Tongue is another meat that does not have the best reputation. But if you think about it, the tongue of any animal is pure muscle meat, even though the texture is rather different from say steak. I have always loved tongue so when I saw an entire beef tongue on offer I couldn’t resist.
Beef tongue can be prepared in a many ways. As a cold cut it is one of the pillars of New York style Jewish deli cuisine, and cured cooked tongue is a German classic. I wanted to combine the two, preparing a hot meal from the tip and using the rest for slicing cold.
Sometimes tongue is also smoked – cold or hot – and since I have to possibility to do this I decided on cold smoking.
The process is pretty straightforward. For curing I used the vacuum method because it gives the best results, but it is slower than brining or injection curing. You should give it at least two weeks. The good thing is that you can not overcure the meat because you only add the amount of salt that you want to end up inside. The curing time is long enough so that the salt can spread anywhere evenly by diffusion.
- 1 raw beef tongue (mine was 1700 grams)
- 30 g per kg German nitrite curing salt (0.5% nitrite content)
- 3 g per kg ground black pepper
You need a quality vacuum sealer with structured bags. Rub the tongue thoroughly with the pre-mixed salt and pepper and place in a large enough vacuum bag. Take care that the opening stays dry, otherwise the seal will not be airtight.
After curing the tongue is removed from the bag and dried for 24 hours uncovered in the fridge to prepare for smoking. I used beechwood and cold smoked for 8 hours. This was just supposed to add a light hint of smoke to the tongue. The duration critically depends on your smoker and smoke generator setup, so you may need longer or not as long for the same result.
By any means don’t bother to do multiple rounds of smoking. This is only needed for meats that are hung for several weeks like ham or speck. Such an amount of smoke would be much too dominant for our tender tongue.
The next day the tongue is simmered for 2 1/2 hours in a strong beef broth. I used marrow bones and meat bones along with carrots, celeriac, onions and leek. The broth should be lightly salted to avoid too much salt diffusing out of the meat during cooking.
Remove the skin after cooking. I cut off the tip and used it for a hot lunch. In classic German and French cuisine, beef tongue is served with madeira sacue. But I went for a quick whisky sauce by simply reducing some of the broth and adding some cream, beurre manié (butter mixed with flour) and a shot of single malt. I served it with mashed potatoes into which I blended the bone marrow from the broth and a little cream to achieve the right texture. Unfortunately I accidentially deleted the picture of the meal.
For slicing the tongue as a cold cut, refrigerate overnight.