Retronovated Recipes: Crockpot Beef Tongue

Look at it.  Licking the side of the Crock-pot.

Old Stone House of Brooklyn hosted an 1864 baseball game; naturally, they wanted some 1864 ballpark treats to go along with it.  So we did some research and after looking into Victorian street fair food and picnic pickings, we decided on a menu of popcorn balls (maple, molasses, and rosewater), lemonade, and ham on cornbread.  But there was one Victorian dish that came up again and again as an all-time, picnic in the park favorite: Tongue.

We decided to go for it.  We’d strive for historic accuracy and allow tongue sandwiches to grace our menu. We were serving in Brooklyn, after all, and I trusted this borough to have some adventurous eaters. However, I had never actually cooked a tongue before.  It was time to embark on another Offal Adventure.

A cow tongue is shockingly large and floppity.  I acquired mine at Jeffrey’s Meat Market, which has been located in Essex Street Market since Essex Street had a market.  I brought it home and prepped it, and as I moved it around the kitchen, I imagined it making some kind of animate tongue sounds (mostly pppplhhhlhlllh!). I began cruising for recipes: the Victorians demanded it be “…so tender that a straw would go through it.”  Now that’s tender.  So how to get it so perfectly tender, while at the same time infusing it with all kinds of mid-century spicy flavors?  I knew what I had to do: I busted out my trusty Crock-pot.

Yes, ok, OBVIOUSLY they didn’t have Crock-pots in 1864.  But that’s not what we do on this blog; I don’t have a hearth installed in my four-story walkup.  And I love my Crock-pot; no matter what shit I throw in there, it always comes out perfectly cooked and flavorful.  I trusted it with my tongue.  So I decided to retronovate a recipe:  I used this Spiced Beef Tongue Crockpot recipe for cooking instructions, but used the spices  listed in this 1845 recipe from The New England Economical Housekeeper.

1864-style Slow Cooked Tongue

Adapted from The New England Economical Housekeeper by Esther Allen Howland, 1845; and, Spiced Beef Tongue from

3 pounds Beef tongue (phhhhffffll!)
2 quarts Water
1/4 cup brown sugar
6 whole cloves
6 black peppercorns
6 whole allspice
6 flakes mace
2 teaspoons Salt

Ground spices would be fine, too.

Combine all ingredients in a slow-cooker.  Cook on low 10 hours.


I pulled the tongue from the Crock-pot and it went into the fridge to chill overnight.  The next day I served it toasted on slices of molasses-sweetened cornbread.  It was indeed perfectly tender and flavorful.  And did Brooklyn live up to my expectations of being adventurous eaters?  By the end of the day, we had sold out of tongue sandwiches.

Eating Offal at Þorrablót

My buddies in Iceland are experiecing the festival of Porrablot, a feast of traditional and historic Iclelandic food. It features all kinds of cured meats and offal, many of which are at least partially putrified. The feast includes Hrútspungur (cured ram’s testicles), and Hákarl (fermented shark). According to my sources, the shark tastes like cat pee.

To learn more, head over to Ameriskur.

Eating Like a Tenement Family: Day 3

Stewed Tripe.

Breakfast: Toasted Bread and Scalded Milk

Pretty much as it sounds, because nothing wakes me up in the morning like warm milk. Although, I presume they’re boiling all of their milk because pasteurization wasn’t around yet, and there was a contaminated milk crisis in New York City.

Cost: .32 cents

Lunch: Stewed Tripe

Like most middle-class Americans, I’ve had very little experience with offal. Our affluence has afforded us the luxury to ignore organ meats in favor of the succulent muscles of our animal friends. But not today!

“Stewed Tripe.-Cut in small pieces one pound of tripe. (cost eightcents,) half a quart each of potatoes and onions, (cost of both five cent) and put them in layers in a pot, seasoning them with one table-spoonful of salt, and one level teaspoonful of pepper; mix quarter of a pound of flour with water, gradually using three pints of water, and pour it over the stew: (the flour and seasoning will cost two cents) put the pot over the fire and boil if gently for an hour and a half.”

I have had tripe (cow stomach) once before, in a Philadelphia Pepper Pot stew, and it was like springy, tasteless chicken.

I told myself to stop being a baby and went to wash the tripe (.48 cents). Just the feel of it was enough to turn my stomach–like used Kleenex soaked in baby oil. I prepared the tripe using these instructions. I’m assuming its so important to wash and sterilize it because of the risk of digestive tract bacteria; germ theory was probably not something a Tenement family would be familiar with.

It smelled like a fish tank when it was boiling. Or like a cat pooped in a sandbox.

When I was slicing up the tripe, I wasn’t sure if it would be best to go with small pieces, that might melt away into the broth, or larger pieces I could pick out if I wanted. I decided to go small, and also cut up two medium potatoes (.34 cents) and half of an onion (.05 cents). I added the onion to my pot first, to let it get a little color, then the tripe, and lastly the potatoes. I added a little salt and ground pepper.

I had saved the water in which I had boiled the macaroni the night before. Corson recommends drinking the starchy water for breakfast; while I wasn’t up for that, I couldn’t let all those nutrients go to waste. I whisked in 1/4 cup of flour and poured it in my soup pot. I brought the mix to a boil, then turned it down and let it simmer for 30 mins, until the potatoes were tender. It thickened considerably, but still maintaned that fish tank smell.

In the end, I am a big puss. I could handle one bite of the gummy organ meat; It really had some flavor that I associate with contaminated water. I ate out the potatoes, trying to taste them as little as possible.

Cost: .87 cents

Supper: Polenta

“This favorite Itallian dish is closely related to the hasty pudding of New England, and the mush of the South. “

After this afternoon, I was relieved to have something unchallenging for dinner. Polenta is easy and about one of the cheapest foods you can make, costing about .05 a serving. It can be made with water, milk, or leftover stock; and is improved by the addition of onions or cheese.

I made a third of this recipe for polenta. I ate half, and stored the rest away in the fridge for tomorrow. It was great.

Cost: .32 cents

Also had my daily apple and lemon half.

Total Cost: 1.96
Approximate Calories Consumed: 800

Running Total: 6.02-6.56