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How to Harvest a Tongue

11.21.10

I recently was invited to attend a culinary competition at NAIT. On the menu were local lake fishes, elk, bison, and pulses [legumes] from our province. Pretty cool to see pickerel starters done 12 ways by 12 teams – reminds me of home.

The table I sat at, which happened to be served the menu from the winning team, was attended by the family of one of the competitors – myself being the odd man out. Which led to discussions of why I was there. Which led to the question from a female diner “how do you remove the tongue out of a game animal? I’ve tried, and couldn’t get it“.  I’m fairly certain I’ll go my whole life without being asked that again while eating at a fine dining establishment.

What’s funny, is that I actually had taken photos of the process while on this year’s calf moose hunt. I took the tongues of both the calf moose and the bull elk – which is seen in the photo. I’ve harvested them ever since first trying them on this night.

A few words of advice for those wishing to give it a go. First, although doable, removing it while the animal is hanging is a chore. Things are moving around too much. Get the head set up securely. With this bull elk, the antlers and a stump provided the best setup I’ve ever worked on for the operation.  Next tip. Do it while the animal’s still warm. Every part of the process is easier if you do.

First, expose the bottom of the jaw as seen in this photo.  See that ‘V’ formed by the jaw bones? You need to run your knife along either side to free it up. I’ve found the tricky bit is freeing up the the bottom tip of the V. It doesn’t seem to want to let go there. I keep cutting out that V until I can grab the tip of the tongue from the inside, and pull it out. Once you get there, the rest is easy – simply cut away whatever else is holding it in, and take it off as far up as you can. What to do with it? .

I’m surprised at the bad rap tongue seems to have. It’s not weird. It tastes of the animal meat it’s from rather than like an organ or something funky. My dad made fun of me as I took the cheeks out of this bull elk – clearly not normal for the guys, and as the razzing and teasing carried on about lips and assholes [I did mention that I'd take the testicles if it wouldn't cause an evidence of sex concern while transporting the animal], I shot back with a comment how he who mocks off-cuts and wine drinking probably eats more of both in his hot dogs and brandy than I. We laughed.

4 Responses

  1. Tongue is delicious! Actually quite a treat at butchering time :)

  2. What a wonderful opportunity for you…. I read it, and still don’t think I could harvest the tongue, but that is not something I am interested in doing. I am interested in knowing it can be done, and in eating it… but, not doing that myself. Maybe a few years ago…
    I would love to have see something about the competition, but know that is not what you do on this post. I would like my post to have different “blogging” pages so that I could have my baking posts and my cooking posts and then my traveling and event posts all in different places. Ah, well… you just get a little bit of everything in mine, but people do enjoy the cooking and baking ones the most, me thinks.
    I loved eating your applewood smoked bull moose tongue last spring, so this was a very interesting post for me!
    :)

  3. TTC – glad to hear it!!
    Valerie – I don’t blame you. One of the problems with writing about the NAIT function was that I only tasted one set of plates, and there were 12 teams. Felt that I didn’t have enough tasting information to comment. I have lots of pictures though!

  4. [...] and pull the tongue out through the bottom jaw. A detailed description of the process can be read here (the description is for game animals, but the details are transferable to [...]

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