"Eisbein" is a salt-cured pig knuckle that is simmered for several hours in broth and then served with sauerkraut and pureed peas. It is a specialty in Berlin and is a favorite for tourists in restaurants. Since it is simmered, it is not crispy on the outside. Eisbein can be made at home with simple ingredients and great results.
If you can find fresh pig's knuckles you must cure them before eating. Salt curing them infuses the pork with salt and removes some of the water, concentrating the flavor of the meat. Try a local grocery store with on-site butcher services or an ethnic grocery store and order ahead. (If you buy salt-cured hocks or knuckles, skip ahead to the next section on cooking them.)
- 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 teaspoons marjoram
- 1 teaspoons bay leaf
- 1 teaspoons allspice
- 1 teaspoons black pepper
- 1 teaspoons coriander
- 1 teaspoons juniper berries
- 1 teaspoons garlic cloves
- 1 to 2 onions
- 1 to 2 carrots
- 2 teaspoons sugar
Note: while 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, use 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. (Make sure to 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 and 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 over once or twice a day to redistribute the brine.
Cook the Eisbein
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 scum from the surface and turn the heat to low.
Add spices and vegetables that you prefer for flavor. You can 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 knuckle 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 pureed peas.
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
Since curing meat requires such a specific skill set, otherwise, it can lead to illness or worse, we highly recommend consulting with an expert to teach you proper techniques. We found that 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