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Monday, November 15, 2010

So Suet Me: Tongue In Cheek

Last winter, when I pre-ordered the quarter steer, I asked if I could have the suet fat as well.  The proprietress told me that she would have to ask the processor, because no one had asked for that before.  I said well in that case, could you ask for the liver, tongue and oxtails too?  This June when we picked up our meat, there was a third case that had the suet, tongue, liver and oxtails from three steers, none of which, with the exception of the livers, I had cooked with before.  Steve likes the meat items, and I wanted to try making suet puddings this rainy season.  It seems a good use of a wood stove to have dessert or dinner simmering on it while it's heating the house.

Yesterday I made the Thanksgiving pudding from the Fannie Farmer cookbook, with minor alterations.  I have an open can of dehydrated apples that need using up, as well as powdered eggs, so I substituted the figs in the recipe for the apples, and added the rind of a lemon as well, since I had it.  The most interesting part of the whole thing was using suet instead of any other fat.  Most folks these days would balk at cooking with beef fat, but these were grass fed cows, which means the fat is chock full of Omega 3's.  At any rate, I grated the suet on a box grater, and was amazed to see it crumble into fairly tiny bits.  The recipe told me to cream the suet (like you would butter) only it wasn't really cooperating and I figured oh to hell with it- just let the crumbles melt into the pudding.  The pudding turned out great!  If you haven't any experience with steamed puddings, I suggest you try at least one.  I happen to have a pudding tin that I got years ago from Williams and Sonoma for around fourteen dollars which they no longer seem to have. I also have a small footed stainless steel mixing bowl that I sometimes use, but you can use any heat proof bowl and cover it tightly with two sheets of aluminum foil, or you can do as Ruth did in Victorian Farm and thoroughly rub flour into a dampened tea towel (use one with as little texture as possible) and tie the pudding up in that.  I'll have to try that last one, as I have simmered German napkin dumplings (Serviettenknodel) in a buttered damp tea towel with great success, so I'd be interested to try flour instead. 

The other thing I did this week was to cook one of the tongues.  Steve loves tongue, and since I love Steve, I wanted to try this for him.  However, I wasn't too sure about this because there's a certain ick factor involved: you have to boil the tongue and then peel it. Ewww, right?  I consulted several cookbooks that I reckoned would have instructions for tongue: The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, and The German Cookbook.  The basic instructions for all of them say to thoroughly scrub the tongue first, which I did.  What they don't tell you is how much it smells.  

Stinking in the sink
Which makes sense because it's somebody's tongue after all, but I wasn't prepared for it.  That, and the general ick factor was enough to put me off the project, but I kept at it.  Peeling the tongue after cooking wasn't as gruesome as I thought it was going to be, and the skin chopped up and mixed into kibble with some cooking liquid made our neighbor's dog Shane, who we are watching again this week, pretty darn happy.  It's just too bad that the tongue itself was a little overcooked and mushy.  I'll have to try again, and actually weigh the next one so I know how long to cook it (fifty minutes to the pound).  Steve liked it pretty well, but agreed that I need to back off the cooking time.  I think I'd like to stumble around online for awhile and see if I can find some other interesting ways of preparing it.   One of Steve's favorite tacos is lengua.

So there it is: my tongue and suet projects.  If nothing else, I should get brownie points for bravery.


Miriam said...

You get LOTS of brownie points from me! Ick!

We watched most of the Victorian Farm episodes on one of our local TV channels last year, and just loved them, but we missed the first one. It's great to know we can go to You Tube for it!

I imagine there are people all over the world trying suet puddings and cooked tongue because they watched Victorian Farm...

Wouldn't you like to go there for a holiday? I'm not sure I could do a week, but wouldn't it be fun to live that way for a couple of weeks?

Paula said...

Yes I would love to try it for awhile. I am not kidding myself though- it was, as Ruth said, 'flippin' hard work!' But I'd still like to try it.

Was anyone else wondering why Ruth didn't load the fireplace in her bedroom with coal and light one up?

Jennifer Montero said...

Paula - What a great post. You are becoming an honorary Victorian! I like your chutzpah, to use all parts of the animals or at least give it a try. Do you find that your knowledge of German cooking gives you a head start?

When I moved to England I learned to make suet puddings from my mother-in-law. It's a staple cooking technique here. She taught me to crumble the fat with the flour too, just like if you were making a crumble topping for apple crisp. I steam them in the muslin, though I can get away with microwaving the dessert ones.

I cook the offal for our dogs and I can vouch for that smell.

And if anyone wants a holiday where they have to keep the coal fires lit, work on a pheasant shoot, bow and scrape to the landed gentry that own your house, and muck out animals in the dark after a long day, you are welcome at my house - free room and board, and all the suet pudding you can eat.

Marianne said...

Hi Paula
I ate tongue a lot as a child. after peeling it you curl it up in a pudding basin . cover with a saucer, and weigh it down (my mother used a jug of water as a weight), then leave overnight in the fridge. then turn it out and you have delicious pressed tongue.
and the hobnail boots? Alex's brother Tom made them. look at

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

If I were closer, I'd trade you for one of those tongues. But, as far as I'm concerned, there's only one good thing to do with it -- pickle it! I've never done it, myself, but I've eaten plenty of pickled tongue, and it's delicious.

sunflower said...

Hi, great blog by the way!
I'm not sure where in the world you are but over here in England the people from 'Victorian farm' are currently on telly doing 'Edwardian farm'
It's on the BBC so might be available to you on BBC iPlayer on the net.

Paula said...

Jennifer- you are on! If I'm ever in Britain, I will definitely look you up- probably before I leave the states.

Marianne- thanks for the info on the hobnail boots!

Tamar- it's funny you should mention pickling, because I guessed from the difference in color between my tongue (brown) and Ruth's tongue (reddish pink) that hers was probably pickled, and I decided that I'd like to try that next. All three books I consulted had recipes for cooking pickled tongue, but no recipes for pickling it. Since I'm currently with the German mother-in-law, I think I should ask her if she has anything on it. Pickled tongue, one way or the other, is definitely in the future!

Thank you, sunflower! I am in the Pacific Northwest, in Oregon. I am going to look for Edwardian Farm on Amazon, in hopes that some day they'll have a DVD of the series available.

Toni aka irishlas said...

When I first saw the thumbnail to your post, I thought it was a picture of a bruised leg! Glad to see it was only a tongue!

Bravo to you for giving it a whirl. I'll eat just about anything, but, in this case, I'd have to have someone else prepare it.

I'll have to give Victorian Farm a peek. Sounds interesting.

Have a great weekend!

Kate said...

Ah! Total brownie points. Kudos! I have a half-way obsession going with preparing traditional British fare, so a steamed pudding sounds wonderful. I recommend the lardy cake to you if you like such things. Appreciate the tongue experiment. I was given a couple of pork tongues by the farmer I buy from. He knows I'll at least try to work with the weird bits, but I've no experience with tongue, and pork is not the tongue most people talk about. So when I get around to digging it out of the freezer, we'll see...

Peter said...

Coincidentally, I just made pastrami from a tongue, and it came out very well: nice and pink. I have a new post up about it. The initial smell was off-putting, though, and made me wonder what I was getting myself into.