Goose pastrami is what I do with most of my Canada goose breasts. It is an easy project that makes the most out of these often-tough slabs of meat.
Why geese? Well, Canada and snow geese are very close to grass-fed beef in flavor (they eat the same thing), they have large, easy-to-work-with breasts, and they do have a tendency to be tough, which means that any way you can cook them that lets you slice the breasts thinly is a good thing.
Pastrami, in case you’ve never had it, is a cured meat from Eastern Europe or Turkey — remember the Ottomans ran Eastern Europe for a while — that’s normally beef or mutton. Although here’s an interesting tidbit from Wikipedia: “Among Jewish Romanians, goose breasts were commonly made into pastrami because they were inexpensive.” So there ya go. This is traditional!
To make pastrami, you dry cure (sometimes brine) the meat for a few days, dry it a bit, coat it in the characteristic black pepper and coriander and then smoke it. Sliced thin on a sandwich, it’s God’s gift. Good pastrami at a Jewish deli is something you must eat at least once before you die.
If you have any goose breasts in your freezer, go for it. A pastrami on rye with good mustard, a slice of cheese and maybe some sauerkraut, and yeah man, you got yourself some awesome there!
I specifically call for Canada goose breasts here because they’re the only ones I think are large enough to make this with, although domestic goose breasts will also of course work, if you have them lying around. Ditto for swan or sandhill crane breasts. Could you do it with snow goose or speck breasts? Yeah, but they’ll be a lot smaller, and I’d only cure them for 12 to 24 hours instead of 24 to 36.
A word on the Instacure. The 3 grams I call for will actually be enough to cure up to about 3 pounds of goose meat. A general rule is about 1 1/4 grams of Instacure per pound, but you do need a few grams initially to get things started. Do not use more than I call for, though.
Be careful when you are smoking your goose, as the internal temperature can skyrocket in such small pieces of meat. They’ll be ready in 90 minutes in a hot smoker, which to my mind isn’t enough time on the smoke. Try to keep your smoker at 200°F or cooler; I like to keep it at 160°F, which lets me smoke the goose for a solid 3 to 4 hours.
What wood? Your choice. I prefer oak, maple or hickory for this, followed by walnut, pecan or cherry.
Once you make your pastrami, it will need to be eaten within a week or two, or you’ll need to vacuum seal and freeze it.
Makes 2 cured breasts.
Prep Time: 2 days, curing and drying time.
Cook Time: 3 hours smoking time
- 2 skinless Canada goose (or domestic goose) breasts
- Kosher salt (see recipe notes)
- 3 grams Instacure No. 1 (good for up to 3 pounds of goose)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon celery seed
- 1/4 teaspoon caraway seed
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed juniper (optional)
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper, plus 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup brandy, red wine, vinegar or water
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander
- Weigh your goose breasts. For every pound of goose, you’ll need 22 grams of kosher salt, which is about 1 1/2 tablespoons. It’s OK if you are a little off on this measurement. Mix the salt, curing salt, sugar as well as the thyme, celery seed, caraway, juniper and the teaspoon of black pepper and grind them all together in a spice grinder. Pack the goose breasts with this mixture, massaging it into the meat. Put the goose into a closed container in the fridge for 24 to 36 hours.
- The next day, rinse off the goose and pat it dry. It’s fine if you have a little bit of the cure stuck to the meat, but you don’t want too much. Put the goose breasts on a rack in the fridge and let them dry uncovered for a day.
- Dip the goose into the brandy — or really any other liquid you want — and then coat thoroughly in the remaining black pepper and ground coriander seed. I like to grind this myself so the texture is a little coarse, a little fine.
- Smoke the goose breasts until the interior hits 145°F, which takes me about 3 hours.
- Let the goose pastrami cool and eat as lunch meat, or on crackers or whatever.