“Write about your favorite place to eat when you were a child.”

Those of you who check in here fairly often will know that my favourite childhood food all comes from my Grandma Gibson’s kitchen.  From biscuits to soup, pies to roasts, Grandma pulled out the most delicious food.  Partly made in her wood stove and partly on top of an ancient electric stove everything that was made just tasted SO much better.

I’ve tried to figure out the magical quotient but I think that it is a combination of; skill (that ever elusive ‘touch’), lots of fresh air, hunger from hard work and ingredients that were grown steps from the kitchen that cooked them.

Where else would you possibly eat pickled, cow’s tongue and go back for second helpings?

How can I provide an experience like that to my wee one?

To start with when we got our cow this time I asked for more of the ‘odd bits’ that I grew up eating.  This Saturday I’m going to try my hand at pickling that rather daunting looking tongue.  I remember it tasting like pastrami and think I’ll rely on this recipe to help me along. 

Pickled Tongue Recipe

adapted from the River Cottage Meat Book

The brine:
5 quarts of water (Stay away from using tap water!)
1 pound light brown sugar
1 pound kosher salt
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon juniper berries
5 cloves
4 bay leaves
A sprig of thyme

2 tablespoon saltpeter *optional: Sole purpose is to prevent the meat from turning gray. Helps to preserve the meat’s red color. ** EDIT** InstaCure #1 aka pink salt is also a great replacement.

1.Add all brine ingredients in a large pot over low heat, stir well until the sugar and the salt has dissolved completely. Take off heat and let the liquid cool down.

2.Place the beef tongue in a plastic container (with a lid), or an over-sized zip bag and pour in brine liquid being sure to submerge completely. If using a zip-top bag be sure to extract as much air as possible, seal and lay flat in the refrigerator for about a week flipping the tongue daily. If the tongue weighs in over 6 lbs, you can go up to 10 days.

3.After patiently waiting for 7 whole days, it is time for you to remove the tongue from the brine. Rinse well under cold running water. Place the tongue back in the container/zip bag and soak it in fresh cold water, submerging again completely for 24~48 hours, changing the water every 12 hours. (The recipe calls for a 24-hour soak, I left mine for 48 hours and it was perfect seasoning – not too salty).

Cooking Pickled Tongue

1 whole beef tongue (pickled)
1 bouquet garni (sprigs of thyme, small bunch of parsley, bay leaf)
1 small carrot, chopped
1 onion, peeled and halved
1 leek, halved lengthwise
½ garlic bulb, outer skin removed

1.Move the tongue to a dutch oven with all ingredients, cover with fresh water and bring to a simmer. Poach gently on the stovetop over low heat or in the oven at 275 degrees for 2½ to 3 hours. Tongue will become very tender and yield when pierced.

2.Remove the tongue from the poaching liquid, place on a cutting board and peel away the outer ‘skin’. It should come away from the meat fairly easily, just make sure to get rid of all of it. Carve the tongue into fairly thick slices and serve over lentils with quality grainy mustard or creamed horseradish.

I really wanted to find a photo of Gran to pop onto here but the renovation saw all of our pictures packed safely away from drywall dust and builders not realizing that unlikely things are treasures.  What I did find though is a graduating class photo of ‘Normal School’ (teacher’s college) at the time my Gran would have been attending.

Photo: Ottawa Normal School class photograph, [ca. 1925]
(image from Archives Ontario)