To save potential embarrassment, the pronunciation first: it’s goose-ner.
Why a small village between Preston and Longridge should produce such high quality ducks (and chickens) is not clear. Cynics may say that ducks like water and central Lancashire is not lacking in that commodity, and chicken rearing has followed the area’s success with duck. Maybe. What is clear is that quality producers like Johnson’s in Goosnargh have established a reputation for top quality birds fed on a chemical-free diet, to the extent that EU protection is being sought to prevent ducks produced elsewhere being tagged as coming from Goosnargh.
Goosnargh ducks are a cross between Aylesbury and Peking birds, giving a good meat to bone balance, with a good breast weight in particular. They look like children’s book ducks: white feathers and yellow beak. The birds are usually killed at 56 days, and the flavour is developed by two days of hanging.
Lancashire has seen what amounts to a virtual rebirth of its finest produce over the last two decades, spearheaded by the likes of Paul Heathcote of the eponymous restaurant group, and Chris Johnson of Ramsons. Heathcote, whose flagship restaurant in Longridge is just a couple of miles from Goosnargh, regularly features its duck on his menus, one of his signature dishes being breast of the bird with fondant potatoes. The Fenwick Arms near Lancaster is another eaterie where Goosnargh’s finest is often to be tasted.
The availability of good raw materials seems often to create a virtuous circle, fine restaurants benefiting from good produce and in turn creating a demand for it, followed by developments from that produce. Goosnargh’s chickens are as highly esteemed as its ducks, and now a gourmet Goosnargh duck fat is being marketed.