My Mother’s Ham Hocks* (Berliner Eisbein)

(Berliner Eisbein)

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Ingredients:

4-6 smoked ham hocks
Cabbage (you decide what kind but I prefer Napa)
4-6 medium potatoes, peeled
1 medium onion, chopped
Peppercorns; about 6-8
Bay leaves; about 5
Salt (Filipino Rock Salt or Kosher Sea Salt work best)

Method:

1. Place the hocks into a deep pot and cover with water. Throw in the peppercorns and bay leaves.
2. Cover the pot and place it over a medium flame to soften the hocks for 45-60 minutes.
3. While the hocks are cooking, cut the onion, peel and cut the potatoes, and wash the cabbage.
4. After about 40 minutes, add the onion and potatoes. Recover the pot and, if needed, add water.
5. At the 60 minute mark, check that the hocks are soft and that the potatoes are cooked but without them getting crumbly. How quickly this may happen to the potatoes will depend on what variety you choose. If you don’t want the potatoes to crumble and make the sauce grainy, monitor your pot frequently.
6. When the hocks are soft and the potatoes close but not quite ready, add the cabbage. Recover and cook for another 15-20 minutes.
7. Serve, as I grew up eating it, with plain white rice. toyo (soy sauce) and oyster sauce. You can also eat it with Duck Sauce, mustard and/or mayonnaise.

* My mother who is half Filipina and half America, of German heritage, taught me how to make Ham Hocks when I was about eleven. When I came to the United States, Ham Hocks, as a dish, was presented to me as something strictly African-American. Thinking about it at the time, however, with German pork chops and all kinds of Wurst, pork is a staple of the German culinary experience so it’s as much a northern Euro dish as it is an African-American one. Additionally, Filipinos are a frequent enjoyer of pork dishes (Pork Adobo, Krispy Pata, to name a couple) and, looking back on my youth, I recall many times when my Filipino-Spanish-Chinese father enjoyed eating my mother’s Hocks and commenting on how this dish was one of his favourites. So, while I’ve presented it the way my Fil-Am mother would make and serve it, the dish may not be what you’re used to. But, then again, isn’t that why we read food blogs; to try new things? Enjoy.

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