Eisbein is one of my secret (well, not any more) comfort foods. I first tasted it in an Alsacian restaurant in Paris many many many years ago and it took me several years to figure out how to make it, and then how to get it right. I'm not going to pull any punches, this is a complicated project, unless you have sauerkraut or sauerueben on hand, and some good broth. It's best made with homemade sauerkraut or (now that I've discovered it) sauerueben, which is so darn easy it's silly. And don't even think about making it with anything other than the very best homemade stock. Because I am mildly insane, I have recently taken to smoking my own ham hocks, but storebought are just fine. Be aware of how salty the hamhocks are before adding more salt to the final dish. I'm assuming you know how to make mashed potatoes. When I make them for this dish, I make them particularly buttery. Hey, it's comfort food!
I've made Eisbein for years with sauerkraut, but after tasting sauerueben at Farmstead, Inc., Matt Jenning's awesome Providence, RI restaurant and cheeseshop I became mildly obsessed. Now, I think sauerueben is pushing at my beloved sauerkraut for shelf space in the pantry.
It's getting to be wintertime, and while this is a very delicious way to comfort yourself, it's also a great side dish for turkey dinners. —MrsWheelbarrow
- Serves 4
smoked ham hock
rich chicken stock (or goose stock, which is divine)
sauerueben or sauerkraut
caraway seeds (optional)
bottle of lager or pale ale
Salt and pepper to taste
Really good mashed potatoes. A lot of them.
- Peel and shred the turnips and rutebaga. I use the food processor's grating disk.
- Mix the grated vegetables with the salt. Use your hands to distribute the salt throughout.
- Allow the vegetables to dry brine for an hour, covered, on the counter, then pack the sauerueben into two quart glass jars. Press down with your fist and pack the vegetables well, and as you pack them you'll see them beginning to exude water and develop a brine.
- Weight the top of the jar using a bag filled with well salted water, to continue to press down on the sauerueben.
- Leave the jars on the counter for a week, tuck them back into a cool, dark spot. The volume will begin to decrease. After a week, smell it. Does it smell tangy and fermented? GOOD! Taste a little. Is it sour enough for your taste? If so, place the jars in the refrigerator. Now you're ready to make Eisbein. Sauerueben may be used in any recipe that calls for sauerkraut.
- Simmer the ham hock in water to cover for two hours. Allow to cool, reserving the cooking water, then working around the bone and gristle, shred and chop the meat into small pieces.
- OPTIONAL STEP, BEST IF USING COMMERCIAL SAUERKRAUT) Rinse the sauereuben and squeeze out the excess water.
- In a deep baking dish (if you have a covered baker, that's a good choice, as Eisbein must be piping hot when served, and should stay piping hot) stir together the sauerueben, meat, broth, caraway seeds (optional,) and beer. Add reserved cooking liquid as needed to just cover the sauerueben.
- Cover and bake at 225°F for anywhere from four to six hours. After two hours, taste the mixture and correct for salt and pepper. If the mixture appears dry, add more of the reserved cooking liquid. Continue cooking for two to four hours.
- Serve with mashed potatoes.
- P.S. When I was last in Alsace, I ordered what I thought was Eisbein, but it was actually Schweinshaxe. Google it. I felt like Fred Flintstone.