Pickled Beef Tongue
Wait, wait!!! Where are you all going?
I know, I know… today’s subject might not be on top of everyone’s list of favorites, but I think you should at least give it a chance… if only a tiny little one.
Like I said earlier, I’ve been working real hard at incorporating more offal and organ meats into my diet lately. To have fully adopted liver and integrated it as part of my regular feedings is one thing, but I felt it was time for me to graduate to the even less popular cuts, like head and heart and kidneys and… tongue. I have them in the freezer after all, so I might as well use them, right?
Plus, I so strongly believe in the nose-to-tail philosophy: if an animal gave its life in order to feed me, I feel the least I could do is honor it and do my darn best to consume as much from it as I possibly can. I just need to make this happen. After successfully dealing with my pork head a couple of weeks ago, I figured tongue shouldn’t be so bad.
But you see the thing is, my whole life I watched my dad delight in marinated pork tongue and I never could get used to the idea that he was actually eating the tongue of an animal. No matter how many times he told me that it tasted fantastic and that I should really try it, I just never could bring myself to actually bring a single piece to my lips. It just totally grossed me out.
Who knew that I would someday end up making my very own Pickled Beef Tongue… except I haven’t put mine in vinegar after it was done cooking. HA! If my dad were still with us, I think he’d be very proud of me!
And you know what? My dad was right. This stuff IS fantastic. In fact, it tastes pretty much like a cross between smoked ham and corned beef. Makes sense, I guess, since they all have very similar curing and cooking processes: cure the meat for a couple of weeks and then braise it slowly for a fairly long time over very low heat.
Honestly, once you get past the aversion for the fact that it’s an actual tongue you’re dealing with, the whole experience just gets that much easier.
When I took the pieces of meat out of their plastic bags, I made it a business to really examine them. They are quite fascinating, you know. You can really see all of the taste buds and their texture is just the coolest. Really, there’s nothing gross about them at all!
I just love how one of them is almost completely black while the other one is entirely pink.
Don’t you think there’s something simply beautiful about them?
At this point, you don’t even need to handle the tongues at all. You only want to rinse them real good and place them in a non-reactive bowl that’s large enough to contain them and about 8 cups of brine.
Now this brine, you’re gonna have to make from scratch, but it really is stupid easy, don’t worry. As easy as bringing water to a boil!
You’ll want to add water, a few spices, pickling salt and curing salt to a large stockpot and bring it to the boil.
Again, I chose to add pink curing salt (not to be confused with pink Himalayan salt) to my brine, which is basically a mixture of about 94% salt and 6% sodium nitrite. This curing salt really helps in preserving the meat and preventing spoilage by inhibiting the growth of fungus or bacteria. Also, it ensures that the cured meat will keep its beautiful pink color. Without it, the meat would likely turn an unappetizing shade of grey. The amount used is so minimal that I personally don’t have a problem with it, but if you firmly oppose adding it to your meat, you could experiment with celery juice powder instead (not to be confused with celery salt) which pretty much plays the same role.
Stir your brine until the salt is completely dissolved, then kill the heat and let it come down to room temperature. If time permits, place it in the fridge and let it cool overnight. Or, if you’re in a pinch and wish to speed up the process, you could also add only half of the water to the stockpot and put the other half in the freezer, then add the cold water to the brine once it has boiled and the salt has completely dissolved.
After your brine has cooled down completely, pour it right over your beef tongues until they are completely covered.
Now you need to make sure that your meat is completely submerged and that it will remain submerged for the entire duration of the curing process. If it seems to want to float to the top, weigh it down with a plate or any other similar clean and non-reactive object that will fit snugly inside your container.
Place your meat in the fridge and leave it to cure for 12 to 14 days. Check daily to make sure that your meat is still submerged.
After the meat is done curing, rinse it under cold running water and place it in a Dutch oven; discard the brine, it’s done its job!
Add onions, garlic, celery and carrots to your Dutch oven and cover with cold water.
No need to get fancy-schmancy with the vegetables here. You can even leave the peel on: it’ll only give more flavor to the cooking liquid!
Cover your beef tongue and place it in a 250F oven for about 6 hours or until the meat is super tender and sort of pulls apart when you tug at it with a fork.
Now comes the part when you do need to handle the tongues, but so very little. Tongue has a very thick skin that covers it and must be removed. It does, however, come off extremely easily.
Simply let your meat cool for about 10-15 minutes until you can safely handle it with your bare hands, and then peel the skin off. If your meat is cooked all the way, the skin should come right off. If it offers resistance, put it back in the oven and give it a bit more cooking time.
As you can see, tongue meat is kind of stringy, but in a good kind of way. It has a bit of a gelatinous texture, especially when it’s still warm, but it’s not unpleasant in the least: In fact, it really is melt-in-your-mouth tender and soooo flavorful, much like a good old picnic ham that would’ve been left to simmer in a tasty stock for an entire afternoon .
Hmmm, hmmm good. Comfort food at its best!
Once your tongue has cooled enough and been completely rid of its skin, transfer it to a cutting board, slice it across the grain and serve with a generous helping of good quality Dijon mustard and a few spears of fermented pickles.
For the record, know that beef tongue is also delicious served cold and makes excellent sandwiches…
But if you really can’t get over the fact that this is tongue meat and think there’s no way you’ll ever be able to bring it to your lips, or convince your friends or family members to give it a try, I’ve got just the thing for ya: a casserole so creamy, so cheezy and so tasty that no one will ever question the chunks of meat that’s in it. For sure, you’ll have ’em all fooled into thinking that it’s ham. Even your own brain will totally buy it…
Sounds interesting? Keep an eye out for my next post!
Pickled Beef Tongue
TO CURE THE MEAT
TO COOK THE MEAT
- 1 small onion, quartered
- 2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 celery rib, cut in half
- 1 large carrot, cut into large chunks
- Enough water to cover the meat
CURING THE MEAT
- Add all the ingredients, except for the tongue, to a large stockpot and bring to the boil. Stir until the salt is completely dissolved, then kill the heat and let the brine come down to room temperature. If at all possible, place it in the fridge and let it cool overnight. To speed up the process, you could also add only half of the water to the stockpot and put the other half in the freezer, then add the cold water to the brine once it has boiled and the salt has completely dissolved.
- Once the brine has cooled down, place your tongue into a non-reactive container and pour the brine right over it until it’s completely covered. Now you need to make sure that your meat is completely submerged and that it will remain submerged for the entire duration of the curing process. If it wants to float to the top, weigh it down with a plate or any other similar clean and non-reactive object that fits snugly inside your container.
- Place your meat in the fridge and leave it to cure for 12 to 14 days. Check daily to make sure that your meat is still submerged.
BRAISING AND SERVING THE MEAT
- After the meat is done curing, rinse it under cold running water and place it in a Dutch oven; add onions, garlic, celery and carrots and cover with cold water. Discard brine.
- Cover your beef tongue place it in a 250F oven for about 6 hours or until the meat is super tender and pulls apart when you tug at it with a fork.
- Remove the cooked meat from the oven and let it rest for about 10-15 minutes and then peel the skin off. If your meat is cooked all the way, the skin should come right off. If it offers resistance, put it back in the oven and give it a bit more time in there.
- Once the tongue has been completely peeled, transfer it to a cutting board, slice it across the grain and serve.
- Beef tongue is also delicious served cold.