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Ham hocks, skin and all


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#1 Smithy

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 11:45 AM

I bought some great-looking ham hocks at a butcher shop and brought them home in triumph. "Look!" I exclaimed to DH, "we can make some great beans with these! Or that wonderful sauerkraut dish we like so well!" He isn't convinced. They aren't smoked. They still have the skin and quite a good layer of fat.

A perusal of my cookbook collection is making me wonder whether I was way off-base in getting these. Smoked hocks and ham bones get good press. Unsmoked hocks? Nada. Before I just up and start experimenting with cabbage and pork hocks, I'll ask the assembled masses. Any ideas about what to do with these? Any warnings about what not to do?

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#2 Busboy

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 11:55 AM

The term "hocks" can be imprecisely used. I had a hamhock and beans for dinner last night, it fit in a soup bowl. I bought a pair of hocks at the market last weekend, they're about as long a the long side of a business envelope, and have a promising girth. How much do they weigh? Do they have the trotters? Do they include most of the forelegs (do pigs have calves?) ?
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#3 Dave Hatfield

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 12:13 PM

Smithy - Assuming that these are pretty normal ham hocks there are lots of ways to use them.
First cut off the skin & most of the fat underneath. The skin can be used to make great crackling in the oven or you can make couine (sp?) out of it, see Wolfert's SW French cooking for a recipe. OR you can boil some then use it in a cassoulet; see my recipe in Recipe Gullet.

The hock itself can be used in said cassoulet Or can be used to make pork & beans or can be slowly spit roasted (very popular in Bavaria) in fact you can leave the skin on for spit roasting. Or you can make a great stew (daube to be more up market) with some veggies & green lentils.

I think you're lucky to have found them and can do some nice hearty winter dishes using the hocks as a key element.

#4 annecros

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 12:20 PM

As the previous poster is asking, are they hocks, shanks or feet? Remember, it is all ham (except probably the feet). Think about what you do with fresh ham vs. smoked ham.

Fresh, I love to make a broth with them. Fine flavor, and you can use it in lighter applications such as soup or pick the meat off for inclusion in a rice dish prepared with the broth. Fresh hocks and rice is one of my favorites, and one of the few items I have prepared when my husband and I see eye to eye on generous salt inclusion.

They may also be dredged in flour and fried. Actually can be better than a pork chop.

They are great for seasoning and contain all that wonderful fat, but a lighter seasoning than you would be used to with the results from rendering smoked hocks in water. They really are not what you want to simmer beans with, unless you are VERY genourous with other seasonings, BUT you can make a very nice soup that will make you second guess applications for chicken broth you have heard in the past. A braise really is not out of the question.

Another alternative would be to render them for lard for other applications, but there is too much meat there. I would feel like it was a waste.

#5 BarbaraY

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 12:59 PM

My ex used to cook them almost every weekend with navy beans and some onion. He left the skin on and cooked them just like one would with smoked hocks. Not my favorite dish but not bad.

#6 Smithy

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 01:30 PM

Sorry I wasn't more precise about the cut. These look like they're from near the knee. The feet aren't attached. Each piece is perhaps 6" diameter at the thickest, and they're cut into 4 or 5" lengths. Without having them here to look again, I'd say each piece weighs around a pound.

Thanks for the questions and suggestions, and keep 'em coming!

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#7 annecros

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 01:39 PM

Sorry I wasn't more precise about the cut.  These look like they're from near the knee.  The feet aren't attached.  Each piece is perhaps 6" diameter at the thickest, and they're cut into 4 or 5" lengths.  Without having them here to look again, I'd say each piece weighs around a pound. 

Thanks for the questions and suggestions, and keep 'em coming!

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Sounds like shanks to me. There is a great deal of meat there that should not be wasted, in my opinion.

Braise in the oven low and slow or do the pork and rice thing. Any trinity of vegetables that works, will work. Carrots, onions and garlic are kind of porky to me.

Maybe even look up a lamb shank recipe. It would work very well, I would think.

Edited by annecros, 04 January 2007 - 01:41 PM.


#8 Busboy

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 01:48 PM

Those sound the kind of hocks that, in decent quantity, make excellent "pigs feet." Braised in a strong stock, picked from the bone, spiced and rolled in foil (the collagen from the hocks holds them together like a lucious balony once it cools), then sliced and fried and served with a small salad and a gribiche sauce mmmmmmmmmmm. Do you have the Bouchon cookbook?

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#9 rooftop1000

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 08:17 PM

Sounds like what I had for dinner in Munich...the man next to us said I had alot of work ahead of me to pick all that wonderfull roasted meat off the bone. Well he said it much simpler not being of the English speaking sort :biggrin:
served with a light pan sauce and potato dumpling


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#10 Marlene

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 08:35 PM

I make pork stock with them. :smile:
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#11 mizducky

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 08:49 PM

I am currently having a culinary love affair with any cut of pork that has the skin still attached. Braised long, low, and slow, all the collagen in the skin converts into the most luciously gelatinous texture.

If I had a couple of fresh pork hocks in my possession right now, I'd probably do some kind of a Chinese red-cooked dish with them--a long slow braise in a liquid including dark soy sauce, ginger, star anise, shaoxing wine (or other alcohol--lots of recipes adapted to Western kitchens suggest sherry as a substitute), and a little sugar. I often also add some garlic and a dried red chile or two, just because.

Whatever braising liquid you decide to go with, simmer the lot, covered, in a moderate oven for some two to three hours, until everything is meltingly tender. Heavenly.

#12 Busboy

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 10:27 PM

I make pork stock with them.  :smile:

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Oh, you can do that with neckbones and feet. Hocks deserve alittle more respect.
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#13 dockhl

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Posted 04 January 2007 - 11:01 PM

Bouchon's Pig Trotters with Mache and Sauce Gribiche

:wub:

#14 Norman Walsh

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 12:48 AM

Using the hock and yellow split peas makes great pea soup and even greater peas pudding.
In the hard times when I was a kid in northern england it was a staple diet.

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#15 Smithy

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 10:58 AM

Y'all are making me very happy I thawed those hocks so I can cook them this weekend. Thanks for the encouragement and great suggestions!

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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#16 Pontormo

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 05:00 AM

Just came across the following recipe from Anna Del Conte in conjunction with the Italian forum's cooking thread on the region of Trentino Alto Adige. I am paraphrasing (and abbreviating) text for the sake of including the information here:

Stinco di Maiale alla Tirolese
4-6 servings

2 fresh ham hocks (should weigh around 1 1/2 # each)
S & P
2 T EVOO
1 celery stalk
1/2 chopped onion
1 sm carrot
1 clove garlic
5 sage leaves (fresh)
1 rosemary sprig's leaves
2/3 c dry white wine
3 T Grappa
2 juniper berries
2/3 c stock [Italian is combo beef & chicken, so use either]

Oven 400 F*

Chop celery, onion, carrot, garlic, sage and rosemary very finely, together.

Burn hairs off rind of hocks (which you took out of fridge 2 hours ago). Wash and dry them. Season all over.

Brown hocks all over in olive oil in enameled Dutch oven (or something that can go in oven, too), then remove and reserve.

Now throw the herb & veg mixture into pan with 1/2 t salt and saute low for 5 mins.

Return hocks to pan, placing them on top, and turn up heat. Pour wine and Grappa in, over meat, and let boil rapidly for minute. Turn hocks over once during this process. Throw in juniper berries after this and add 1/3 c of the stock.

Cover with lid and place in oven for 1 1/2 hours*, turning meat over a couple of times and adding stock if it's drying up. It's ready when meat is tender.

Remove rind which Del Conte says is good and should be cut into strips and fed to people who like this sort of thing. Cut meat into chunks and spoon cooking juices over and around it.

Should you prefer, you might, instead, puree the cooking liquids and put in pan. While they're simmering, little by little, add a beurre manie made with 1 T butter and 2 t flour into the simmering stuff; it may require a bit more stock.

I am guessing that someone from this alpine region would serve the hocks with polenta. Don't you just love the name: Stinco? (dee my-AH-lay). The author calls them "pork shins", too, and clearly distinguishes them from trotters. This is from revised edition of Classic Food of Northern Italy.

*I would personally try a lower temperature and longer time period. I'd also think about using more stock than required.

Edited by Pontormo, 06 January 2007 - 06:04 AM.

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#17 Dave Hatfield

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 06:47 AM

2 juniper berries


. Throw in juniper berries after this and add 1/3 c of the stock.


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Don't forget to crush the juniper berries before throwing them in. If you don't you won't taste them at all.
Personally, I'd add 6-8 of them, but then I like juniper.

#18 amccomb

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 11:14 AM

This thread is inspiring me, as I just bought a whole hog last month!

Would it be possible to use this cut for pork confit?

#19 jayt90

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Posted 06 January 2007 - 12:17 PM

This thread is inspiring me, as I just bought a whole hog last month!

Would it be possible to use this cut for pork confit?

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Yes, but I would try to get the larger bones out first.

#20 Smithy

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 11:14 AM

I'm sorry I didn't see how this thread had grown before I cooked those hocks; on the other hand, now I'll have reason to go buy more! Thanks for those pointers, especially to Pontormo, who took the trouble to email me and let me know to check back in.

I ended up doing a low slow braise in turkey stock and Belgian wheat beer, after having sweated onions, carrots, celery, and garlic until they were all fairly soft. Anasazi beans (pre-soaked) went into the braise along with a ton of cumin and touches of sage, rosemary and white pepper. The beans came out a bit dry - I don't know beans about cooking beans, and probably had too many for the dish - but with the addition of concentrated tomato paste (me) or white wine Worcestorshire sauce (husband) we had the flavor and texture adjusted to our respective tastes. The flavor was excellent, and the hocks did just what everyone said they'd do: fell apart into tender, unctuous glory. I'll do that again, right after I've tried some of the other suggestions.

I love finding good ways to cook cheap meat.

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#21 Chris Amirault

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 12:02 PM

I'm bumping this up because I got several pounds of hocks in thick 3-4" slices that I want to brine and smoke for other uses (red beans & rice, split pea soup, you know what I'm talking about). Any thoughts about brine strength and ingredients or smoking temps? I've erred in the past by making them too salty and by cooking them at too high a temperature.
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#22 Rover

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 12:10 PM

Not to high-jack this thread, but I saw "prosciutto ends" (that's how they were labeled) at a local store recently; they're about the size of a shank, on the bone - ridiculously inexpensive and I've been looking for an excuse to buy a couple. However, my research hasn't yielded many uses ... I may experiment with some of the ideas expressed here.

#23 Chris Amirault

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 12:12 PM

Do report back! It's my understanding that proscuitto ends can be used for many of the same purposes as other sorts of hocks/shanks, but I've never had 'em to play with.
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#24 ojisan

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 02:41 PM

I'm bumping this up because I got several pounds of hocks in thick 3-4" slices that I want to brine and smoke for other uses (red beans & rice, split pea soup, you know what I'm talking about). Any thoughts about brine strength and ingredients or smoking temps? I've erred in the past by making them too salty and by cooking them at too high a temperature.

I smoke mine in a Luhr Jensen Big Chief, which smokes at 175°-195°, depending on the weather and if the smoker is insulated.

Brine for up to 11 lbs. hocks:
12 C. water
220 gr. salt
140 gr. brown sugar
30 gr. pink salt

Brine for 3-4 nights refrigerated in an 8 qt. container.
Drain and air dry hocks (or in fridge overnight).
Smoke using 3 pans of hickory chips for 5 hrs., or until hocks reach 140°

The proportion of salt to water is not overly salty, and the use of pink salt is minimal.

Monterey Bay area


#25 Chris Amirault

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 02:43 PM

Very helpful -- thanks. I'll give it a try.
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#26 JBailey

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Posted 08 December 2010 - 08:41 PM

This sounds like it is 'schweinshaxe' and is wonderful as they serve it at Haxenbauer in Munich. The German Food Guide shows it roasted and prepared in sauerkraut.

Edited by heidih, 09 December 2010 - 02:12 PM.
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#27 codheadred

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Posted 09 December 2010 - 01:33 AM

Glad I found this topic, I bought a pork hock instead of a ham hock (which would have been for soup) by accident at the end of a recent trip to the butchers, I was thinking bout salting them along with some ox tongue I picked up at the time, however I am going to have a crack at the bouchons recipe posted by dockhl. Looks good!

#28 Alcuin

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Posted 09 December 2010 - 07:37 AM

Glad I found this topic, I bought a pork hock instead of a ham hock (which would have been for soup) by accident at the end of a recent trip to the butchers, I was thinking bout salting them along with some ox tongue I picked up at the time, however I am going to have a crack at the bouchons recipe posted by dockhl. Looks good!


This is a really great dish. The only difficult part is getting all the sticky rich meat out of the hocks (but that's not too hard either). In the original recipe from the book, Keller suggests mache but I like bitter greens. It is an extremely rich dish that needs some sturdy wine.
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