How to Pickle Lamb or Goat Tongue
“Tongue is the softest, most luxurious ham you’ve ever had”
The flavors of pickled tongue can be adjusted and tweaked to your preference. Warm spices work great, but I’ve played around with a lot of different variations. The spices you put in the pickle will come through since the tongues will sit in the mixture for a number of days before they’re fully cured and ready to eat.
Depending on your age, pickled tongue might sound like some enlightened hipster food, or maybe just a weird organ dish old people eat, I tell you what though, it’s both of these things and much more.
Calling meat pickled conjures up weird images of meat sitting in vinegar-y solutions like a science experiment. From a consumer’s perspective, vegetables are ok to pickle, since they aren’t made of muscle, but for some reason pickled meat (let alone a pickled tongue) seems to scare people, and I completely understand why-it’s all about terminology.
I find the tongue goes over a lot better to conventional friends when I just hide it on a charcuterie board. When they love what they’re eating and ask about it, I may describe it as sweet and sour lamb or goat depending on what animal it came from. If I know they enjoy diverse foods I’ll tell them it’s tongue but I’m ok with them thinking it is “sweet and sour lamb.”
You can do this with any tongue, just make sure there is enough liquid to completely cover the tongues in whatever vessel you hold them in to cure, I’ve used pork, beef, bison, goat, boar, venison and lamb over the years. They’re excellent gently warmed and made into a small plate, or just eaten with hot mustard, pickles, and other charcuterie.
The dried spices and aromatics are up to you. The blend below is one I came up with one day while rummaging through my coolers. I rarely make it the same way twice as far as seasonings, but I always keep the same proportion of vinegar-stock-sweetener.
Since the meat is heavily cured and de-natured by the pickling process, the pickled tongues can easily be frozen whole for storage, then thawed, peeled and eaten without their texture suffering from freezing. If you pickle the tongues and keep the in the refrigerator, after the 5 day aging process eat the tongues within a week or two, and always make sure they’re kept underneath the pickling liquid.
This recipe is by chef Alan Bergo. A chef from Minnesota, Alan is a 15 year veteran of the culinary industry, former executive chef of Acclaimed Lucia’s Restaurant, and the Salt Cellar. Founder of the website Forager Chef, he’s best known as a respected authority on Midwestern foraging. Learn more about Alan and his hunt for mushrooms, wild and obscure foods at Forager Chef.
Pickled lamb or goat tongue
Basic Tongue Pickle
- 1.5 lb Lamb or goat tongues roughly 5-6 tongues depending on size
- 1 each carrot, onion, and a rib of celery, cleaned and roughly chopped
- 2 Tablespoons sea salt
- 1 quart cider vinegar
- 2 quart meat stock
- 1 quart barley malt honey, molasses, sorghum molasses, or 2 lb brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons pink salt
Aromatics (can be adjusted to what you prefer)
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 5 sprigs of thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- Zest of one orange
- 1 bulb garlic halved
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh ginger
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
Optional Dried Spices
- 1/2 inch piece of cinnamon
- 2 whole star anise
- 5 allspice berries
- 1 Tablespoon mustard seed
- Toast the dried spices.
- Combine all the ingredients in a small pot, cover, and bring to a simmer.
- Cook for 3 hours, or until the lamb tongues are completely tender.
- Remove the tongues to a cutting board with a slotted spoon and allow them to cool until you can handle them, then peel with your hands or a paring knife.
- Transfer the lamb tongues and their liquid to a container, seal tightly, label and date, then allow the tongues to age for 5 days completely covered by the pickling liquid.
- After five days, you can remove the lamb tongues, slice, and eat.
- If you are not going to eat the pickled tongues right away, make sure to leave them underneath the pickling liquid in an airtight jar, or store them in a freezer, tightly wrapped in plastic, labeled and dated. If you want to freeze the tongues for storage, you may want to leave the skin on to help resist freezer burn.