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The Official Paleo Oxtail Soup of the South

When I buy oxtail at the grocery store I typically get two very different responses.  More than once, the butcher or the bagger (usually male) got wide-eyed and said “Do you like ox-tail?” And when I assured him that I very much do, and that I am indeed buying it for human consumption and not just to feed my dog, he tells me how his mother or grandmother made oxtail soup and proceeds to invite himself over for dinner.  On the other hand, the cashier and the woman behind me in line (with her white bread, soda, crackers, cheezy puffs, etc.) will squeal in disgust and act as though I was planning to bite the head off a puppy or something.  Odd, considering how oxtail used to be a traditional southern food, and even odder that ham hocks are still embraced with open arms by most southern ladies.  But oxtail is still very popular around the world, and many places have their own recipes, such as:

Korean (Gori gomtang) - usually includes ginger
Italy’s Coda alla vaccinara - with white wine and aromatics
Filipino Kare Kare - ground peanuts are an essential ingredient
Jamaica’s version - hot peppers make it spicier
African style oxtail - typically includes beans
Spanish (Rabo De Toro) – with paprika, sherry and/or brandy, and sometime chocolate!

Most recipes using oxtail are for soups and stews because this cut of meat needs to cook for a long time in order to break down the connective tissue.  But don’t let that scare you away, because once it does break down, this is some of the most tender and flavorful beef money can buy.  Oxtail may be hard to find in some areas because the butchers are rumored to keep it all for themselves.

And while it still isn’t a common dish, it seems to be gaining popularity here due to the changing demographics because it’s now available in most of our local grocery stores. So even though I prefer to buy oxtail from a grass fed source like U.S Wellness Meats, I’ll snag a few packs when the local grocer wasn’t able to get the supply/demand formula quite right:

The last time I made oxtail soup, it was a little too heavy for me and I wanted to lighten up this version.  So in my usual manner of reading a dozen or so recipes and taking stock of what I have on hand, I came up with the recipe below, and in order to help my fellow Southerners better appreciate this fine cut of meat, I now present:

The Official Paleo Oxtail Soup of the South 
(Or maybe just for our house in Dallas, GA)

4-5 pounds oxtail
2 tablespoons beef tallow
3 medium onions, cut in half and thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 small head cabbage, chopped and sliced into thin inch long strips
1 cup or so of sweet, hot or mixed peppers, seeds removed and finely chopped
8 cups beef broth, homemade is best
1 quart tomato sauce (or chopped tomatoes if you prefer)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon ground celery seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon Chinese 5 spice (not very Southern, but worth straying!)
2 Tablespoons vinegar (I used coconut vinegar but most any vinegar would be fine)
Salt and pepper as desired

Large heavy pot with lid, like a Dutch or French oven
Tongs are useful, but not necessary

Heat the pot over medium heat.
Liberally season the meat with salt and pepper.
Add tallow to the pot:

I rendered in January! Still perfectly delicious.
And brown the meat on all sides, transforming it from this:

Tongs make turning and removing the sections an easy job, and keeps your hands further away from the tiny flying drops of scalding hot fat.  With this large amount of meat you’ll need to work in batches, so as the meat browns, remove and set aside.

After the last batch of meat is browned, add the sliced onions to the beef drippings and saute for 7 to 10 minutes.

Then add the garlic, cabbage and peppers.  Continue cooking another 5 minutes.

Next, add the broth, tomato sauce, bay leaves, ground celery seed, cumin seed, Chinese 5 spice, salt and pepper.  I personally add very little salt and pepper, if any.  It can always be added at serving time.
Return the oxtail and the juices to the pot.

Cover and simmer on low until the meat is tender and practically falling off the bone.    Many recipes say this takes 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  I find that it takes longer, and I actually like to allow the soup to sit overnight and reheat the next day, then it’s guaranteed to be tender!
So here’s my way – after 4 hours, turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool for several hours, even overnight.  With the tongs, remove all of the oxtail.  With your hands, remove the meat from the bone and add the meat back to the soup.  This step isn’t necessary, but it does make the dining experience more enjoyable.  Also, make sure you remove the bay leaves.  No pictures were taken of the process because my hands were quite a mess, but it’s a surprisingly quick and easy job.  And when you’re finished, you’ll have a plate full of these left:

I bet little cave kids used these as toys. It kind of reminds me of Snorkledorf

When you’re ready to eat, just reheat and serve.  Here’s the soup…a big bowl of boring brown, but seriously delicious brown.

But that’s not the best part.  If you know the value of good bone stock, and all of the health benefits associated with one that is full of gelatin, the kind that solidifies when cool, prepare to be impressed:

After being chilled, this soup had to be cut with a knife in order to portion out enough for our next meal.  It certainly helped that the the broth I used was full of gelatin but there’s no doubt that plenty more came from the oxtail.  Yes, the yellow solids on top are fat, but what’s holding the soup together is gelatin.  Oxtail soup is definitely one of our favorite recent discoveries!

Do you remember Snorkledorf?


21 Responses to The Official Paleo Oxtail Soup of the South

  1. Malli November 8, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    I bumped into Chowstalker and followed the link to your blog here.Lovely and impressive photos!!
    The Oxtail soup looks so perfect for winter…Love this kind of comfort food.

  2. Patty November 8, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

    Thank you so much Malli! I am still very green with the camera and have a lot to learn, but it’s so much fun. I just took a peek at you blog, and it looks like you might have some recipes that would be a good fit for Chowstalker! We would love to have them. :-)

  3. Jill November 9, 2011 at 1:27 am #

    Thanks for linking your great post to FAT TUESDAY. THis is very cool! This was very interesting! Hope to see you next week!

    Be sure to visit on Sunday for Sunday Snippets – your post from Fat Tuesday may be featured there!

  4. Paige November 9, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

    I’m curious if this could work in a crockpot? Letting it set for 8 hours could maybe do wonders for the oxtail…

    And thanks for your blog! I’m just now getting into true paleo and did a search for paleo southern food (I’m from Texas).

  5. Patty November 9, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

    It absolutely will work in a crockpot Paige. You can even skip browning the meat, and it is still delicious…just not quite as much. :-)

    I’m so glad you stopped by. Just read the post about your brother telling you meat is good for you…that’s so cool!! :-)

  6. Jill November 10, 2011 at 12:07 am #

    This post will be featured at Sunday Snippets this week! Please come over and check it out! I’ll be at the conference this weekend so I can’t send the link.


  7. Patty November 10, 2011 at 12:13 am #

    Thanks so much Jill! And I hope you have a wonderful time at the conference! Looking forward to hearing all about it!

  8. Debbie @ Easy Natural Food November 12, 2011 at 5:48 am #

    HI Patty, this looks delicious!! I also like making soup with beef oxtail – my Mum taught me that! I’m hosting a weekly blog carnival specifically for soups, stocks and chowders, every Sunday. I would love it if you would come over and post this recipe. Here’s a link with more info.
    I hope to see you there!

  9. Ella November 13, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

    Thanks, I book-marked this to make! That solidified soup is…impressive. Do you let it sit at room temperature? I feel like it ought to be refrigerated, although I am also hesitant to put a cast iron dutch oven full of hot soup straight into the fridge.

  10. Patty November 13, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    Hi Ella, you’re welcome! The solidified soup is after being in the fridge. It was pretty late when I finished cooking the soup so I didn’t worry about it sitting out over night, especially as cool as it was in our house! But the next morning it went in the fridge, and that’s what it looked like before coming back to room temp. Hope you get to try it soon!

  11. Jules November 14, 2011 at 8:03 pm #

    I tried oxtail for the first time last winter and I am hooked! Will definitely have to try your soup; looks great!

  12. Debbie @ Easy Natural Food November 15, 2011 at 10:55 pm #

    Hi Paty, thanks so much for sharing this recipe with Sunday Night Soup Night. I’ll be hosting weekly through fall and winter, so I’d love to see you again with your next soup/stock/chowder recipe!

  13. Miss Kimbers May 19, 2012 at 3:22 am #

    I am making oxtail stew right now! Very excited to see how it turns out. I am hoping it will be thick enough, even though I have added no flour.
    Now to take a further look around your blog:)

  14. Alina June 21, 2012 at 8:39 pm #

    Hi Patty,
    You said: “I actually like to allow the soup to sit overnight and reheat the next day, then it’s guaranteed to be tender!” Do you mean you leave it on the stove top overnight and the next day you continue to stew it? If it is the case then 2 questions:
    Should I worry that the food will go bad being outside the fridge? How long can it safely stay on the stove top (while the stove is off)?
    I would imagine that I have to keep on adding water as the liquids evaporate?
    Thank you in advance.

  15. Patty June 21, 2012 at 9:59 pm #

    Hi Alina, Good questions.

    Sometimes I do leave it on the stove top during cooler months because if I had started cooking late in the day, the stew would still be too warm (esp. using the dutch oven) to put in the fridge at bedtime.

    It’d be really hard to say how long it can stay on the stove because that would depend on your house temp, the quality and age of the ingredients used and other factors. But I’ve left this stew on the stove for several hours when the temps aren’t too warm. (I wouldn’t do this with chicken!) I don’t want to risk giving advise that would result in someone getting sick and it’s just as good when I put it in the fridge and then warm it up!

    I rarely need additional liquid but if your pot is smaller or stove runs a little hotter, you may need to top it off. I hope my vague answers help but if you still have questions, I’ll be happy to try and answer them. Patty

  16. Richard October 2, 2012 at 2:19 am #

    Great recipe. I’m going to try it. Just one question, could you use the remaining bones for the next batch of bone broth or are they all cooked out?

  17. Patty October 2, 2012 at 12:10 pm #

    Thanks Richard, I think I might make another pot this weekend since the weather has cooled down. Since many beef bone broth recipes call for cooking the bones 2-3 days, I bet there’s still a fair amount of goodness left in the oxtail bones, and they would be great for adding to the broth pot. And now I feel kinda silly for not thinking of that myself! :-)

  18. sharon January 14, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

    Just curious, I didn’t read when to add in the tomato sauce. Would you do that when you add in the broth?

  19. Patty January 14, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

    That’s right Sharon, I had to double check the recipe to make sure I had included it, and it’s right under the photo of the cabbage and before the first pic of the dutch oven. Hope you get a chance to try it!

  20. Kathy May 2, 2013 at 2:07 am #

    This recipe was my first ever for oxtails. I love it! Totally delicious! And my 19 year old son likes it, and his friends like it, too. After 4 hours and overnight as you suggested, I didn’t find the meat coming off the bones very easily, so I put it back on the heat for another hour. That did the trick. I must have simmered it a bit too low.

    I have been warming a bowl for breakfast, and it really holds me until lunch. I am thrilled to have stumbled upon your recipe. Good work!

  21. Patty May 2, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    Thanks so much Kathy! It took me a while to warm up to oxtail as well, but we love it too. And if you love oxtail, you have to try beef cheek, which is what we had for breakfast this morning! Same kind of rich flavor as oxtail but maybe even better. Maybe. :)

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