Eisbein is a salt-cured pig knuckle that is simmered for several hours in broth and then served with sauerkraut and puréed peas. It is a specialty in Berlin and is a favorite for tourists in restaurants. Eisbein can be made at home with simple ingredients and great results.
If you can find fresh pig's knuckles, they must be cured them before eating. Salt curing them infuses the pork with salt and removes some of the water, concentrating the flavor of the meat. It requires a combination of kosher salt and pink curing salt. Try a local grocery store with on-site butcher services, or a German or specialty grocery store and order ahead. (If you buy salt-cured hocks or knuckles, skip ahead to the next section on cooking them.) When cooked this way, the pork becomes fall-off-the-bone tender.
- For the Brine:
- 1/2 cup kosher salt (for each quart of water)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pink salt (or DQ Curing Salt per quart of water)
- 1 quart water
- Pig knuckles (or hocks with rind or skin still attached)
- For the Broth:
- 1 teaspoon marjoram
- 1 teaspoon bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon juniper berries
- 1 teaspoon garlic cloves
- 1 to 2 onions
- 1 to 2 carrots
- 2 teaspoons sugar
Note: Although there are multiple steps to this recipe, this dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for cooking.
Cure the Pork
Gather the ingredients.
To make the brine, you need a 12 percent salt solution by weight. Dissolve 1/2 cup kosher salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons of pink salt per quart of water. Make enough to cover all your pork and chill the water thoroughly before continuing. (Use a non-reactive container to brine (cure) the pork. Plastic, including plastic zip lock bags, will work, as will any other glass or enamel pans.)
Place the pork in the container, add the brine to cover, and refrigerate.
Leave the pork in the brine for 1 to 5 days in the refrigerator. The longer it sits in the brine, the saltier it will be. If it is in bags, turn the bags over once or twice a day to redistribute the brine.
Cook the Eisbein in Broth
Gather the ingredients.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Rinse the cured pork under running water and place in the boiling water.
Bring it back to a boil, remove the fat from the surface and turn the heat to low.
Add spices and vegetables that you prefer for flavor. Add about 1 teaspoon of each of the spices, 1 or 2 onions or carrots, and 2 teaspoons of sugar per quart of cooking water. You will not usually need salt since the pork will salt the water.
Simmer the pork for 2 to 3 hours. When the rind starts separating from the meat, the pork is done.
You can choose to crisp the skin (rind) by placing under the broiler for 20 minutes or so, but don't cook it too long or the skin will be too tough to chew.
Serve with sauerkraut and puréed peas. Enjoy!
Glass Bakeware Warning
Do not use glass bakeware when broiling or when a recipe calls to add liquid to a hot pan, as glass may explode. Even if it states oven-safe or heat resistant, tempered glass products can, and do, break occasionally.
Curing Meat Warning
Curing meat requires specific expertise and failure to cure meat properly may result in sickness or death. If you have no experience in this area, we advise you to consult an expert to teach you proper techniques and applications.
Great Resources on Curing Meat
If you've never cured meat before, it's wise to seek expert assistance to learn the proper techniques. Curing meat requires a specific skill set; otherwise, it can lead to illness or worse. The following four publications are super helpful guides and go in-depth about just such processes, procedures, and techniques:
- Charcuterie: The Art of Salting, Smoking, and Curing by Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn
- Home Production of Quality Meats and Sausages by Stanley Marianski
- The River Cottage Smoking & Curing Handbook by Steven Lamb
- USDA’s Processing Procedures: Dried Meats