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May 29, 2008 07:53 AM

Porthus request: my pickled tongue recipe

Here you go, Porthus, my version of pickled tongue. Let me know if you try it and what you think.

Pickled, cured pig tongue

For the cure:
12C water
1C salt
3/8C instacure #1
Pig tongues (5-8 is a good amount for a first try, I think)

Mix first 3 ingredients in a stainless steel pot, stir until dissolved. Wash tongues under running water, place in pot, bring just to boil on hi, remove from heat, let cool to room temp, refrigerate IN THE LIQUID overnight.

Next day

Now cured tongues (throw out the pickling liquid)
Pickling spice

Simmer tongues in a 2/3 water, 1/3 vinegar, 2TBL salt, 2 TBL pickling spice mix for 1 hour. Drain, rinse under cold water and ‘peel’ the tongues; use a knife and scrape off the outer ‘skin’ layer. Discard the ‘skin’.

You can chop the tongues into pieces, or leave whole. I like to chop into 1 inch cube shapes.

Clean pot and make another 2/3 water, 1/3 vinegar, 2TBL salt, 2 TBL pickling spice mix. Simmer the peeled tongues for another hour.
Drain, clean pot and repeat with another ‘clean’ 2/3 water, 1/3 vinegar, 2TBL salt, 2 TBL pickling spice mix.

Drain and rinse the tongues.

Sterilise your canning jars.

Bring a mixture of ½ water, ½ vinegar (perhaps 2 cups and 2 cups), 1TBL salt, 1 TBL pickling spice (your brine) to a boil.

Pack tongues in jars, add brine to within ½ inch of the top, seal and process the jars (immerse in boiling water) for 15 minutes, remove, let cool, refrigerate for 3-4 days.

There you have it, pickled, cured tongue.

You don’t have to cure the tongues. However, the curing gives a subtle characteristic flavour and a nice pink color to the finished product. If you don’t cure, the tongues will be brownish.
Instacure can be difficult to get, I usually order mine from If you haven't used instacure previously, read up on it and be careful, it contains sodium nitrate.

I boil the tongues 3 times mostly for esthetics. You CAN boil them for 3 hours or so, in the same liquid, then remove and peel and pickle, but you get a much cleaner, nicer-looking finished product by changing the cooking liquid.

The amounts of salt and pickling spices is not critical, you can add more or less, depending on your tastes.

Lastly, I’m not a canning expert. I suppose you don’t have to sterilize, nor use a hot brine if you simply refrigerate for a few days and consume. However, proper canning will allow storing the tongue at room temperatures (which I don’t do, I leave room temp pickled meats to the experts. Besides, I pop them in the fridge and pretty much eat them up quick anyway).

I arrived at this method with plenty of trial and error (various stages of not curing, not peeling, not changing liquid, etc etc). It may not be perfect, but it gives me the results I’m looking for.

I’d be curious to hear comments from people who’ve been doing this longer than I have.

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  1. Love it. Thank you. But what is "instacure #1"? I know I can't get it here in Colombia. Is there an alternative?

    3 Replies
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      Instacure #1 is also called pink salt (they add a food colorant in the hopes of avoiding mistaking it for regular salt). It was previously known as Prague powder.
      Its a mixture of salt and sodium nitrite (6.25%) and is used as a curing agent.
      Sodium nitrite is toxic, but in small amounts is a useful cure for meats and sausages to prevent food poisoning. It also adds a flavor and keeps the meat pinkish (boil a fresh piece of pork and it'll turn gray, boil a ham (cured pork) and it'll remain pink because of the nitrites...but god forbid if you boil ribs...but I digress haha)
      I guess you CAN make your own version, mixing 1oz sodium nitrite with one pound of salt, but the ready made instacure is very convenient. Its also much more difficult getting straight sodium nitrite as it can be used to make a bomb, at least thats what they tell me...

      Instacure #2 contains the nitrite as well as sodium nitrate, which with time, breaks down to nitrite. This is useful for longer cure times like air dried hams...but again, I digress.

      Because of its toxicity, it is sold almost as a specialty product, and not widely available. That's why I mentioned You could try a local market where they make their own sausages and ask for instacure #1, or simply their sausage curing salts (I did this when waiting for my 5lb pail to arrive but it cost about 20 times as much). Even though the concentration is 'only' 6.25%, I feel you should still treat it with respect; discard the curing liquid, wash all utensils, vessels, etc, keep the container closed, and don't let the dog eat it.

      Oh, and by the way, science has not found a suitable substitute for nitrite's ability to ward off botulism. Thats why you'll almost always find the words "contains nitrites" on any package of cold-cuts, sausage, ham, cured meats, etc etc,

      I'm running on...hope this helps.

      1. re: porker

        Thank you! I'll ask my butcher for some. Pickled tongue sounds great.

      2. re: Sam Fujisaka

        If anyone is still interested in "instacure #1" Morton Salt Co makes two products, with directions on using them. They are Morton's Tenderquick, and Morton's Sugarcure. Here is their website, they also sell it on the site.

      3. Porker. Thanks lots. I'm also a bit cautious about this canning bit. The recipe sounds awesome though. Any other tongue recipes in your cookbook?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Porthos

          Like I mentioned, you don't have to pickle, nor attempt to 'can' and you'll still get tasty results. It just won't look pretty like commercial pickled pork products nor have exactly the same flavor.

          Offhand, the only thing I used with tongue is gelatina, an italian version of headcheese or brawn. Its actually a terrine made with pigs feet and I optionally add chopped, cooked tongue.

          Lemmee know if you want that one as well...

        2. Porker -

          I hope you see this reply, seeing as it's in a year-old thread...

          I just have two questions about your method...First, in the brine, that is 3/8 cup of Instacure 1, right?

          And second, for the cooking liquid - 2/3 water, 1/3 vinegar...I get the ratios, but how much total liquid should you have, since the strength of the brine changes depending on how much liquid is there.

          Thanjks for the help. I've been making my own bacon and capicola for a long time, but pickling tongue is new to me and I'm excited to give it a try.


          7 Replies
          1. re: daverson

            Hey Dave,

            Yep, 3/8 cup of instacure.

            The amount of cooking liquid isn't critical (even the ratios don't have to be accurate). Use enough to fully cover the tongues you are cooking and enough to last the hour of simmering (add more if it starts to get low).

            Let me know how it comes out!

            1. re: porker

              Gotcha - thanks for the tips. I'm likely to be doing it this weekend.

              1. re: porker

                Well, I cured and processed 10 pounds of lamb's tongue over the weekend, using your recipe as a guideline and making some small adjustments for the smaller tongues. They came out excellently, and I have seven jars in the back of the fridge right now (they all sealed perfectly, but I can't bring myself to trust them for room-temperature storage.)

                Thanks again - I really appreciate it!

                1. re: daverson

                  Hats off to you daverson: when I first tried to pickle tongue, I did it with 6 pieces, probably less than 2 lbs. Seems you went full bore right off the bat: 10lbs!
                  BTW, I've done a similar methon with pigs feet (picked up cheap at the Chinese market, and they'll cut them for you).

                  1. re: porker

                    Couldn't have done it without you! Thanks again.

                  2. re: daverson

                    To get your confidence level on home canning up, get a Kerr or Mason Jar canning and preserving book and follow the directions. It is ALWAYS important to sterilize the jars. Home canning is quite easy, just follow the directions.

                    1. re: RowdyScout

                      you can also purchase "instacure #1"pink salt (they add a food colorant in the hopes of avoiding mistaking it for regular salt). It was previously known as Prague powder.

              2. Hello! :-) :-)
                This will be the second time I try your recipe. First time was a major hit!! Thank you! No instacure though....we have a recipe for instacure made naturally trying tonight... :-) :-) thanks again.