Neat's Tongue

Perhaps one of the most famous recipes in literature begins, "Eye of newt, and toe of frog, Wool of bat, and tongue of dog, Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting, Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,--". This is, of course, Shakespeare's Macbeth, but when I came across the following recipe in Eliza Rundell's A New System of Domestic Cookery, it seemed as if it might fit right in to the list of inedible ingredients. "Cold Neat's Tongue", as it was called, was suggested as an appropriate side dish for a supper party in 1807,
Hot suppers are not much in use where people dine very late. When required, the top and bottom, or either, may be Game. Fowls. Rabbit. Boiled Fish, such as Soles, Mackerel. Oysters stewed or scalloped. French Beans. Cauliflower, or Jerusalem Artichokes, in white Sauce. Brocoli with Eggs. Stewed Spinach and ditto. Sweetbreads. Small Birds. Mushrooms. Potatoes. Scallop, &c. Cutlets. Roast Onions. Salmagundy. Buttered Eggs on Toast. Cold Neat's Tongue. Ham. Collared things. Hunter's Beef sliced. Rusks buttered, with Anchovies on. Grated Hung Beef with butter, with or without Rusks. Grated Cheese round, and Butter dressed in the middle of a plate. Radishes ditto. Custards in glasses with Sippets. Oysters cold or pickled. Potted Meals. Fish. Birds. Cheese, &c. Good plain Cake sliced. Pies of Bird, or Fruit. Crabs. Lobster Prawns. Cray-fish. Any of the list of sweet things. Fruits. A Sandwich set with any of the above articles, placed a little distance from each other on the table, looks well, without the tray, if preferred. The lighter the things the better they appear, and glass intermixed has the best effect. Jellies, different coloured things, and flowers, add to the beauty of the table. An elegant supper may be served at a small expense by those who know how to make trifles that are in the house form the greatest part of the meal. The Hereford Bull was undoubtedly a common sight in Austen's Day.
  I, for one, though, could not imagine what a "Neat" was, let alone how to prepare it's tongue, hot or cold. I supposed it to be a type of bird. Further inquiry, however, lead to the discovery that it was, in fact, nothing more glamorous than beef, though specifically a horned oxen. The following recipe, from Ms. Rundell's book, is entitled Neat's-Tongue Larded. The technique of “Larding Meat” involved threading thin bits of salt pork or fat through the surface layer of the meat in order to give flavor and tenderness to otherwise lean choices of meat, such as mutton or game. A special “larding needle” was required. The fat was inserted through the “eye” or pincers and pulled into place. Lacking this tool, you may choose to simply add the bacon in the bottom of the pan while braising the meat. offers this  8" Larding Needle With Flap by Friedr Dick for under $5.
Langue de Bieuf Pique--Neat's-Tongue Larded Having removed the root and the gullet of a small neats-tongue, rub it well with salt; next day hang it to drain, and wipe it. Let it lie in salt one day, boil it half an hour, blanch and remove the skin; then, having rolled some fresh cured fat bacon in a seasoning of pepper, salt, cloves, mace, cinnamon and nutmeg, with parsley, knotted marjoram, chives or chibols, and a little morsel of garlic minced small, lard the tongue all over, except a little space from the root to the tip in the middle, where it is to be divided; braize and glaze as usual, having, after it is dressed, cut it in two, except at two extremities, and thus lay in on the dish in the form of a heart.
This may not be your "cup of tea", but given that, as one chef put it, “[The]...heart and tongue are probably the two best cuts on the animal”, taken along with the sheer number of recipes for this particular cut of meat, given in period cookbooks (six in Ms. Rundell's book, even called for boiling it with an udder!) Perhaps there is something to it, after all. The basics of this recipe are easy enough to puzzle out, however a wonderful step by step instructional post can be found at Melly Made It, which gives photographs for preparing your tongue in a similar way (up to the point of skinning it), which is especially helpful. Beef Tongue Pancetta, by Charles Haynes ( Other recipes call for preparing (salting and boiling) your tongue and then slicing it and serving it with sauce or gravy. No matter how you present it, however, it's sure to be a "conversation piece" at your next dinner party!  

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