Joan Nathan's Pickled Tongue or Brisket

Closed up of sliced brisket on wooden cutting board
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Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 2 hrs
Refrigerate: 240 hrs
Total: 242 hrs 10 mins
Servings: 8 to 10 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
423 Calories
19g Fat
7g Carbs
54g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 to 10
Amount per serving
Calories 423
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 19g 24%
Saturated Fat 7g 37%
Cholesterol 162mg 54%
Sodium 2952mg 128%
Total Carbohydrate 7g 2%
Dietary Fiber 0g 2%
Protein 54g
Calcium 59mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This recipe for pickled tongue or brisket is from Joan Nathan's "Jewish Cooking in America: Expanded Edition" (Alfred A. Knopf Inc., 1998). The pickling is done first and then the meat is cooked (some recipes call for the opposite to be done). Remember to slice the meat thinly and serve with mustard or horseradish. The saltpeter called for in this recipe is actually potassium nitrate and is optional. Saltpeter has long been used in curing foods.


  • 4 pounds beef tongue (or beef brisket)
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt (large-grained)
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 2 ​bay leaves (crumbled)
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 3 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 tablespoon saltpeter (potassium nitrate)
  • 1/2 cup warm water

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Wash and remove most of the fat from the tongue or brisket. Mix together all the spices and garlic, and rub well into the meat. Place meat in a large, nonmetal container that will fit in your refrigerator.

  3. Dissolve saltpeter in warm water and pour over meat. Weight meat down with a clean stone or brick and cover with plastic wrap. Alternatively, place ingredients in a plastic zip-top bag and weight that down. Either way, refrigerate 10 to 14 days, turning every 2 to 3 days.

  4. Place meat in a large pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and discard the water. Repeat 3 more times. Cover with cold water again, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 2 hours or until tender. Peel the skin off the tongue while it is still warm. Cool meat, slice thinly, place on a platter and serve as is with mustard or horseradish or as a sandwich.