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If we have goose this Christmas, it’ll have “Kerry stuffing” too. OK, strictly speaking Kerry stuffing might not have Kerry origins, but that’s our family nickname for an old-fashioned Irish potato stuffing.

While chicken or turkey usually gets a breadcrumb-based herby stuffing, a traditional potato stuffing works far better with fattier birds such as goose or duck – and with Cork bodice too, more of which anon.

The ingredients

I can’t give precise measurements; every bird is different and it’s all done by eye and taste, but the basic ingredients for a potato stuffing are always:

  • Mashed or riced potato
  • Finely sliced onions that have been lightly fried in butter until they are on the verge of caramelising
  • Chopped fresh herbs such as thyme, sage and lots of parsley
  • Seasoning – sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Optional extras are some cooked apple (a cooker such as Bramley), the rind or zest of orange or lemon, some chopped lemon balm (though lemon balm will be woody and out of season at Christmas). These all add a fruity, zesty punch to cut through the fatty fat of a goose or duck. Some recipes also include lightly cooked sausagemeat or minced pork, but it can make the mix too heavy.

Roughly mix everything together – the cooked onions and spuds and herbs. You can stuff the mixture into the bird’s cavity – which is surprisingly large in the case of a goose – but nowadays the Food Safety Police advise that to avoid cross-contamination from any of the bird’s uncooked juices you should cook the stuffing separately.

Either roll it up in cooking foil in a sort of large sausage shape or – for a goose – stuff the goose’s neck with it. That way, you also have far more control in how the bird itself cooks.

Bodice and skirt

But what is “bodice”? It’s a Cork thing. It’s just another name for (usually pork) spare ribs. So it’s Cork slang, like. After all, spare ribs do have a similar shape to the whalebone stays in an old-fashioned bodice garment thing.

As restaurateur and broadcaster Rick Stein once said of the English Market in Cork,

In my opinion, this is the best covered market in the UK and Ireland.

And in the market’s butchers’ stalls, in among the tripe and drisheen (a sheep’s blood sausage) and crubeen (pig’s trotters) and ox tails and pork tails and spiced ox tongue, you’ll also see the signs for plain bodice and corned bodice. It truly is nose-to-tail eating. Or should that be bodice-to-skirt?