Oxtail is available at my grocery store quite regularly but I have never cooked with it. Since winter seems to be coming to an end, I decided it was time to try Mrs. H. F. Pearson’s recipe for Oxtail Soup in the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. The soup has to boil for 4 to 6 hours which is fine in cool weather but would not be pleasant with a wood stove in summer 1912.
Oxtails are the tails of cattle. I’m not sure what Mrs. Pearson’s oxtail would look like when she brought it home from the butcher. Mine was two pieces of meat with a centre bone in a 750 grams plastic package (). I removed them from the package and put them in my stew pot with some butter and let them get brown on one side and then turned them over and over until nearly every side was brown. I took them out with tongs and set the meat aside.
My carrots are getting a bit soft just like they might in March 1912. I peeled and sliced the carrots along with the onions and browned the two vegetables in the same pot I used for the oxtail. I spooned them out of the pot and into my pudding bag and popped in some whole dried thyme. I tied the bag and put it back in the pot along with the oxtail. I had also weighed out two pounds of stewing beef which I chopped a bit and added to the stew pot. I poured in 16 cups (4 quarts) of cold water. The most unusual part was grating two more carrots. I’ve never run across that particular instruction when making soup or stew. I was very curious how it would affect the soup. Finally I shook in some salt and pepper and stirred.
On March 5 (Day 65) I made Mrs. Pearson’s Welsh Rabbit so I know Agnes Blair Gibson is of Scots heritage. Oxtail soup fits with my image of Scots cooking. She’s the wife of a dentist who leaves her a widow in just a few years. I haven’t found out what happens to her son James G. but her daughter Dorothy Jean ends up married to Thomas Seagram son of the distiller Joseph E. Seagram.
I let the pot of soup boil/simmer for the required four hours. Much of the water disappeared during that time but I didn’t need to add more. The carrot shreds still show in the soup which surprised me. They provide a bit of texture to the soup. The flavour of the broth is nice and meaty and the beef chunks were very tender. This would be a very nutritious soup for the Pearson family but a bit fatty for 2012. The oxtail contains a lot of fat. I’m accustomed to soup with things like potatoes and bits of vegetables so the oxtail soup is plain looking in comparison. I opted not to thicken the soup so that it was more of a broth.
1 Oxtail, 2 pounds lean beef, 4 carrots, 3 onions, thyme. Cut the tail into several pieces and fry brown in butter, slice the onions and carrots, and when you remove the oxtail from the pan, put in these and brown also. When done tie them in a bag with a bunch of thyme and drop into the soup-pot, lay the pieces of oxtail in the same, then the meat cut into small pieces, grate over them 2 whole carrots and add 4 quarts cold water, with pepper, and salt, boil from 4 to 6 hours in proportion to the size of the tail, strain 15 minutes before serving it and thicken with 2 tablespoons brown flour, boil 10 minutes longer.