How to cook a ham hock?

Posted by Luther Carmichael on 0 Comments

How to cook a ham hock?

The Joys of Ham Hocking

Oh, the humble ham hock. Where to begin? This seemingly mundane cut of meat, often forgotten or even maligned, is capable of profoundly delicious feats when treated with the respect and diligence it so deserves. As Luther, I adore cooking, and ham hocks hold a special place in my culinary heart. The process of slow-cooking a ham hock, transforming it from a somewhat unappetizing chunk of bone and gristle into a savory, rich, unctuous delight is akin to alchemy – transforming base metal into pure gold.

Before immersing ourselves into this deliciousness expedition, you might be pondering – what exactly is a ham hock? Allow me to serve as your culinary guide. A ham hock is essentially a pig's ankle, comprising of bone, skin, and a small amount of meat. At first glance, it can appear insignificant, but underestimating this culinary powerhouse would be a folly. Now, ready to ride the wave of flavors? Let’s go!

Choosing the Perfect Ham Hock

Our journey to the perfection of ham hocks begins by picking out the most exceptional piece. There are many places where you can find a good piece of hock: butcher shops, supermarkets, and local farmers' markets. Look for a hock that is rosy pink with a nice layer of fat. The meat should be fresh with no off-smell. A good quality ham hock is a sure pathway to a culinary triumph.

Now comes a personal story; I once felt adventurous and went for a half-price grey, shriveled-looking hock at a dodgy corner store. Prepared with enthusiasm, it was about as palatable as eating your granny's corduroy trousers. Downright tragic. It’s a culinary lesson etched into my memory – you get what you pay for!

Prepping the Ham Hock

Preparation is key. Start by rinsing the ham hock thoroughly to get rid of any bone fragments or gristle. You might be tempted to trim off some of that layer of fat, but I urge you, comrades on the flavor train, resist the impulse. The fat will render down and infuse the dish with an incredible richness that’s nothing short of magical. We're aiming for alchemical wonders here, remember?

Now, let’s march towards the next step - scoring the skin. I can't stress enough how vital this step is for the flavors to penetrate the meat. There was this one time when I skipped scoring altogether in my haste; result? A bland, rather uninspiring hock. So, let those flavors dive in and dance among the meat fibers!

A Time to Season

Now comes the art of seasoning! This is where you get to flex your creative muscle and tailor the dish according to your palate preference. Me? I am a big lover of garlic, black pepper, and thyme combo. The aromatic magic these ingredients cast when combined is simply unparalleled. Regardless of the route you take, go generous with your seasoning. Remember, we're turning this humble hock from a Cinderella to a gastronomic princess - flavor is everything!

Another hot tip? Mix some of the rub inside the scored skin to truly saturate the meat with those flavors. It was an accidental discovery during my younger, more experimental cooking days. The way those flavors infused the meat was simply fabulous!

The Slow and Steady Cook

We've picked the perfect hock, prepared it, and conjured the optimal seasoning blend, now comes the part where patience truly is a virtue: the slow cook. This is where the real magic happens. This process usually takes until the meat is so tender it almost falls off the bone, or as us culinary lovers say, "fork-tender". My top-tip is to opt for a low and slow approach. The longer the cook, the better the flavors, and more tender the meat.

When my wife and I first started dating, I wanted to impress her with my culinary skills. Determined to win her over with the most tender ham hock soup, I left it bubbling away on the stove all day while I busied myself with romantic preparations. When she arrived, not only were the flavors absolutely sublime, but each spoonful of that succulent meat made a lasting impression. After that meal, she never had any doubts left about my culinary prowess!

Ham hock, my dear comrades, is a journey of love, patience, and flavors. It's not just the process of cooking it but savoring the delightful flavors, the tenderness of the meat, and the joy it brings to your taste buds. By understanding every step of the process, appreciating its simplicity, and indulging in its taste, every ham hock you'll prepare will be a joyful celebration, an epicurean feast!