Our favorite piece of reader mail this year was a handwritten letter from a reader in Iowa who saw our feature on chef Alex Stupak's pickled tongue tacos and was reminded of her childhood on a farm.

By Chelsea Morse
Updated May 23, 2017

Our favorite piece of reader mail this year was an actual, honest to goodness handwritten letter from an elderly reader in Iowa who saw our April 2014 feature on chef Alex Stupak's pickled tongue and fried-mayo tacos and was reminded of her childhood on a farm. We were too delighted by her letter to not share it.

"Customer Svc:
Re: Article in Food & Wine magazine
Was in the dentist's office and picked up a magazine to read. Couldn't believe it when I saw a picture of pickled tongue. (Food & Wine magazine, page 23 - April 2014). I just pickled a heart and have a heart and tongue in freezer. When I make the heart and tongue, I cook them first and remove skin from tongue. In the picture, the tongue is a pinkish color, so I don't think it was cooked. Is that right?

I know when we pickled pig's feet they weren't cooked, just put in brine. Is it possible to find out how the tongue was done and a recipe of the brine?

I'm 87 years old and was born and raised on a farm. When we butchered a hog, it was always said that we used everything but the squeal. Sweetbreads, blood, head, feet and brain. Brains are not used now on account of the 'Mad Cow disease.' Went to Illinois to visit son and took along 'mountain oysters' to cook. Enough said.

Excuse writing as I have arthritis in my hands.

Thank you for your time.
My husband is still with me after 65 years of marriage.
Ms. Marian Madden
Council Bluffs, Iowa"

Stupak was as delighted as we were and wanted to make sure to get the recipe to Ms. Madden. Here are the instructions he sent, which we'll be mailing along to her:

"The first thing to do is brine the tongue, which has nitrates in it, which account for the pink color.

For the brine, you’ll need:
3 qts water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup salt
1 tbsp “pink salt” aka InstaCure - available online through sausage and charcuterie making supply sites like sausagemaker.com.

Mix all of those in one pot and bring to a boil. Chill down the mixture. Once mixture is cold, place tongue in brine and let sit for between 3 and 7 days -- the longer the better.

Rinse tongue and braise in pickling liquid.

For the pickling liquid, I use:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tbsp black peppercorn
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp allspice
3 bay leaves
4 cups chicken stock
4 cup cider vinegar

Heat vegetable oil and sauté the onions. Add remaining all ingredients and bring to a simmer. Season pickling liquid with salt to taste. Add tongue and simmer gently for 3 hours. Remove the pan from heat and let tongue cool in the liquid. Once cool, remove tongue and peel it. Store peeled tongue in pickling liquid until ready to use."

Happy pickling, Ms. Madden.