A Step-By-Step Guide to Ochsenschwanzsuppe

  • 01 of 08

    The History of Oxtail Soup

    Oxtail for soup

    Legend has it that a down-on-his-luck French nobleman created the first oxtail ragout somewhere between the years of 1789 and 1799. This was the time of the French Revolution where many upper-class privileges were taken away. He begged some beef tails from the local tannery which regarded them as worthless. The soup he cooked evolved over time and eventually became a delicacy in Parisian restaurants.

    By the 1800s, the soup had migrated to England, where it became an English specialty, both in its creamed and clear styles (recipe here). It is served all over Europe in fine restaurants and for special events such as anniversaries or state dinners.

    Most people do not make oxtail soup from scratch, but the time it takes to produce it yields more flavor than your everyday soup. You can buy prepared stock but if you are interested in continental cooking and its history, try making it at least once for the experience.

    Here, you see one part of the equation, the oxtail bones which will be browned or roasted in the first step to making stock.

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  • 02 of 08

    Another View

    Beef shanks used for soup

    Since the oxtails look a little on the bony side, it is good to throw in a couple of extra meaty soup bones. These are from the leg. For the soup, a total of about 5 pounds of bones was used for six servings.

    Place the bones on a roasting pan and drizzle with a little oil. Bake at 425°F (220°C) until browned, turning once. This should take 30-40 minutes.

    Sometimes, it is just easier to brown on the stove top and not in the oven. The flavor comes from the Maillard reaction on the surface of the bones and meat.

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  • 03 of 08

    Mirepoix - Suppengruen

    Suppengruen mirepoix

    Use six cups of chopped vegetables. Root vegetables such as celeriac, onions, carrots and parsley root can be used. Leeks are also common to this aromatic mixture. See more about Suppengruen here.

    After browning, tomato paste and paprika is added to the mix, as well as traditional spices: bay leaf, cloves, juniper berry, thyme.

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  • 04 of 08

    Deglaze And Add Water

    Making stock for oxtail soup

    The vegetables are deglazed with some red wine, and the meat is added back to the pan. Salt and some freshly ground pepper are added with the cold water to cover the bones. Everything is simmered just below the boiling point for as many hours as you can. The recipe recommends 2-4 hours but 6 hours is even better.

    During this time, the cartilage between the bones breaks down, the vegetables give up all their aromas and tastes, and the meat is falling off the bones. Keep the bones covered with water, so they do not dry out. You may skim any of the scum which rises to the surface, as well.

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  • 05 of 08

    After The Stock is Ready

    Meat and stock for soup

    A common way to make this soup is to cool it overnight, then pick the meat off the bones and finish the soup the next day.

    We often leave the bones covered with the stock, so the meat does not dry out. When the stock is cold, you can remove the bones and skim off the layer of hardened fat from the top of the liquid. Pour the stock through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or a well rung-out, thin kitchen towel (not terry cloth). Discard vegetables and spices.

    Pick the meat off the bones, remove any cartilage which remains, and cut any large pieces into spoon-sized bits.

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  • 06 of 08

    Finishing The Soup

    Pouring cream and flour mixture
    Pouring cream and flour mixture. J.McGavin

    Finishing the soup the next day is an easy task. Once you have the sieved stock, heat it on the stove, add some cream mixed with a little flour to form a slurry. Add it in a slow stream and stir, so it does not form lumps.

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  • 07 of 08

    Bind The Soup With Cream and Flour

    Stir vigorously so no clumps form

    Keep stirring, and the cream will disperse in the broth. It is important to keep this mixture at a low simmer if boiled too much the cream may start to look grainy. Now is the time to taste and adjust seasonings. The rest of the cream and a little Madeira or dry sherry rounds out the flavors well. Some extra pepper and salt to taste and you are almost there.

    Now add the meat and heat through. You can also serve it without the meat, as a smooth soup.

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  • 08 of 08

    Serving Oxtail Soup

    German oxtail soup with cream

    Oxtail soup is most often served as a first course at a celebratory dinner. The servings are small because the soup is rich. Fresh, chopped parsley is a beautiful garnish and baguette is very popular as a side.

    Because oxtail is traditionally inexpensive, take a look at these homier takes on Oxtail Soup: