Pickled Beef Tongue

Where's the bread?

Where’s the bread?

Pickled beef tongue is one of those litmus test foods. Either it completely freaks you out or you think that its one of the best things ever. As for myself, I am deep in the “best thing ever” camp. But I know a lot of people, Jews included who cannot get the image of a cow licking its lips out of their head when then see it. More for me.

I cannot recall the first time I ate tongue. I can remember my mother leaving a small tongue on the stove with pickling spices for hours on the lowest heat. It was a rare treat in Wisconsin as we were far from the delis of the East coast and even a decent salami was a matter of relatives airlifting them from New York.

When it comes to the ultimate deli tongue experience there is no finer place to enjoy it in my humble opinion than Katz’s deli at the corner of Houston and Ludlow in New York. There my sandwich is always tongue and pastrami, on rye (duh!) with spicy brown mustard. When I was younger I would get a full pickle, an order of their enormous steak fries and a Dr. Browns Cream Soda (my father would suggest the Cel-Ray is a more refreshing choice). It was truly a heart attack and heart burn on two plates. Today my appetite is a bit more modest and a just the sandwich leaves me stuffed for the day.

Alas, I live too far away to eat this tasty morsel with any regularity (which is good for my arteries) but I have worked out how to make it at home. All you need is time, about a week and one mail order ingredient. That ingredient is DQ Curing Salt or Pink Salt. It contains nitrite, which will work with salt to kill many pathogens including the ones that cause botulism. In addition the nitrite causes the hemoglobin to set up with a rosy red color (similar to what happens when you have carbon-monoxide poisoning). This creates the color you see in corned beef, brisket, hot-dogs, salami, pepperoni and pretty much every other dry cured sausage you can buy.

It should go without saying that tongue should be enjoyed on rye bread with good brown mustard. The only acceptable alternative is to serve it with fried eggs, hash browns and buttered rye toast.

Recipe after the break

Pickled Beef Tongue

For the brine:

A full beef tongue, 2-3 lbs

1 gallon of water

1 lb kosher salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 oz pink salt (aka DQ curing salt #1)

2 garlic cloves

1 tb pickling spice

Place half the water in the freezer. Take all brine ingredients except meat and place in small stock pot with half the water, bring to a boil and lower to a simmer for 10 min. Turn off heat and allow to cool to room temperature. When the brine is cool, rinse tongue and set aside. Take a container that will hold the brine and tongue fill with brine and cold water from the freezer. Put the tongue in (best to do this in the sink in case of overflow) and seal container. If you cannot force all the air out of the container use a plate to weight the tongue down so it stays submerged. Stash in the back of your fridge for at least a week.

For the braise:

1 tb toasted and cracked pepper corns

2 bay leaves

24 oz of good lager (no light beer please, PBR is a nice choice)

1 dash pepper flakes

1 dash ground ginger

1 clove

1 tsp mustard seed

Rinse tongue and dispose of brine. Place tongue and all braise ingredients in a dutch oven or other heavy closed vessel and put in a 250F oven for 5-6 hours or until the meat falls apart with a little prodding. Once the meat is done allow it to cool and then peel the skin off. If the meat is cooked all the way through the skin will just come up with a gentle tug. Otherwise put in back in the braise and let it go longer. You cannot overcook this, its like a pot-roast.

At Katz’s they serve it cold, but I like it hot like a corned beef.

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18 Comments

Filed under Cured and Pickled, Deli, Meat, Snout to Tail

18 responses to “Pickled Beef Tongue

  1. Pingback: Mustard «

  2. I just bought a fantastic looking trimmed tongue. I haven’t had a pickled tongue sandwich for 50 years. I NEED to do this before I die. I don’t have pickleing spices, I wonder if I can use the brine that is in the jar of Kosher pickles I have?
    Also, my mother used to make a tongue as a potroast with potato and carrots. How delicious was that? WOW!!!!!

  3. gordon

    I would go with real pickling spices. Short of that you can whip up your own. Use the braise seasonings in addition to the others listed in the brine recipe. Pickle juice contains vinegar which, after a week, will result in mushy meat- ugh!

  4. susan b matthews

    I am living in NO GOOD FOOD HELL. There is no tongue, no corned beef, no pastrami, no good bagels, bialy’s, kishke, knish, matzoh ball soup, chopped liver, anything New York, Jewish, Deli, ANYTHING , within 200 miles of where I live…H..E…L…P…!

    • donna saunders

      OMG where do u live ? Sounds like my home Belgrade Montana

      • Well, first of all to Gordon, I did as you said and bought regular pickleing spices. It was DELICIOUS. (I don’t need no stinkin Deli’s) Well, maybe for Corned Beef, Rolled Beef, hot Pastromi sandwiches. OMG
        To Susan, I am in Powell, OH but brought up in Hull, Massachusetts, 2 blocks from the ocean.

  5. tom

    My sympathy to all of you…you should try Northern Maine for 40 years, if you really want to know suffering. But, with all due respect, the French, up in St John Valley have some very nice ethnic foods, Still I would kill, right now, for a real Pastramii on on Jewish rye and a deli pickle.

    Tom, from Highbridge, Bronx

  6. Dee

    Aloha you all! Brought up in Brookline Ma and Hull Ma. Now live in Paradise, Honolulu. People here never heard of these foods. Did find some pickled tomatoes (Bubbies) and thought i died and went to heaven. Miss deli food so much it hurts my brain just thinking about it.

  7. tom

    here i venture in what seems to be a futile quest to aquire the elusive, and now aparently,non-existant… lengendary and ever so delectible PICKLED LAMB TONGUE(s) . anybody know of anywhere in MA. that they can be purchased ? or any where on the planet for that matter…seriousely “jonesing” for some…it has been years

  8. Dee

    No answer on the lamb tongue… but did make a pickled beef tongue and it was delish… Left it curing in fridge for a week. Next time I’ll leave it about 10 days as there were a few spots that weren’t quite pink.

  9. Mary

    I am just checking on the recipe, is it really one pound of kosher salt in the brine?? I have never made or ate pickled beef tongue, thank you for the recipe. (I do have the tongue, just did not know what to do with it!)

    • gordon

      Mary, provided you use the full amount of water it should be fine. You might not need all of it (depending on the side of the tongue), but you need to get the whole thing under the brine.

    • Dee

      I just used the recipe above. Did cook it differently though. Put meat in a large pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and discard the water. Repeat three more times. Cover with cold water again, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer covered for about two hours or until tender. Peel off the skin while it is still warm. Cool meat and slice.
      Funny, I was just thinking yesterday that it was time to make another one. Now you’ve got me drooling!

      • Mary

        Thank you it is in the brine solution, and if I understand correctly I will cook it on Thursday. I will follow your tip on bringing to a boil and discarding the cooking water, that should help with the saltiness. Thank you again, your tips are much appreciated!!

      • Dee

        Make sure you leave it in the brine at least 10 days (or more). The meat should be pink throughout after being cooked. Mine still had a couple of spots that were not quite pink. I’m going for 10 days next time.
        Wish I could be at your house to help you eat it!

    • Dee

      By the way, Mary you don’t have to pickle the tongue. My mother used to make it pot roast style just as it comes from the market.

  10. Dee

    Let us know how you decide to cook it.

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