To Bake a Neates-Tongue, To Be Eaten Hot

This is a guest contribution to Illuminations for The Great Rare Books Bake Off by Matthew Burrell.

The recipe I chose came from a book published in London in 1632 by John Murrell1. Held in the Florida State University Special Collections department and available digitally. The difficult and time-consuming part of this project was deciphering the text itself. I found the database Middle English Compendium, and very useful.

One example spelled in the recipe is Vergis. The Middle English Compendium explained that it was a variation of the correctly spelled verjǒus2, (an acidic juice extracted from unripe or sour fruit, chiefly grapes but also crabapples).  Verjǒus is used today and can be found on Amazon3.

A Neates Tongue is a beef tongue. Beef tongue is not a regular dish in my home, and a little more expensive than I thought, but it compared nicely to a pot-roast. Although the recipe is over 350 years old, the ingredients were easy to find and resulted in a delicious meal.

The recipe called for boiling the tongue until tender. I boiled it for 5 hours in a crock pot. The directions did not call for any spices to be added at this point. When the tongue seemed tender, the outer skin was easily removed.

The next step was baking the meat with nutmeg, pepper and salt, minced dates and parboiled currents. Being allergic to currents, I left them out and instead used raisins.

An unusual part of the directions was to use a silver spoon to mix egg yolks with sweet cream and dried orange peel for the sauce. I couldn’t find why the author suggested a silver spoon. Sulphur in the eggs reacts negatively with silver.

Baking took one and a half hours at 350⁰ with regular basting with sweet butter “that it may not bake dry on the outside”.

The result was amazing and will forever change how I make beef tongue. Just before eating sprinkle nutmeg, sugar, and orange juice on the meat.

1 Murrell, John,17th cent. A Nevv Booke of Cookerie VVherein is Set Forth a most Perfect Direction to Furnish an Extraordinary, Or Ordinary Feast, either in Summer Or Winter. also a Bill of Fare for Fifh-Dayes, Fasting-Dayes, Ember-Weekes, Or Lent. and Likewise the most Commendable Fashion of Dressing, Or Sowcing, either Flesh, Fish, Or Fowle: For Making of Iellies, and Other Mide-Dishes for Seruice, to Beautifie either Noble-Mans Or Gentlemans Table. Together with the Newest Fashion of Cutting Vp any Fowle. all Set Forth According to the Now, New, English and French Fashion: By Iohn Murrell. London, Printed by T. Snodham] for Iohn Browne, and are to be sould at his shop in Dunstanes church-yard, 1617. ProQuest,

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