Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Taste for Offal-Tongue and Udder

by Lauren Gilbert

I have a great fondness for old cookbooks, and have a couple of facsimile copies of cookbooks in use during the Georgian era that I use for reference, as I can find bills of fare for every month of the year, and the proper courses for serving. Needing to check on dishes that would have been in season during the months of November and December, I pulled out my copy of The Compleat Housewife: or, Accomplish’d Gentlewoman’s Companion by Eliza Smith. As I leafed through, I paused at the May entry and spotted “Roasted Tongues and Udders.” After visualizing for a moment, I went on to December, and there I found “Roasted Tongue and Udder, and Hare.”

While I am no stranger to unusual dishes, I must confess that these menu items gave me pause. I wrote about the pupton on my own blog, which included a description of a “Pulpatoon of Pigeon”. I ventured into the area of offal in a discussion of “Ragooed Palates” which sounded surprisingly tasty. I am no stranger to the concept of tongue, with beef tongue as a main dish and in sandwiches being popular well into the 20th century, and fairly easy to find in my grocery store today. However, the idea of eating udders was something I had not previously considered.

In Mrs. Smith’s book, the following recipe appears: To roast a Tongue, or Udder. Take your Tongue or udder and parboil it, then stick into it ten or twelve cloves, and while it is roasting baste it with butter. When it is ready take it up, and send it t0 table with some gravy and sweet sauce.” (1) Apparently, since this method applied to both items, one could cook them together.

However, another recipe I found called for salting the tongue, letting it sit a few days, boiling with “a fine young udder” (2) until tender, then roasting them together with a basting of red wine and finishing with butter. After sticking the udder with cloves, this dish was served with gravy and a current jelly sauce. Hannah Glasse’s THE ART OF COOKERY MADE PLAIN AND EASY had a recipe that boils the tongue and udder together, calls for the insertion of cloves and basting with butter. However, her recipe calls for gravy and “gallintine-sauce” (her gallintine-sauce was made with bread crumbs, water, red wine and some sugar; there is a link below with a medieval recipe). I did not find a recipe that detailed the cooking of the tongue and udder with the hare all together. All of the recipes have sweetness in common, which seems odd to my modern taste.

Since this dish appears to have been fairly common over centuries, with recipes readily available, and served in the spring as well as the winter, it would be easy to assume it was popular fare. However, in my mind, offal in general is a very specific taste: one either likes it or does not. Samuel Pepys, the 17th century diarist, apparently relished it.(3) However, Parson James Woodforde commented in 1763 after a meal which included this dish, “...I shall not dine on a roasted tongue and udder again soon”....(4) Although I am open to trying new flavours, I suspect I might have more in common with Parson Woodforde than with Mr. Pepys. However, a roasted tongue and udder would certainly make an interesting addition to a winter dinner table in Georgian England.

Sources include: “Roast Tongue and Udder.” (c) James T. Ehler, 1990-2015. (Footnote 2.)
HistoryNeedsYou. .“Recipe for Gallantine Sauce.” Posted 9/12/2012.
Glasse, Hannah. THE ART OF COOKERY Made PLAIN AND EASY. A new EDITION, with modern Improvements. This edition first published 1805. Reprint published Bedford, MA: Applewood Books, 1997.
Smith, Eliza. The Compleat HOUSEWIFE: or Accomplished Gentlewoman’s COMPANION. First published 1758. Facsimile published London: Studio Editions Ltd., 1994. (Footnote 1 found on page 20) “The Parson’s Tongue and Other Parts.” Posted 2/19/2006 by The Old Foodie. (Footnotes 3 and 4)

Image “The Canon’s Dinner” from Wikimedia Commons.
Image “Frontispiece and Title Page of The Compleat Housewife: or Accomplished Gentlewoman’s Companion by Eliza Smith” from Wikimedia Commons

You can read in my blog The World of Heyerwood about puptons here and a
bout ragooed palates here 


Lauren Gilbert lives in Florida with her husband and is working on a new novel, tentatively titled A Rational Attachment.  At least one interesting Georgian dish will be featured!  Her first published book, HEYERWOOD: A Novel, is available through and other outlets.  Visit her website at for more information. 


  1. I would have such a hard time with tongue and udder! Once, as a teen-ager, I tried boiled tongue, and I couldn't finish it. This recipe would daunt me even more. But it is surprising what you learn about historical dishes. Interesting post!

    1. Thank you, Elizabeth! It's amazing how tastes evolve, isn't it?

  2. Cool post! This reminds me of all the "strange" foods I've eaten, including tongue and pigeon (because of all those 17th-century recipes!) and I wouldn't say no to trying some udder. Can't knock it 'til you've tried it - at least that's my motto when it comes to food!.

    1. Thank you, Andrea! I've tried pretty much anything I've had the chance (although sometimes I do better if I don't know exactly what it is until AFTER I've tried it!). However, I'm not sure about udder. :)

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  4. I once worked with a Yorkshire woman who swore by braised udder (and jellied cows heel, but another story). I thought she was joking. she obviously wasn't!

    1. It gives a whole new depth to "Waste not, want not," doesn't it? It never occurred to me that the udder was edible until I ran across this dish. Thank you for commenting!


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