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Pharaohs and Egyptian nobility enjoyed fattened goose liver was before Romans picked it up from Greek traders. They became addicted to the sumptuous taste and texture of fattened goose liver. At that time, dried figs were used to fatten geese in special farms. Corn had not reached to the Mediterranean yet! It was brought over by Spanish and Italian conquistadors in their employ from the Americas in the beginning of the 16th century.
Producing fattened goose liver is by all accounts cruel. The technique employed requires geese to be confined to a very restricted area (cage) (in olden times the legs were nailed to the ground) and a funnel is showed down the throat of the bird and the food deposited into the stomach. This involuntary feeding causes the liver to enlarge to ten times its regular size! Essentially the animal is rendered sick by overfeeding.
Fattened goose liver contains an excessive amount of fat, and is very smooth with a soft silky texture when expertly prepared.
South-western French have been devotees of fattened goose liver, and confit, pates (plain or truffeled) for centuries and developed an industry worth millions of dollars both in France and export markets.
Goose liver slices quickly seared in a very hot pan and enriched with authentic balsamic vinegar is divine, particularly when paired with Tokaji Aszu 4 or five puttonyos quality, or beereneauslese quality German wines or Sauternes from France. Gourmets also like to pair fattened goose liver with high-end Gewürztraminer from Alsace
The French goose liver industry is located around Strasbourg in Alsace, and Sarlat in the region of Perigord, the home of black truffles.
Here specialized manufacturers produce plain or truffeled goose liver pate, flavoured parfait de foie gras that contains cream and other stretchers, canned goose liver blocks and goose liver pates packaged in attractive crocks for gift giving.
Understandably, goose liver is an expensive product and French manufacturers import liver from Poland, Hungary and Israel in an attempt to contain costs.
Goose liver pate prices are high enough, and they feel pricing the product out of the market is not in their best interest.
In North America well-heeled gourmets have developed a liking to fresh skillfully prepared goose liver, and since both the USA and Canada do not import overseas-produced fresh fattened goose liver, several producers in New York State’s Hudson Valley, Sonoma County and Quebec started to supply the restaurant and high-end grocery trades.
American Animal Rights organizations monitor producers’ methods of production and document the cruelty perpetrated on geese or ducks, but so far, violence has been limited to only a few farms.
Connoisseurs prefer Quebec foie gras to that of Hudson Valley for both taste and texture.
Toronto restaurateurs buy mostly the Quebec product, but some buy the less expensive New York product.
Regardless of cruelty, skillfully prepared fattened goose liver is delightful. Fattened duck liver tends to be rough in texture and tastes less appealing.
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu
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