So I was at the Farm about a month ago, picking through random bits in the freezers looking for something interesting and unusual, and pulled out an odd-shaped, unlabeled hunk o’ meat.

“Is this a beef tongue?!”  “Yes it is!”

I had to have it.

Not that I have an abnormal fondness for beef tongue.  In fact, kind of the opposite.  My mom would make beef tongue on occasion when I was still in residence at the family domicile … I always turned my nose up at it.  GROSS!  (I was an imp of a teenager.)  But seriously, it involved raisins.  I’m pretty sure I still wouldn’t like it.

But it had been a really long time since I’d encountered this bit of offal in its whole form, and maybe, just maybe, my aversion to it had been more a matter of preparation, rather than the actual meat itself.  Maybe if I found a new (to me) and yet simultaneously very old (traditional) way to cook it, I might enjoy it.

So it came home with me.  And I found a recipe for pickled beef tongue, which, actually, is basically like making corned beef out of a tongue.

And then it sat in the freezer for a couple of weeks.  Until I cooked the brisket that had been corning up for that one day a year when I seem to usually manage, somehow, to accidentally wear green and look all on top of schmutz.

So once I pulled the corned beef (brisket) out of its juice, I didn’t dump the marinade (which I had made without sugar or saltpeter–’cuz I’m not sure how saltpeter fits into GAPS just yet), but instead slipped the frozen tongue into it.

Stuffed back into the fridge, it sat there.  For probably about 20 days, I think, which was longer than I would have intended, but I got sick and all that.  So last week, I finally got around to cooking it up.

I decided to try and follow FoodLab’s recommendations for corned beef, and attempt to cook it at about 170 degrees (the lowest temp my oven will hold) for 15 hours.  I rinsed it first (and pitched the twice-used marinade down the drain), put it in a big cast iron dutch oven, covered with water, and stuck our digital thermometer in the water.  Then I heated it on the stove until the thermometer registered 170, just to give it a head start.  And into the oven at around 5 PM.

The next morning, I learned four things:

  1. Our oven apparently shuts off automatically, I’m assuming after 12 hours?  Luckily, I had woken up particularly early that day, and the temp was still at about 110 degrees, so I turned it back up and waited a while extra before taking the whole shebang out.
  2. Huevos haminados, which I decided to cook alongside the tongue since I’d been meaning to try them for years (and when else am I going to leave the oven on all night?), are not all they’re cracked up to be.  They taste basically like onion-flavored hard-boiled eggs.  Eh.
  3. Beef tongue skin doesn’t just peel off, as I had for some reason kind of expected it to do.  At least this one didn’t.  There was a fair amount of cutting involved.  The skin is kind of tough, and the last thing you want touching your tongue is the spiny surface of another tongue!!
  4. For better or worse, I’m just not a fan of the texture of beef tongue.  Pickled or not.  Definitely pickled is an improvement in my book over raisins, but both J and I agreed, it’s no corned beef.

Which is too bad, because we’ve got a sizeable hunk of beef tongue on our leftovers shelf now. I’ve found that it’s not half bad if it’s very, very thinly sliced (and it definitely slices up very thinly!) and piled high on top of a sort of GAPS-friendly “Rueben” that I’ve been making a lot of recently:

  • Coconut oil in a hot skillet, sauerkraut in a pile, sliced beef on top of that, cheese on top of that (if I want it melted), and lid on the pan.
  • Once the beef is kind of “melty” after a few minutes–no longer stiff from being cold (and the cheese, if desired, is gooey), all goes onto a plate (on an optional slice of almond bread, tho I usually skip this).
  • Homemade thousand island dressing (lacto-fermented mayo, lacto-fermented pickle relish, Hendricks ketchup — altho once we’ve finished this bottle I want to try making my own lacto-fermented ketchup too!) gets dropped on top, along with some dollops of raw milk cottage cheese (with soured cream) if I haven’t put hard cheese on it already.

And I also had it in minced bits yesterday morning in an omelet, like ham chunks, and the flavor combo with broccoli and cheese worked, without being particularly notable.

But I’m definitely not sneaking little bites of it on the sly like I can be known to do with corned beef, especially the fatty chunks!  And we might be hard-pressed to get thru it all before it no longer likes us back.  I’m going to try tho, because with all that connective tissue and collagen, it’s got to be pretty exceptionally healthy for us to eat.

Photo Credit:  foxypar4 on Flickr

This post is part of the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop and Real Food Wednesday.
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15 Responses to Pickled Beef Tongue

  1. CarolM says:

    I love beef tongue! You are right it is work and there is that gross factor. I clean, boil and strip, then place into a jar and pour cider vinegar over it and eat and snacks or side dish.

  2. Alchemille says:

    I love beef tongue but I never tried it pickled.
    As a child, and when visiting my grandma in Bavaria, I always used to get some “Zunge” which is cooked beef tongue sliced very thin – deli style.
    Since I have no butcher’s equipment, I just dice the cooked tongue and saute w/ some veggies.

    • Megh says:

      Yeah, it really helps you understand where “cold cuts” came from! I find that since the meat is so firm and gelatinous, I can use my sharpest serrated knife and come pretty close to the thickness one gets from a deli slicer … not quite as thin, and definitely not as consistent, but it’s still pretty good!

  3. Susan says:

    Hi Megh,
    If you want some more collagen give oxtail stew a try. It is fantastic and the collagen tastes so good. And it has the added bonus of cooking the bones in the recipe. I don’t know the GAPS diet well enough yet to say if it’s all legal but I found a really easy and delicious recipe on youtube which, if you’re interested I’ll share here.

    • Megh says:

      Ooh, yeah, I haven’t had that in quite a while! We’ve definitely enjoyed that in the past, I should try it again! Thanks for the suggestion!

  4. Primal Toad says:

    I linked over from Real Food Wednesday. I have never tried beef tongue but want to badly. Thanks for sharing this recipe!

    • Megh says:

      You’re welcome! It’s definitely an experience … I’m all about trying all parts of the animal … that doesn’t mean I always like them tho :) Perhaps sometime in the future I’ll try it as carnitas — I suspect that’s a totally different texture experience … but I’m going to wait on that for a while!

  5. I think you are very brave to take on preparing beef tongue and I’m glad it worked out! Your post was really interesting and I learned a huge amount from it. I confess I have never had tongue, and I am a bit squeamish about the idea of it – but I know a large number of folks who absolutely love it. Your serving ideas sound good too. Thank you so much for sharing this with the Hearth and Soul Blog Hop.

    • Megh says:

      You’re welcome! It is kind of a squeamish topic, even for me! But no guts, no glory, right? Maybe literally … :)

  6. Deb says:

    Interesting topic. I cooked beef tongue recently just like I would a pot roast. 3 hours or so in water with about a tablespoon Balsamic vinegar, bay leaf, sea salt, black pepper etc. Let it cool so you can handle it but it is still quite warm. The skin peels off easily. It is pretty tasty that way. Your “Rueben” sounds delish.

    Love your blog.

    • Megh says:

      Thanks! Yeah, I’m not sure what happened with the skin on mine — I saw lots of pics online of how “easy” it came off, but mine definitely did not!! :) Maybe it marinated for just too many days. Or maybe I needed to not let it cool quite as much before peeling.
      Glad you enjoyed it!

  7. [...] Tongues, livers, hearts, kidneys, oh my.  (Actually, I haven’t done the kidneys yet.  But [...]

  8. Heidi says:

    I throw it in a crock pot with a can of beer and garlic, pepper onion etc. Cook it on low over night. no problem peeling it. I want to try to pickle it tho. Might try just slicing it and adding vinegar to the jar.
    I to grew up eating sandwiches from the deli with my Mom and grandmother. My Dad loves it when I cook one. I find them at the farmers mkt.

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