I’m singin’, though not in the rain yet, a medley consisting of “Duke of Earl” (by Gene Chandler) and “Speedo” by The Cadillacs, the latter with the opening hook, “Well, now, they often call me Speedo but my real name is Mister Earl.” Earl’s feeder bands have started to materialize in the late summer sky and the finches have sounded the gale warning. Too bad they don’t get the weather channel (founded by global warming denialist Richard Littlemore) that this particular hurricane will merely graze the barrier islands along coastal Carolina before taking aim on Boston and eventually peter out somewhere between Maine and Nova Scotia. I hope they’re right.
Meanwhile, being somewhat optimistic that the sun will rise tomorrow, the next day, and for at least the 6 days following that, I’ve started a disgusting meat-curing project: pickled tongue. There seems to be no middle ground on this delicacy which invokes either gauzy-lens deli nostalgia or violent retching whenever mentioned. I ate tongue growing up and can remember sneaking to the refrigerator in the middle of the night, cutting off a few slices of tongue, peeling away the bands of inedible skin, slapping the pate-like slices on a gossamer piece of Wonder bread, emptying half a salt shaker on it, and gobbling it right down. Nobody told me it was supposed to be disgusting and, truth be told, these days I’m more offended by the Wonder bread. I didn’t learn until the 1980s, when I was nearly forty, that beef tongue really grosses some people out. It was in the fridge, so I ate it without questioning.
If you are one of those grossed-out people, I’ve probably already scared you off with the lead picture here. It’s been about 10 years since I’ve made pickled tongue and it is truly a thankless task. What cocked the hammer on my starter pistol this time was a conversation, exactly one week ago tonight, with the chef at a local retirement community. Susanne told me that she often makes sweetbreads there, mentioning that the most difficult part was peeling off the skin after cooking. That reminded me of tongue and soon we were having an enthusiastic conversation about all sorts of exotic offal and a mutual fascination with the Travel Channel’s Bizarre Foods and the apparent cast iron stomach of host Andrew Zimmern. Susanne has not been back to the Armadillo since then, but the conversation still lingers in the air there like traffic jam hours after an accident. Last night, the topic was squirrel meat, which Rick compared to chicken necks, saying you add it, say to Brunswick stew, for the richness of flavor the meat adds as well as the thickening effect of the bone marrow. Fascinating stuff, but neither of us could ever bring ourselves to eat possum.
- 1 gallon water
- 6 ounces brown sugar
- 6 ounces salt
- 3 ounces InstaCure #1
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon Tellicherry peppercorns
- 1 tablespoon juniper berries
- 1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
I’m giving the tongue 8 days in that, but instead of cooking it in the oven, I’ll use the smoker like Rytek says. That’s happening next week; good Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.