Old Stone House of Brooklyn hosted an 1864 baseball game; naturally, they wanted some 1864 ballpark treats to go along with it. So we did some research and after looking into Victorian street fair food and picnic pickings, we decided on a menu of popcorn balls (maple, molasses, and rosewater), lemonade, and ham on cornbread. But there was one Victorian dish that came up again and again as an all-time, picnic in the park favorite: Tongue.
We decided to go for it. We’d strive for historic accuracy and allow tongue sandwiches to grace our menu. We were serving in Brooklyn, after all, and I trusted this borough to have some adventurous eaters. However, I had never actually cooked a tongue before. It was time to embark on another Offal Adventure.
A cow tongue is shockingly large and floppity. I acquired mine at Jeffrey’s Meat Market, which has been located in Essex Street Market since Essex Street had a market. I brought it home and prepped it, and as I moved it around the kitchen, I imagined it making some kind of animate tongue sounds (mostly pppplhhhlhlllh!). I began cruising for recipes: the Victorians demanded it be “…so tender that a straw would go through it.” Now that’s tender. So how to get it so perfectly tender, while at the same time infusing it with all kinds of mid-century spicy flavors? I knew what I had to do: I busted out my trusty Crock-pot.
Yes, ok, OBVIOUSLY they didn’t have Crock-pots in 1864. But that’s not what we do on this blog; I don’t have a hearth installed in my four-story walkup. And I love my Crock-pot; no matter what shit I throw in there, it always comes out perfectly cooked and flavorful. I trusted it with my tongue. So I decided to retronovate a recipe: I used this Spiced Beef Tongue Crockpot recipe for cooking instructions, but used the spices listed in this 1845 recipe from The New England Economical Housekeeper.
3 pounds Beef tongue (phhhhffffll!)
2 quarts Water
1/4 cup brown sugar
6 whole cloves
6 black peppercorns
6 whole allspice
6 flakes mace
2 teaspoons Salt
Ground spices would be fine, too.
Combine all ingredients in a slow-cooker. Cook on low 10 hours.
I pulled the tongue from the Crock-pot and it went into the fridge to chill overnight. The next day I served it toasted on slices of molasses-sweetened cornbread. It was indeed perfectly tender and flavorful. And did Brooklyn live up to my expectations of being adventurous eaters? By the end of the day, we had sold out of tongue sandwiches.