Ham hocks (pork shanks) are an inexpensive cut of meat. They can be turned into something delicious by first hot smoking them and then cooking them sous-vide. This is a technique I’ve used before on ham of lamb and brisket, and I wanted to try it on a ham hock. It was absolutely delicious. A light smoky flavor, tender and juicy. Many recipes call for brining the ham hock first, but there does not seem to be a reason to do this for this preparation. The sous-vide cooking allows the smoky flavors to penetrate all the way to the core of the meat and will turn the meat completely tender without drying it out.
In Germany ham hocks are called Eisbein and are served with sauerkraut (Sauerkraut mit Eisbein). I served my smoked ham hock with a sauerkraut and potato mash, and some homemade spicy ketchup. I had picked up some mesquite wood chips to try them for hot smoking instead of my usual beech sawdust. I did not notice any difference (except for the price tag), so perhaps I should do a side-by-side some time to make sure.
1 ham hock
2 Tbsp smoking dust or chips
salt and freshly ground black pepper
sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and ketchup to serve
Cook sous-vide for 72 hours (!) at 57ºC/135ºF. An interesting phenomenon is that although the pouches used for sous-vide cooking are airtight and waterproof, some of the smoke can somehow ‘leak’ through into the sous-vide cooker. This is not a problem, as long as you do not cook something else alongside it (I tried and rather than a nice smoky flavor it will impart a bitter taste — apparently if the smoke can escape from the pouch with the smoked meat, it can also enter another pouch) and if you discard the smoky water afterwards.
Some of my photos from two years ago make me cringe, and this is one of them. I can guarantee you though that the flavor of this flourless chocolate cake won’t make you cringe! The ingredients? Chocolate, butter, eggs, and sugar. That’s right, it’s not just called flourless but it actually is.