From Nose to Tail... Oxtail that is

Eating sustainably - my parents did it before the age of modern refrigeration and we are getting back to it again. Using everything that nature provides is the way we should eat. That means cooking all the usable parts of plants and animals that we harvest for food.

I am always reminded of stories from my parents and grandparents about “hog killin” when the weather got cold. Both my parent’s family lived in rural Tennessee and didn’t have modern refrigeration for many years. Vegetables were canned and meats were cured by salt or smoking for the winter months.  Nothing went to waste which is a practice in sustainability. 

So recently, I started thinking about using other cuts of meat that aren’t typically considered prime or choice. I’m still not quite brave enough to try tripe and I have a natural aversion to pig’s feet but I thought the oxtail could be a safe bet. I’m happy to say my gamble paid off in the form of a delicious and hearty oxtail and barley soup. 

The recipe is by Ina Garten from the Food Network. I modified it just a little, mainly cooking times, for a bit thicker soup with more tender meat. Oxtail, like some other less prime cuts, can be a bit fatty and the excess fat should be removed after cooking. I increased simmer time from 1 to 2 hours to yield a more tender tail and to cook down the broth a bit.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Live, Laugh, Love and Celebrate responsibly this holiday season.

Rich Beef Barley Soup

Courtesy of Ina Garten on Food Network

  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 LBS beef oxtails
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cup chopped leeks, white and light green parts only (about 2 leeks)
  • 2 cups carrots diced
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup celery diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 10 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup pearled barley (uncooked)
PRO TIP: Kitchen string is also known as butcher’s twine is typically made of 100% cotton. It is used to tie up bundles of herbs for soups or stocks, to truss chicken or tie together a loin roast.  It’s inexpensive and is always handy to have some in the kitchen. 

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven or a heavy bottomed soup pot over medium high heat. Add the oxtails, 1 tsp salt, and ½ tsp pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 15 minutes or until browned all over. Remove the oxtails with a slotted spoon and reserve.

Add the leeks, carrots, onion, celery and garlic to the fat in the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables start to brown. Tie the thyme sprigs together with kitchen string and add to the pot along with the bay leaves. Return the oxtails to the pot and add the broth, 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp pepper. Raise the heat and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 1 to 2 hours. Discard the thyme bundle and the bay leaves and skim off the fat before cooling.

While the soup is simmering, prepare the pearled barley by bringing 4 cups of water to a boil and adding the barley. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes, drain and set it aside.

When the soup is ready, add the barley and cook the soup another 15 to 20 minutes, until the barley is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot with or without the oxtails.

Option: I removed the oxtails and allowed them to cool after the simmering time. Then I removed the meat and fat from the bones. The bones were discarded and the meat was shredded and added back to the soup.

Click Here to download a printable PDF of the recipe for this week!