If you have spent much time on my blog, you know that I am a huge proponent of nose-to-tail eating. I did a huge round up of recipes that cover eating the whole animal, and many of my own recipes utilize offal and odd bits. Not only do we get incredible nutrition by eating the whole animal, but I believe it also pays greater respect to the animal's life to enjoy as much of it as we can and waste as little as possible.
The USDA doesn't have nutrition data for tendons, but I did a little digging in the scientific literature and found that, by dry weight, tendons are composed of about 85% collagen (mostly type I), 2% elastin and 1-5% proteoglycan (in the full text of this paper). Check out the end of this post for more information about the nutritional benefits of collagen. In short, it's fantastic for skin, joint, and digestive health.
My Source for Beef Tendons
I am lucky to be able to order just about any cut from grass-fed and pasture raised animals from the south Georgia farm White Oak Pastures. A local business here called Raw Feeding Miami receives shipments once a week and gets really excellent pricing on their meats.
Raw Feeding Miami is a business for people who have raw fed pets (that's how I found them), and it is well known in the raw feeding community that cats and dogs need to follow a nose-to-tail eating paradigm for optimal health. If it's true for our furry companions, why wouldn't it also be true for us?
White Oak Pastures was having a sale on beef tendons the other week, so I purchased a large package of them. Like I always do when using a new ingredient, I started doing research to learn how people typically prepare tendons.
If you are a fan of the Vietnamese soup Pho, you may have already eaten beef tendon and not known it. Tendon is also a popular dish in China in soups and even as a stand-alone appetizer. Since I am on the autoimmune paleo protocol right now, I couldn't make most of the recipes I found due to their need for soy sauce and/or seed-based spices (and I'm out of coconut aminos).
I wasn't necessarily interested in an Asian-inspired experience anyway, and instead had been craving a good batch of Puerto Rican sancocho -- a beef and tropical root vegetable + plantain soup. I wanted to make it extra rich by using some beef tendon broth in the base and include chunks of the slow-simmered tendon in the soup.
After much reading, I decided to cook the tendon by doing a long, low simmer on the stove top. I read that simmering it up to 7 hours would create an ultra rich broth just bursting with gelatin and collagen and produce melt-in-your-mouth tender pieces of tendon. People get really excited about eating beef tendon, calling it "the new pork belly". I think it absolutely lives up to that title!
I didn't use anything to season the broth. Instead, I knew I would use lots of fresh culantro to add extra flavor to the final soup. Note: culantro and cilantro are different herbs and serve different purposes. While cilantro is generally used fresh as a garnish or in raw condiments like salsas and guacamoles, culantro holds up much better to heat and is a cooking staple in many cuisines, including Puerto Rican. The flavor is somewhat similar to that of cilantro, but it is much stronger.
The long slow simmer worked out FABULOUSLY and and tendon was so incredibly satisfying to eat in the soup. The broth that I saved turned into rock-hard "Jello" after sitting in the fridge overnight (I should've taken a photo!)
Here is my recipe for Puerto Rican sancocho with beef tendon and chicken hearts:
How to Cook Beef Tendon for Soup
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 7 hours
Total time: 7 hours 5 minutes
- 1 pound grass-fed beef tendons
- filtered water
- First, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Blanch tendons for about 2-3 minutes. Drain and rinse off the scummy residue from the pot. Rinse tendons, too, if necessary.
- Using a sharp knife, slice each tendon into pieces about 1 inch wide.
- Return tendon pieces to the cleaned pot and use enough filtered water to cover the tendons by about 3/4 - 1 inch.
- Watch pot carefully and bring water to a boil. Immediately reduce heat so that the water is at a gentle simmer. Try not to let it come to a rolling, strong boil as this may result in additional scummy residue forming.
- Cover pot and allow to simmer for up to 7 hours. It is important to use a pot with a tight-fitting lid so that the water does not evaporate. I did not have to add any additional water over the course of the day in my enameled cast iron pot. Check on it occasionally to ensure that there is sufficient water in the pot and add more as necessary.If any new scum forms, skim it off.
- Remove tendon pieces from broth and reserve for use in soup. A little of the broth will go a LONG way to enrich your soup broth. I used about 3 cups in a 5 quart batch of soup and the leftovers chilled into the consistency of Jello in the fridge!
Health Benefits of Gelatin and Collagen
I've collected several great articles from some blogging friends around the web that discuss the health benefits of gelatin and collagen:
Bone Broth: Nutritional Facts and Benefits --- Divine Health From the Inside Out
How to Never Need Collagen Injections --- Divine Health From the Inside Out
Get Ready for the Summer Sun: Eat Collagen! --- It Takes Time
Health and Nutrition of Traditional Homemade Chicken Broth --- Kitchen Stewardship
Forget Botox! Drink Bone Broth for Amazing Skin --- Hollywood Homestead
and for good measure, a recipe round up by Homemade Healthy Happy
And if you want to get REALLY in depth with health benefits and a TON of recipes, you should check out this fantastic new e-book from Sylvie at Hollywood Homestead. I received a review copy and I am just blown away at how comprehensive it is! Not only is it full of wonderful information (150 pages worth!), it also is beautifully laid out with stunning photographs that make you just want to eat up all the recipes ASAP! If you are serious about getting your daily dose of gelatin in a variety of creative and delicious ways, this is the resource for you. Click here to learn more about it.