Ever tried it? If not, you’re not alone… let’s delve into this wonderful meat and why it’s fallen out of favour, a little history, nutrition, my personal experiences with tongue and finish off with a pressed tongue recipe & bonus recipe treats.
The mention of eating tongue does encourage a raised eyebrow for most, which is a shame. It’s fairly cheap, highly nutritious and all part of a nose to tail – or tongue to tail – philosophy ensuring that nothing goes to waste.
However, ox tongue is more popular than most offal with pressed ox tongue gracing most supermarket delis.
I believe it’s the older generations with their unpolluted minds that are enjoying this meat. All the while, juveniles will scoff and tut at such a disgusting thing whilst munching away on a sausage, which – ironically – is likely filled with pigs tongues and other unpopular cuts… it’s all classed as pork, my friend. Ah… ignorance is bliss.
If it were down to taste though, this wouldn’t be the case. Pressed ox tongue is extremely yummy, more so than any other cold cured meat. If I were to try and explain the taste, it’s similar to corned beef but only better… much better.
How do you take yours?
Tongue is not only reserved for cold pressing though. It’s also great as an alternative for any meat in a roast dinner. With some roasted veggies and a splash of gravy, it’s a winner.
Or, as I’ve tried before, it can be simply cooked and eaten with some punchy Dijon and even taken one step further and fried in butter or tallow to take it to another level.
In fact, you can do this with pressed tongue. Cut it into 1cm cubes or slices and fry it until slightly crisp and your taste buds will thank you… It’s so good.
A Brief British History
As with most offal, tongue was very popular back in the day when food was more sparse and we’re forced to make the most out of what we could get.
Here in the UK in the 19th century, McCall’s supplied ox tongues in a can called ‘Patsandu Ox Tongues‘. The British Library’s description says…
“In the 1800s ox tongue was considered to be a great luxury, sometimes it was stewed which made it very soft, other times it was pickled and the added salt made it extremely hard. Cold pies and cooked meat were common items on the breakfast menu in large and wealthy Victorian households. At this time breakfast was a much larger meal, often with as many as 3 different courses. Oxtongue was a popular choice.”
So, what changed? I can only imagine it’s the introduction of ultra-processed foods and an overabundance that’s made us drift away from such foods.
Is it any good for us?
The short answer is yes, of course it is. It comes from an animal and our digestive systems are finely tuned to extract all the goodness meat has to offer. And, by chance (or not) meat offers everything we need in the perfect ratios for us.
As with other fatty cuts of meat, you’ll find a common theme when researching the nutritional value of that meat. Tongue is no exception.
Tongue is rich in vitamin B12, Choline, Niacin (B3), Riboflavin (B2), Iron and Zinc among others… amazing, many of the things required for optimal health. But, like some twisted joke played by mother nature, it contains a load of cholesterol. Damn you mother nature!
That said, it’s now well documented that the cholesterol in food has little to no impact on the cholesterol levels in our blood (1, 2, 3, 4). Yet despite this, the ‘cholesterol is bad’ narrative is still being pushed hard.
So, it would appear that foods that are high in cholesterol may not be so bad for us after all… Mother nature, all is forgiven.
Actually, the reason why cholesterol we eat doesn’t affect the amount in our blood is that if we don’t eat it, our body will make it. Think about that, our body makes cholesterol… why would our body make something that is so bad for us? That’s a whole other topic that I’ve touched on here, but I’ll leave it there for this post.
My Personal Experience
Eating the tongue of an ox – or any other creature – is not something I’d done until recently. In fact, it was only in May this year (2020) when I sampled ox tongue for the first time, I posted pictures on Instagram here.
Now, I admit that an ox tongue looks somewhat offensive and there were a number of my friends and family that were horrified when they saw the tongue. I don’t blame them, I mean, it looks like a big tongue and – I’m nervous to say – phallic… there’s no getting away from it.
But in the name of nose to tail eating, I powered on and cooked my first ox tongue. I kept it simple – as I like to do – and prepped my beloved pressure cooker, tossed the tongue in along with some veggies and cooked for an hour and a half.
After peeling the outer skin away revealing the meat – albeit still in the shape of a tongue – I sliced it up and cautiously tried my first bite.
My first thought was “hmm, this doesn’t taste horrible”. As my confidence grew and I become comfortable with the texture and taste, I realised that, actually, this was damn good and before I knew it, I couldn’t get enough.
That tongue didn’t last too long and I was keen to get another. So, a few tongues later and I was in love.
And, after trying some shop-bought pressed ox tongue – all salty and set in jelly – I decided I wanted to try cold pressing for myself.
If at first, you don’t succeed…
I’ll admit, my first attempt didn’t go well. I found this Delia recipe and in short, I didn’t brine the tongue and didn’t have the right equipment… it was a flop.
It tasted ok, but nothing like I was hoping for, but never fear, persevere…
Determined to figure this thing out, I jumped onto YouTube and searched up ‘pressed ox tongue’. Top of the list was this recipe video by Scott Rea. What a revelation, if only I had found this video first.
The first thing… get a proper press.
After a short hunt around and seeing many presses well over my budget, Amazon – as always – comes to the rescue and offered me this, and with a click, it was on its way.
Next, I remembered seeing salted pigs tongues by Kimber’s Farm Shop on one of my many meat browsing sessions. After adding a few other little delights to my basket I placed my order and arranged delivery for the end of the week ready for my next tongue adventure over the weekend.
My Tongue-tastic weekend
With my press and salted pigs tongues in hand, I was ready to do this properly, so here goes.
2 pigs tongues (I should’ve used 4) – you can substitute this for 2 brined ox tongues
1 pigs trotter (for added gelatine)
Some veggies if you wish, such as celery, carrots, onions or whatever you have in the fridge (I didn’t actually use any)
Some herbs if you wish (again, I didn’t use any)
Filtered or mineral water
A splash of Apple Cider Vinegar
Pressure cooker, slow cooker or saucepan & hob
Ok, so wash the tongues and trotter and place in the cooking utensil of choice and pour in enough water to just cover the meat. Add a splash of apple cider vinegar. If you’re using veggies and herbs, add them now.
In the pressure cooker, cook for an hour and a half.
In the slow cooker, I’d suggest around 3-4 hours or in the saucepan bring to the boil cover and simmer for around 2-3 hours. In both cases cook until the tongue skin starts peeling off easily.
Remove the tongues and the trotter and simmer the broth reducing it by around half intensifying the gelatine and flavour.
Meanwhile, peel the skin from the tongues and cut them in half lengthways, from the tip to the root. Trim off any unwanted bits from the root of the tongue.
Now you’re ready to place the tongue in the press spreading it out evenly.
Finally, test the broth, it should be nice and salty, add salt if needed and pour over the tongues until just covered. Put the lid on and start pressing. Ensure there’s good pressure, there will be a puddle of broth left on top of the lid which is fine.
Now it’s a waiting game. I suggest leaving it in the fridge and forgetting about it for 24 hours.
Once ready, release the press and remove the lid. Run a knife around the edges and turn upside down on a plate and it should – perhaps with a bit of knocking – drop out.
And there you have it! If all’s gone well you should have beautiful dark red compressed meat with little pockets of jelly. A salty, delicious meaty delight.
Try to savour and not gobble as is so easily done along with some Dijon mustard perhaps. Maybe with some other cold meats and cheese selection or however you wish. On its own is perfectly acceptable.
I can recommend frying some in a little butter over a medium heat adding an outer crisp bringing another textural pleasure into play.
Now, have you ever tried brawn? I’ve written about this here. But, you have everything you need to make a small portion of brawn which will complement your tongue.
Take the trotter and separate the soft meat and flesh from the hard bones and cartilage and break into smallish pieces – there are no rules here.
Line out a Tupperware box with clingfilm and throw all the meat in. You should have plenty of broth leftover from the tongues, use this and cover the meat. Put the lid on – and again – leave in the fridge for 24 hours.
The following day will reveal another pork-based delight. Soft meat suspended in salty jelly… Just beautiful.
The recipe that keeps on giving…
But, why stop there? Now you should have some broth leftover and a load of bones from the trotter.
This is a perfect opportunity to throw it all back into the pressure cooker or whatever you’re cooking with along with any other bones you have.
I save all bones I use in cooking and I had some bone remains from marrowbone boats that I purchased from Godfreys… true nose to tail where nothing goes to waste. I also had a veal foot from Kimbers’ Farm Shop, packed with loads of gelatine.
Top up with water, add a splash of apple cider vinegar and cook on. In the pressure cooker cook for at least 4 hours and in the slow cooker or saucepan, cook for at least 12 hours. I’ve written more about this here.
So, eating tongue was the norm many years ago. But, true to offal form, it now turns snouts upwards and a confession of consuming such a meat may trigger disgusted outbursts. In such a situation, rest easy in the knowledge that it is they that are missing out.
It can be used an various different ways from a tantalising change to your roast dinner to a moreish cold meat.
In the 19th century, tongue was sold in a can… I’m a little jealous.
Tongue would be perfectly nutritious if it wasn’t for that evil artery-clogging cholesterol (sense the sarcasm?).
I confess to cutting culinary corners and failing. But, it’s all good… I gave myself a talking to turned out some scrumptious pressed pigs tongue and tell you exactly how to replicate it.
Added bonus, I suggest making some brawn and bone broth leaving nothing to waste.
I hope this post encourages you to try pressing your own pig or ox tongue. It may not come out right first time, but persevere, because when it does… it’s a sweet feeling and adds to the enjoyment of eating, knowing you’ve produced this wonderous thing.
I’m not a good cook, I watch in wonder at chefs as they turn out amazing grub effortlessly only to feel depressed when my attempt fails dismally. In the past, I would shrug and admit defeat.
I’ve since learnt that failing once means I’m one step closer to succeeding. Proper research, recording actions, not cutting corners and repeated trials eventually lead to success. And, when I get that success, it makes it so worth the effort.
It would be great to hear about your failures and successes. Either leave a comment below, email me email@example.com or tag me on Instagram @offaly.good.
Have a nutritious day!
There you have it! Just a reminder that I’m no doctor, dietitian or any other profession for that matter. I’m simply a bearer of information for you to do what you want with; question it, research it, erase it from your mind, you are in charge of you.