Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
I like to think that I am open-minded
and will at least consider trying something new. I try not to balk
at the moment of consideration, but carry through to at least the
point of being able to make an observation or an opinion about
whatever it is that I might be trying out, especially if I am leary
or queasy about it. I am talking specifically about food. (To see
the daring side of our culinary leanings, read a blog I posted last
summer, Turn the Table on Grasshoppers Eating the Garden.)
A couple of weeks ago we had our steer
butchered. I had been keeping him in a small pasture and fed him
grain for about three weeks. Before that, he had been pastured his
whole life. I had heard that it is good to give grain before
butchering along with the good grass that was growing in the pasture.
That way I would know exactly what had been going through his
digestive system right before butchering.
The morning he was butchered I was
working in the hoophouse and heard a “pop” sound. I was pretty
sure what the sound was, and it was confirmed when I went out for a
closer look. The butcher had already driven into the pasture and
downed the steer. After a bit I went out to visit with the butcher.
I wanted his opinion on the size of the steer, and what he thought of
the carcass. As we were talking he asked me if I wanted to keep the
liver and the heart. I went to the house and got a large container
for him to put the organs in, rather than them going to the meat
packer because I am not interested in having them packaged for
keeping in the freezer. He then asked me if I wanted the tongue. I
quickly said, “No.”
As I stood there, I watched the butcher
and his helper continue cleaning the carcass and then I glanced over
at the head. The pioneer spirit within me came forward as I looked
at that beef head. I understand that it may seem morbid to be
looking at this beef head lying on the ground, that just minutes
earlier was on a live cow. But, I was completely focused on thinking
about the tongue and trying to figure out if it was a viable source
I had seen recipes for tongue in
several old cookbooks that I own, and had wondered about this lesser
eaten body organ. I recalled reading a recipe in a neat little '50's
luncheon party cookbook about boiling the tongue, thinly slicing it
to make cute little mini-sandwich hors d'oeuvre. It seemed almost
like a delicacy, something rare and very couth. I had never eaten
tongue, so why would I just waste this accessible piece of meat and
not even give it a try? So, Mr. Butcher, “If you don't mind, would
you go ahead and save me the tongue?” The butcher himself said,
“It's good, I think it taste like roast beef.” “Well,” I
thought, “This can't be too bad.”
Within a few seconds, he had swung the
head around, cut the tongue out and neatly laid it in the container
along with the heart and liver. As they finished the butchering, I
toted the organs into the house. I got out a couple of cookbooks and
summarized that it was a good idea to soak the tongue in salt water.
After thoroughly rinsing the tongue, I placed it in a big bowl along
with a couple of teaspoons of salt and covered with water. I then
sealed the bowl with plastic wrap and placed it in the fridge. It
stayed there overnight.
A Tongue is a Tongue...
The next day I brought the tongue out
and rinsed it again. I placed it in a large Dutch oven, covered with
hot water and sat it on a burner turned to medium heat. Once it
started to boil, I placed it on a simmer burner and let it slowly
simmer for about three hours. After that I turned off the heat and
let it set till cool enough to handle. As you can see by the
picture, which shows it at this point in the process, it still very
much looks like a tongue. I was simply grossed out. But, I kept on
with it, hoping that I could get past the thought of it being a
tongue. Using a small, sharp paring knife I sliced off all the skin.
This was easy, and the meat seemed very tender underneath the skin.
After all the skin was off I started slicing it. I was able to
easily cut it into thin little slices. But, I was already too far
gone. This tongue just too, too tongue; though it smelled kind of
like roast beef it had an almost spongy texture that I couldn't
pallet. I went ahead and ate a small bite. I thought maybe if I ate
a piece that I would enjoy the taste so much that I could move to a
different perspective of this meat. No such luck. Just grossed me
out more, even though it tasted fairly good.
I got Caleb and Daniel to give it a
try, but they didn't find it very appealing, either. Earlier I had
hoped that I could make pseudo-roast beef sandwiches with it or even
beef and noodles, but that wasn't going to happen. So, end of story
and the leftovers become dog food. They very much enjoyed it.
Hope For Organ Meat?
So, there is my struggle. Is there
hope for organ meat in my family? We don't eat the heart or liver,
either. I end up using it all for dog food. It bothers me as a
woman with a pioneer spirit that I don't have better appreciation of
these usable pieces of meat. Do you have a recipe, a method or just
a perspective you could share with me using these unique meat pieces?
Please let me know how you feel about or have dealt with this.
Thanks, friends, I look forward to hearing from you!
Photo: I took this picture after
the tongue had been cooked and cooled, right before skinning and