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A ham hock (or hough) is the joint between the tibia/fibula and the metatarsals of the foot, where the foot was attached to the hog's leg. It is the portion of the leg – also known as pork knuckle – that is neither part of the ham proper nor the foot or ankle, but rather the extreme shank end of the leg bone. Ham hocks are sometimes prepared by smoking.
Since this piece generally consists of much skin, tendons and ligaments, it requires long cooking through stewing or braising to be made palatable. The cut of meat can be cooked with greens and other vegetables or in flavourful sauces. It is often added to soups with the meat being added to the soup prior to serving. The meat of particularly meaty hocks may be removed and served as is. Ham hocks, like hog jowls (pigs' cheeks), add a distinctive flavor to various dishes. This is particularly true for collard greens, mustard greens, cabbage, green beans and navy beans.
Ham hocks are essential ingredients for the distinct flavor in soul food and other forms of American Southern country cooking. Eisbein is the name of the joint in north German, and at the same time the name of a dish of roasted ham hock, called Schweinshaxe in Bavaria, Stelze in Austria and Wädli in Switzerland. Golonka is a very popular Polish barbecued dish using this cut. They are also popular when boiled with escarole, more commonly called endives, in Italian American cuisine. Fläsklägg med rotmos is a Swedish dish consisting of cured ham hocks and a mash of rutabaga and potatoes, served with sweet mustard.
Ham shank in West Yorkshire is prized as a slow roasted cut, valued for its skin and meat, often boiled with peas to produce 'Bert's pea and ham soup'. In this case the skin is removed, the meat is separated from the bone, chopped finely, then returned to the soup.
Pickled Eisbein, with Sauerkraut
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