAid mixer worked fine. The sausage-stuffer attachment was another story. The ground meat barely moved through the tube.

Sausage making takes an extra set of hands, and in my case that meant my wife Norma, whom I instructed to funnel the meat faster or slower and generally held responsible for the sausage casing hernias that continually developed. That she did not chuck a goose meatball at me was a testament to her patience. I knew there was something wrong, and assumed it was us or the consistency of the mixture.

Time for a Google search. The amazing thing, at least to me, is I can type in a question like, “Why can’t I stuff sausage with my KitchenAid mixer?” and I actually find several answers. People have pondered the question.

The problem was not Norma and me, but our useless stuffer attachment. A little more research turned up LEM, a company that bills itself as “the leader in game processing.”

A few weeks ago, Norma and I made a quick stop at Bass Pro Shop in Foxborough, where I purchased a LEM vertical sausage stuffer with a five-pound capacity. On Sunday I decided to put it to good use.

The four goose breasts, trimmed of any wounds, produced three pounds of meat. I added one pound of pork butt and one pound of pork fat, and the called-for amount of LEM sweet Italian sausage seasoning. The moment of truth came when Norma started cranking the handle of the sausage stuffer, which acts like a giant sausage syringe. The meat flowed effortlessly through the tube. Honk. Honk.