Lingua Salmistrata

Pickled ox tongue

Preparation info

    • Difficulty


Appears in

Honey from a Weed

By Patience Gray

Published 1986

  • About

One of the sights in winter in the Veneto — pickled tongues, magnificent, in butchers’ shops. Here is the Venetian principle of pickling them, producing not only a fine colour but an agreeable flavour. (Calves’ feet, a calf s head or a piece of belly of pork can conveniently be put into the pickle at the same time.)


The pickle. Dissolve kilos (3 lb 6 oz) of sea salt in 5 litres (180 fl oz) of water with 150 g (5 oz) saltpetre (from a chemist). Add 300 g (11 oz) brown molasses, boil for a few minutes, then add a branch of thyme, a twig of rosemary, 2 or 3 leaves of sage, 3 or 4 bayleaves, a dozen juniper berries and a dozen peppercorns, all confined in a muslin bag, and leave till cold. This takes some hours.

Pour the liquor over the ox tongue in a glazed earthenware crock (or stoneware crock should you have one), put a clean board over the meat and weight it with a large pebble or non-porous stone to keep the tongue immersed. Leave for a week in the pickle. (In the depth of winter it can stay longer.)

To cook it. Take it out and immerse in tepid water for a few hours to remove some of the salt. Then put it in a large marmite with plenty of cold water to cover. Bring to the boil, skim off the scum as it rises, then simmer slowly — 25 minutes for every 1/2 kilo (1 lb 2 oz) and 1/2 an hour besides — with the lid on. It takes longer than a fresh tongue because the saltpetre has the effect of slightly toughening the meat. Throw away the cooking water. The scarlet tongue, peeled and trimmed of its little bones and excess fat, is served hot with a passato di patate, leaf spinach and salsa verde and mostarda di frutta.