Smoking up some good ol’ goose jerky


The scent of smoking apple wood chips and mesquite-infused game recently trailed a mouth-watering aroma down along the lakeshore.

It was olfactory evidence of the culinary craft of two keen hunters and outdoorsmen, Dan Rozander and his cousin Gord Keyes, who had set up shop to work a long shift in Rozander’s forested back yard on Oak Point Drive, on a very cool fall day.

“We got together over the weekend, seven or eight of us hunters, and shot 30 Canada Geese northeast of town,” said Dan Rozander. “Then we cut out the breast meat, which yielded 22 pounds of meat for the jerky. The rest of the carcass is for coyote bait. It’s too tough and stringy for anything else.”

The pair then carefully cut the goose meat into quarter-inch slices, across the grain, so that the fibres would hold together throughout the flavouring and cooking process. They used knives, and also a slicer, to create their perfect thickness of jerky. 

“The jerky slices are spiced and seasoned for 24 hours in the fridge before smoking,” said Rozander. “The pieces of goose are treated with a salt cure first, before the seasoning is added. But the first step is to take out the moisture. We lay them out on paper towels, and tap them dry, and cover them with more paper. It’s important that you don’t over-smoke them during the process. The seasoning – we’re using a mesquite blend today – is in a shaker, and there’s a chart with it to calculate the seasoning per pound of meat. We put that much in the shaker, and we do that much meat. When the kids help we split it between two shakers, and divide the meat between the kids.”

Gord Keyes, who also produces his own moose and elk jerky, said that making this cured and smoked meat has been a long-time annual family and friends’ tradition for him, and one he never misses.

“I’ve lived in Flin Flon for 30 years, and I come down every year to Killarney to shoot game, hunt, and to make jerky with my family,” said Keyes. “It takes us about an hour to dress the birds and remove the breast meat, and another hour to slice it. What do I do best? I’m really good at watching everyone else do it.”

Gathering special wood chips locally is one of his key roles, however, and a secret to success.

“We get the smoker going with briquettes for heat, and then we use apple wood chips for the flavour, from my mom’s house (Shirley Keyes),” said Keyes. “She has a house on Main Street, with apple trees, and I collect up all the pieces of apple chips and sawdust for the smoking. We hot smoke at 200 degrees Fahrenheit, for an hour and a half, and then use straight heat to finish, for two to three hours. How do we know when it’s done? By feel. We don’t want it brittle, but we need to know that it’s cooked.” 

“Soft and chewy,” said Rozander. “That’s what we are looking for. Why do we make so much? Because all the kids just gobble it. Some of the kids help prepare it too, so that they know just how much work goes into making jerky.”

Goose hunting season in the area runs from September 1 to November 30, they said, and the Killarney area is in what’s known as the South Bird Zone. 

Retrieval of the geese during the hunting weekend was energetically assisted by the group’s friendly four-legged long-time helper, ‘Gunner,’ Rozander’s six-year-old Black Labrador gun dog. 

“Gunner will retrieve the birds from the field,” said Rozander. “But he’s not perfect. And we have to watch he doesn’t steal the jerky today. This year we had some big birds – ones from two pounds and up to 14 pounds. We also get Sandhill Cranes here, some Specklebelly geese, and snow goose. Goose is a delicious bird; quite dark meat and very tasty.”

RACKING UP SOME DELICOUS TREATS – Dan Rozander (left) and his cousin Gord Keyes carefully lay out the quarter-inch slices of Canada Goose breast meat in readiness for the smoker. The two had cut, chilled and seasoned around 22 pounds of the precious wild meat to make their annual wild goose jerky.

JERKY DAY AT OAK POINT – Black Labrador ‘Gunner’ assists Dan Rozander and Gord Keyes as they load the prepared trays of goose meat into the smoker.

SMOKING – The smoking interior in action.

GREAT GOOSE HUNTER – 12-year-old Corbin Munroe, during his first hunting season, holding up some large geese and ready to help make them into jerky.