Thursday, November 13, 2008


One of Hannah Wooley’s (1622?-1674?) contemporaries was our old friend Samuel Pepys (1633-1703). In the complete absence of any evidence, I like to think that Sam knew of her books – he was clearly a man who liked food, and he did have an impressive library of books and manuscripts. 
Sam’s diary has provided the inspiration for many posts in the past, and at least two of these have featured Neat’s Tongue (HERE and HERE). Neat’s tongue is Calf’s Tongue, and a popular dish all year round – but particularly useful at this time of the year as Christmas approaches. The great value of tongue was that it could be “dried” – actually salted (also confusingly called “pickled”) in the same way as ham. The advantage was of course that it could then keep well. Dried Neat’s Tongue really came into its own at Christmas when it was used in Plumb Porridge (or pottage) and Christmas Pie. The basic mixture of Plumb Porridge eventually thickened up and gave rise to Christmas Mincemeat (now mere Fruit Mince), Christmas Cake, and Christmas Pudding. 

Naturally, Mrs Woolley tells us how to prepare it.
Neats-tongues, an excellent way how to dry them.
Take Salt, beaten very fine, and salt-Peter, of each a like quantity, rub your Tongues very well with the Salts, and cover them all over with it; an as it wast[e]s, supply them with more, then roul them in Bran, and dry them before a soft fire; before you boil them, lay them in Pump-water one night, and boil them in Pump-water.
Of course, if you wished, you could use fresh Neat’s Tongue for your Mince Pies.
Neats-tongue Minc’d Pye.
Take a fresh Neats-tongue, boil, blanch, and mince it, then mingle them together, and season them with an ounce of Cloves and Mace beaten, some Salt, half an Orange preserved, and a little Lemon-peel, shred with a quarter of a pound of Sugar, four pound of Currans, a little Verjuice and Rosewater and a quarter of a pint of Sack, stir all together, and fill your Pyes.
P.S The Vintage Christmas Recipe Archive is HERE.
Quotation for the Day …
At Christmas I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May’s new-fangled shows,
But like of each thing that in season grows.
William Shakespeare (1564–1616), Love’s Labor’s Lost.


srhcb said...

An excellent and appropriate Shakeperian quote!

Some scholars maintain that the last word in the second line should be "mirth" rather than "shows".

The argument is that the "shows" is a mistranscription of "shews", and "mirth" fits the rhyme scheme in the context of the entire quote.

Anonymous said...

Personally I feel that calf's tongue is underappreciated. One of my favorite sandwiches is thinly sliced tongue with melted swiss cheese and russian dressing on pumperknickel. Slightly warmed on a cold winter's day, it will definitely help keep the meat on your bones.

The Old Foodie said...

I completely agree Ozzyfudd, I like tongue - although I've never had according to your "recipe" - it sounds really good.