If you grew up in New England, poor, shortly before WWII, your mom used plenty of Campbell’s Soup, and the two flavors she never, ever bought were Mock Turtle and Oxtail. Though we never tasted either, we were well-prepared to tell anyone how “awful” each tasted.
Today, as our populations increase, costs of food rise, we tend to make lesser and lesser cuts of meat and varieties of seafood more popular, because they cost less. This is true in our area when we see fresh “oxtail pieces” wrapped in packages, like less-rich stew meat, for us to buy.
Oxtails have remained a carefully-held secret. Older chefs, who demanded oxtail bones in their stocks all along, are now reviving old, long-simmered oxtail creations for the delight of old customers and vastly surprising young converts.
An ox, the plural is “oxen,” was originally a castrated male cattle used for very hard labor. Over time, tails from many types of cattle came under this heading, also either gender. A cow’s tail, classified as one of its offal, an organ rather than flesh or meat, is very bony, muscular, collagen/marrow-filled and highly flavorful when cooked long and slowly. Its flavor is prized in braised dishes, soups and stocks.
Eating oxtails dates back to the beginning of butchering when every part of the animal was eaten or cooked in some manner. The cooking of offal, has long been left for the poor to flavor as best they could, and at times their concoctions became tastier than those served their rich benefactors. Take Brazil’s famed Feijoada. Many cultures in South America, Africa, Asia, Europe, Philipines, Native Americans and the West Indies make regular use of oxtail in favorite dishes.
Oxtails are highly flavorful and very, very tough. This requires them to be simmered very slowly for many hours.
Particularly at home with
- Red wine
- Fresh herbs
Below are foodsites with recipes for oxtail soup.