Before I got married I worked at a bagel shop that sold breakfast and lunch sandwiches. I tried my first reuben sandwich there. For the corned beef and sauerkraut, it was love at first taste! I replaced the thousand island dressing for spicy mustard and toasted my pumpernickel bagel 3 times so it was extra crispy. I loved that sandwich so much, I would eat it practically every day.
Now, you might be grossed out by the title. Corned Beef tongue. What?! But hear me out. This was the best tasting corned beef I have ever had! Even better than my favorite sandwich at the bagel shop.
So read on and figure out easy it really is.
I recently bought The Art of Fermentation by Sandor Katz, and got excited when I saw he had a recipe for corned beef tongue, because serendipitously I had one sitting in my freezer from my favorite farmers at Indian Creek Angus. I decided to make it right away.
Warning: if seeing pictures of a tongue is going to really gross you out, you should probably stop reading here. If you think you can brave it to see what all the fuss is about… then by all means, carry on.
I read through the recipe, gathered my ingredients, and pulled out my beef tongue to defrost.
You will need corned beef spices, salt and sugar to make the brining solution for corned beef.
His recipe called for 6 tablespoons of salt, 3 tablespoons of sugar, and as many corning spices as you want per quart of water. You will need 1 quart of water for every 2 pounds of tongue or brisket.
My beef tongue was 3 pounds, so I ended up with 9 T of salt, 4.5 T sugar and about 5 T of spices in 1.5 quarts of water.
See, not so bad. It is just a piece of meat, and if you can get past this picture, the rest will be a breeze.
Sandor Katz recommends brining in a ziplock bag because the meat stays submerged in the liquid better. I double bagged it just to be safe.
Then I poured the brine into the bag, making sure it was supported by the side of the sink so it wouldn’t spill everywhere.
Once I sealed everything up, I labeled it with the date.
I was still nervous about it leaking in the fridge, so I put it into a tupperware container. Then it sat brining in the fridge for 10 days.
When it was time to cook the tongue I referred back to Sandor’s book. He uses the instructions from the 1975 edition of Joy of Cooking. It says to place the tongue in cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Then remove tongue, immerse in a fresh pot of water with onion and a little more (fresh) of whatever spices were used in the brine. Cook about 50 minutes per pound. Once tongue is done cooking, remove from cooking water and plunge in cold water to get it cool enough to handle.
I put on a glove so I could handle it easily as it was still quite hot. But it is easier to get the skin off when hot, so start working on it as soon as you can. It should come off pretty easily as the skin partially separates from the tongue during the cooking process.
It was nighttime and hard to get a good picture, but here you see I have peeled off all the skin. Then I could let it cool down completely before slicing it.
The instructions go on to say that if serving warm you can slice it on the diagonal and return it to the warm cooking water to serve. It also says that sliced tongue is great served on a sandwich with mustard. That was my plan, so I sliced it and put it in the fridge for later.
The moment of truth came when I made it for lunch after church the next day. I didn’t know what Chris would think about it, especially after seeing it cool on the countertop the night before.
I served it on homemade soda bread with cheddar cheese, beet/cabbage sauerkraut, pickled jalapeños and spicy mustard (Unfortunately I didn’t have the traditional swiss and thousand island dressing on hand to make it really authentic). But we made do. I made sautéed zucchini and roasted potatoes to go with our corned beef tongue sandwiches.
It was an amazing sandwich! I loved it and Chris said it was like really good roast beef. We ate it again for dinner the next day on sourdough english muffins. Chris even let me put sauerkraut on his sandwich, AND said he liked it. Woohoo!! I have been trying to get him to try my sauerkraut for years. It was a big day :).
For lunches this week I have been eating it cold with sauerkraut and mustard. I think it tastes better than regular corned beef because tongue meat is richer and more ‘beefy’ tasting than muscle meat. Then the other night I came home late and didn’t know what else to eat for dinner, so I heated up some sliced corned beef tongue with mustard, sauerkraut and cooked greens. It was so yummy. I am very happy with how this recipe turned out and plan on making it again as soon as I get another tongue from my farmer friends :).
Corned Beef Tongue
for a 3 pound tongue
9 T salt
4.5 T sugar
5 T corned beef spices
1.5 quarts of water
3 lb beef tongue
Mix salt, sugar and water together until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Add brining spices and pour over the tongue in a ziplock bag. Label and plate in a tupperware or bowl to ensure it doesn’t leak and put in the fridge for 10-14 days.
When it is done brining, place the tongue in cold water, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Then remove the tongue, immerse in a fresh pot of water with onion and a little more (fresh) of whatever spices were used in the brine. Cook about 50 minutes per pound. Once tongue is done cooking, remove from cooking water and plunge in cold water to get it cool enough to handle. Then peel off the skin and slice on the diagonal. Serve warm in the cooking water or refrigerate and serve cold on sandwiches or by itself. Tastes great with spicy mustard and sauerkraut!