Photography by Chip Chockley
What exactly is the technical definition of a French kiss?
Is it just another tongue in your mouth? Does it have to be a person’s tongue? Could it be an animal’s? And does that animal have to be alive for it to qualify as a French kiss?
I wonder all these things as my husband slices a piece of pickled pig tongue for me to taste. I’m not excited about putting the tongue in my mouth. I don’t really think eating it is French kissing, but I’ve started sweating a little and wringing my hands. I’ve been told not to worry, that the tongue goes well with mustard.
Where do you get pickled pig’s tongue? Maybe a lot of places, but I got it at The Curb Market. The butchers at Curb are my heroes. They picked out tomahawk steaks for me that made me a Father’s Day legend. My family finished eating Father’s Day dinner and erupted into a chorus of chef’s kisses. The steaks were un-hyperbolically amazing. Plus they were a sight gag—the steaks looked like something between an actual tomahawk and those ribs that made Fred Flintstone’s car tip over.
And so I trusted the butchers.
I also lied to them and myself.
I said I was an adventurous person.
So when they showed me the pig tongue, I bought it as any adventurous poseur would do. When I put the pig tongue next to the orange juice in my refrigerator, I finally realized why one of the Ten Commandments was not lying. It’s a very important commandment. That commandment helps protect you and your loved ones from opening the refrigerator door and seeing tongues floating around next to your arugula.
What does pickled pig tongue look like? Well, like a tongue swimming around with some onion friends in a Mason jar. That’s what it looks like before you take it out of the jar. Before you eat it. And before you have to cut it. To eat it.
I couldn’t cut it. I had to look away.
My husband cut me a slice and brought it to me on a huge dinner plate. My piece of tongue was the size of one of those big pink erasers you used in elementary school. I immediately yelled “thinner.” My husband cut a thinner slice and presented it to me. I yelled “thinner” again. Stephen King has a book called Thinner. I doubt it is as scary as your husband slowly walking toward you with a hunk of pickled pig tongue. And Stephen King is a master of horror.
My husband ate the slices that were too thick for me. He just shrugged and said they tasted “pickled.” He is adventurous. He doesn’t have to lie. I had to work up to it. I had to shake my arms and roll my neck like I was about to enter a boxing ring. Like I was Rocky Balboa about to fight for all the working people in America. Like that tongue had killed Apollo Creed.
What does the tongue look like when it is cut? Well, light brown. And slick. And bright yellow once you cover it with mustard.
Did I put the tongue in my mouth?
Yes, I did.
Because that tongue killed Apollo Creed. And I won’t stand for that.
Did I like it? That’s hard. I was so stressed about it. I thought about it too much. Made it too big of a deal. All I wanted was it to be done. So in that way it was like my first French kiss. Would I recommend it to a friend? If they are adventurous, yes. I would also remind them about the Ten Commandments.
Pickled Pork Tongue
by Austin Howard from Curb Market
Makes 3 tongues
– 4 quarts water
– 8 ounces kosher salt
– 4 ounces turbinado sugar
– 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
– 1 tablespoon whole mustard seeds
– 4 allspice berries
– 3 bay leaves, cracked
– 2 juniper berries
– 10 cloves garlic, crushed
To make brine, bring the first 3 ingredients to a boil. While you’re waiting on that to boil, tie the rest of the ingredients in a piece of cheese cloth. When the water boils, drop the cloth with the rest of the ingredients into the pot and remove pot from heat. Let cool to room temperature. You may add some ice cubes if time to cool isn’t available. Once brine is cooled, place the tongues in a container and pour the brine over them. Place the container in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.
– 2 quarts pork broth
– 1/2 cup dry white wine
– 2 tablespoons kosher salt
Place ingredients in a large stock pot and bring to a simmer. Rinse tongues and add to stock pot, making sure they’re completely submerged. Add water as needed. Let the tongues simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, until they can be pierced with the tip of a knife. Remove pot from heat and let tongues cool in the cooking liquid.
– 2 cups cider vinegar
– 1 tablespoon sugar
– 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
– 2 allspice berries
– 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
– 3 cloves garlic, skin on, crushed
– 1 yellow onion, sliced thin
Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Let the mixture simmer for 10 minutes to allow the flavor of the onion and garlic to be released. Place the tongues in a container and pour the mixture over them. Let them rest in the refrigerator for 2 days to fully macerate. The tongues then should be stored in pickling liquid in the refrigerator and eaten within 2 weeks.
Julia McCloy is a writer living in Memphis. Laughing is her raison d’etre, which is French for her other raisin. She has two raisins. Her writing has appeared in McSweeney’s.
Chip Chockley, an attorney by day, has been a professional photographer since 2008. Things that make him happy include tacos, mai tais and his wife and kids.
Austin Howard is an aircraft mechanic turned butcher who dreams of opening his own barbecue restaurant. He’s presently at The Curb Market in Crosstown Concourse and does small catering jobs on the side.