Corning beef tongues is a fairly old technique that has gone somewhat out of practice. As has eating beef tongues for that matter. Even I must admit that I was a little slow to the take when it came to tongue. But I'm making up for it now. In my search for beef tongue recipes, I had to dig far back into the annals of culinary history. And every once in a while I would come across a recipe that called for corned beef tongue. I thought to myself "now I gotta do that!" So here it is, folks: corned beef tongue. Oh, and if you are having trouble finding beef tongue, go to the Mexican market, the Mercado. They usually have some.
1. Assemble the ingredients. As I said above, the best place to find a beef tongue if your butcher doesn't have any is at the Mercado. Mercado is Spanish for market. If your town has a Latin population, you should have a Mercado. Check it out; it can be a great source of some hard-to-find ingredients. You may also be able to find saltpeter, a.k.a. potassium nitrate, there. For more tips, check at the bottom of the page.
2. Make the brine or corning mixture. Heat up the water in a medium-sized pot. Once it begins to boil, toss in the salt and sugar. Use the whisk and stir to dissolve them into the water. Then add the spices and garlic. The heat from the water will help the spices to release more of their flavor. Remove from heat and cool in a sink of ice water. As it cools, stir in the final ingredient, the saltpeter. Cool to around 100 degrees F.
3. Pour the "corn" mixture over the beef tongue. Find a container that is large enough to fit the tongue and brine (corn) mixture. Also make sure the container won't tip over or leak. A large Ziploc bag, bowl, or other container will work fine. If you use a bowl, you will need to put a weight on top of the tongue to keep it submerged. If you need more liquid, you may add up to three more cups of plain water without diluting the solution too badly.
4. Refrigerate the beef tongue while it corns. The beef tongue will need to be refrigerated as it corns. Make sure you have a drip pan underneath it to catch any dripping that may occur. It should brine for at least 7 days before it will be ready. Every other day, remove it from the refrigerator and flip it over using a pair of tongs. To cook it, boil it in water and spices. For more information, read Boil Corned Beef Tongue.
There is some flexibility in the quantities of the pickling spice but for the most part you shouldn't really add or subtract anything. Unless you have to, of course.
Saltpeter may be hard to find. I found mine at a Chinese market. It was labeled "nitre," which is another name for potassium nitrate or saltpeter.
Instead of using saltpeter you can use something called "Quick Cure," it can usually be found in the salt area of grocery stores. Just use it in place of the salt and omit the saltpeter.
Another product that will work is called Prague Powder #1 or #2, also called pink curing salt. It contains table salt and curing agents, similar to the quick cure stuff.
Both "Quick Cure" and "Prague Powder" use sodium nitrite/nitrate in place of potassium nitrate/saltpeter because they are more reliable. And apparently they are also better at killing bacteria and stuff. So maybe it's time to just switch?
A large Ziploc bag inside of a bowl is probably the best way to cure the beef tongue. I just didn't have one when I was working on this article.