23 May From Farm to Dining Room Table (via the Plucking Table)
While working harvest at Mountford Estate in Waipara, New Zealand we ate well everyday. All the meat and vegetables that we ate on a daily basis came from the farm, straight to the table. There was fresh veal and lamb that had been killed prior to my arrival. And, the venison was planned for after my departure. I was okay with this and thought I had gotten off easy until they announced that it was time to kill the geese.
There were 25 loud squawking geese that we heard every morning, day after day. Despite their being annoying, they were well-fed, happy geese who lived a good life on the farm. But, on a calm Sunday, while waiting for the grapes to ripen, the harvest team took a trip for a couple of hours only to come back to 20 dead (decapitated) geese.
I am not unaware of where meat comes from but the reality is that I am a city girl and prefer to buy my meat already nicely packaged. I don’t like to think about the animal being killed and I probably would be a vegetaian if I just didn’t like the taste so much. But, since I like the taste and will not stop eating meat, this hands-on experience gave me a new appreciation for what animals give us. I understand that many people who read this many be uncomfortable with what I share below in the photos and description, but this is a reminder that meat doesn’t just appear in a perfect package for you.
We were each told to grab a goose from the fence. Sounds simple but when I got to the fence and saw 20 headless geese hanging from their feet, I was completely out of my comfort zone. In order to take one, I had to grab it from its feet. My discomfort level was at an all-time high. I tried to gingerly take one by the feet and didn’t want to touch it but when I saw how comfortable the neighbor’s children were plucking geese, I took a deep breath, lifted up a very heavy goose and joined the others at the table with their geese.
I put my first goose on the table and began to pluck using the least amount of my hand as possible. But, once I got over my initial disgust (I had continue to avert my eyes from the headless neck), I realized how soft the down feathers were and comfortably ran my fingers through it, pulling it out.
Soon my phobia had passed and we were playing around and “dancing” with our feathered (headless) friends.
Plucking 20 geese was hard work and not to be underestimated. Sounds easy enough but there are a lot of feathers! And, the feathers on the backside and wings were harder to pull out. Each goose took over an hour to pluck! There were 8 of us plucking and by the time we finished it was dark and feathers were flying everywhere. I personally plucked 3 geese over a 4 hour period.
Once the geese were plucked, they were singed to get off the excess feathers and then they were taken into the shed where the insides were removed.
For dinner that night, we enjoyed freshly sauteed goose liver.
They next day, Chef Thomas Hishon (from Clooney Restaurant in Auckland) came to visit Mountford Estate for a few days of R&R but was put to work breaking down 20 geese.
And the result of all of our hard work………..two delicious dishes prepared by Chef Thomas Hishon!
Goose Liver and Juniper Parfait
Confit Goose Leg with roasted chestnuts in goosefat, butternut squash puree, camelized quince with prune jus.
Thank you to the Mountford team and Chef Thomas Hishon for giving this city girl a real farm to table experience! It was unforgettable and delicious and worth every second!