Oxtail Soup

I’ll bet you’ll agree that this oxtail soup is a hearty, flavorful comfort food.  This recipe spreads a family tradition inherited from Grandma Bahls, my daughter’s dearly departed great-grandmother.

  • 2-3 lbs Oxtails, preferably from pastured animals
  • Rosemary leaves from a few sprigs
  • Thyme leaves from a few sprigs
  • 2 Tbsp unfiltered Olive Oil, Tallow, or Coconut Oil
  • ¼ cup Vinegar, such as raw apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup whole/hulled Barley or pearled barley (omit for gluten-free/paleo version)
  • 1 quart (4 cups) Beef Broth or Water
  • 2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar or ½ cup Red Wine, optional
  • 1 Onion or 1-2 Leeks, chopped
  • 4 Celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 Carrots, sliced
  • 1 ½ cups diced fresh Tomatoes or 1 can diced tomatoes*
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen Peas
  • 1 cup Green Beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 Tbsp Minced Garlic
  • 2 Tbsp Parsley, optional
  • Pepper & Sea Salt, if desired

1. Some 7-14 hours ahead of time, rinse barley and soak in 2 cups of water.  This pre-soaking step aids digestion.  Pearled barley is more refined and cannot be sprouted, but is easier to digest.  Omit barley if on a gluten-free or grain-free diet, but barley is a traditional ingredient.

2. Mix about two tablespoons crushed rosemary and thyme leaves with olive oil and vinegar.  Marinade oxtails briefly.

3. At least 3 ½ hours ahead of time (up to 14 hours), place herbed & oiled oxtails in Dutch oven.  Brown over medium heat for about 20 minutes. (Antioxidants from the herbs may lower the aromatic hydrocarbon formation during browning.)  Note the number of total oxtails to make it easier to remove all the oxtails later.

4. If you have less oxtail (closer to 2 lbs) and less time (i.e. 4 hours), add one quart of beef broth or stock. If you have more oxtail (closer to 3 lbs) and more time to simmer (maybe even overnight), add one quart of water instead of broth, along with balsamic vinegar or red wine for flavor as well as acidity to help draw out minerals from the bones. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a low simmer.

5. About 2 ½ hours ahead of serving time, skim off excess foam that can impart subtle “off” flavors.  Add onions, celery, carrots, and tomatoes.

6. About 40 minutes ahead, add green beans.  May substitute other vegetables for green beans as desired.  Drain the water from the barley and add soaked barley.

7. Halfway through the final simmer (~20 minutes left), pull out oxtails and allow to cool. Remove meat and discard bones.  Chop meat and return to soup.

8. If desired, turn heat off long enough to stop boil in order to skim off excess melted fat and any foam.  Add peas.  Restart low flame and cook until peas are tender.  (If peas are added earlier them may float and interfere with skimming.)  Return chopped meat to pot.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, but I don’t think the soup needs more flavor.  Garnish with chopped parsley, if desired.

*If using canned tomatoes, I recommend Muir Glen organic fire-roasted tomatoes with garlic.  Better to avoid the BPA lining the can and use fresh tomatoes instead.

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