Nourishing, Boiled Beef Tongue

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In today’s world, meat is very much taken for granted. The American consumer typically wants a non-bloody part that is pleasingly pink and packaged tidily. We go to these sterile environments to pick out our cleanly wrapped packages from brightly lit cases. Our recipes call for this cut or that, hardly making note of any living creature, it is merely a recipe ingredient, a note, an afterthought. The “meat” we buy is hardly reminiscent of the frolicking, breathing creature that once existed. Respect is non-existent, and as they say “ignorance is bliss.” We’ve separated ourselves from the reality of the matter …

Meat comes from animals. Living creatures that gave lost their lives so that we can live healthfully. Properly raised animals provide us with sustenance, energy, protein, and enrichment. These vital nutrients and fats help with brain development, muscle function, immunity, healthy tissue and joints. Animal fats and proteins are known sources of efficient slow burning energy. For my family, where the animal comes from, and how the animal was treated is important. (This wasn’t always the case.)  Animals are not boneless, nor are they skinless. If you can’t stand the sight of a dead animal, or it’s dead, cold, lifeless face, you should not be eating it. If you have not seen what a factory farm looks like, and how they treat their animals, you shouldn’t be buying that meat. If the sight of a dead animal having it’s skin ripped off it’s body is more than you can take, then maybe you should think twice before eating your McBurger. The truth of the matter is that  Meat. Is. Murder.

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While we may not like to think of it as “murder” per say, it is a loss off life and an animal deserves in it’s final moments to  be treated with as much respect as possible. While non meat eaters typically can not comprehend the idea of “humane murder,” I really think it is critical to try and understand that there are people who eat meat without any understanding of where it comes from, and there are those who try to go above and beyond to make compassionate choices. Animals do not GIVE their lives, we take them. The best we can do as meat eaters is value the life that was taken and insure we are purchasing animals that were treated fairly. Although we haven’t always exclusively purchased truly pastured, organic, grass-fed beef, now that we have transitioned I will not even consider buying even the most tempting sales at the grocery mart. It is a matter of morals as well as value. With the dangers of antibiotics and hormones aside, pastured, grass fed cows contain more fatty acids and they are more nutrient dense. If you are what you eat, what you eat should matter. What your food ate matters too… 

Part of eating a balanced diet for me means eating offal, discarding parts is wasteful, and appallingly disrespectful to the being that lost it’s life. While a heart, foot or tongue does not exactly whet the palate, these parts are typically more valuable nutritionally. For centuries innards, feet, tongue and miscellaneous parts were consumed by the working man because the throw away parts are usually cheap. Undesirable cuts of meat are rough, chewy, fatty and often gristly but with a little bit of planning and some finesse, these parts can award you with the most delicious and nutritious meals. Although offal was previously food for paupers, nowadays most of the “unwanted” bits can be hard to come by due to government regulations and even high demand. If you are looking for quality, pastured, grass-fed beef, it can be fairly expensive. Why? Because Real Foodies know what’s up. These parts that the average person turns their nose at, are highly valued among local, traditional food connoisseur’s. Although a tongue might not strike you as a delicious delicacy, I am here to argue that it is in fact, worth looking for.

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Boiled Beef Tongue

Beef tongue and ALL OF THE NASTY BITS have great health benefits. Offal offers up a much wider variety of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and tissues that the clean cuts are lacking. The throw away cuts are very dense with nutrients, fat and protein that nourishes the body efficiently. While the clean, lean meats are neater and less offensive, they are also leaner on nutrients and flavor. With that said, even though I have been working with offal for a year or two, I still get a bit squeamish at the sight of a phallic, bumpy, spiky looking tongue. (It seems to bother me less each time.) This is the basic recipe I use to boil the tongue. Once it is prepared you can use it for everything from beef barbecue, taco’s and sandwiches to beef tongue burgers and meatballs. You can dice it and put it into soups, stews and chili, you can grill it and serve it with some fancy gastrique or you can eat it as-is with some mustard and a pickle. It really does not have a terrible, gamy or strong taste. It is mild sort of like veal, but has a much softer texture. (surprisingly) I personally find the texture more off putting than the taste. My favorite way to eat it is with crusty sourdough bread, homemade raw sauerkraut and mustard.

  • 1 Beef Tongue
  • 1-2 Tablespoons Pickling Spices (optional)
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • 1 onion diced
  • Celtic Sea Salt, Pepper & Water to cover 
  1. Rinse your beef tongue under cold water. You can soak it overnight in a brine or even cure it. I have found that just giving it a good cleaning does the job. (I have also used a sauerbraten brine for it)
  2. Place your beef tongue into a heavy bottomed pot or dutch oven. (With a tight sealing lid.) If it is too large for your pot cut it in half.
  3. Add pickling spices, onion, salt, pepper and water to cover.
  4. Bring the ingredients to a boil gently over medium-high heat.
  5. Place tight fitting lid on top and simmer on low for 2-4 hours. This varies greatly on how large your tongue is. You can tell if it’s done by trying to peel off the outer layer of skin. If the skin falls right off when it is scraped with a fork then you are probably good to go.
  6. Once your tongue is cooked cover the pot and remove it from the heat. Allow the tongue to become room temperature or cool enough to be safely handled.
  7. Once your tongue is cool enough to handle peel off the outer layer of skin. You can use the back of a paring knife or even just a fork and your fingers.
  8. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, gently reheat as needed.

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