Cooking with smoked ham hocks is not complicated, but, if you
don't understand the smoked hock you may not be getting the most out of
First of all a ham hock is a portion of a pigs leg (go look it
up). It's mostly fat and bone and about one third meat but the
meat is not the most important thing you're looking for; it's the
flavor. The meat is just an added benefit. The smoked hock has a
smoked flavor, you get flavor from the fat and flavor from the
bones. It's called "body" in the flavor world.
Now, smoked hocks come in two forms, One is
as big as shown in the
first picture and the other is cut in crosswise slices with a bone
saw; it's all the same. The sliced type need to be cooked
just as long because it's not about getting the meat done, it's
about extracting flavor. I score the fat layer in a few places on
the piece shown here before it's put to boil.
To handle the hock properly you must boil it for at least an
hour, and, more time is better. Boil it until it falls apart; don't
worry, the meat is tough enough to handle it. Take the hock of out
the water and reduce the liquid by half. The picture here is of the
hock after it's taken out of the pot to cool.
third picture gives you an idea how much meat you'll get out
of a large hock. It's in a small paper plate and amounts to about a
little over a cup. You'll have to pick and pull the meat out of it and
discard the rest. You will also notice that very
little dissolved fat is in the water (no picture)!
So, you're talking about a one to two hour process altogether just to get everything you want out of
the hock flavor wise.
What would you do with a smoked ham hock you say? Pretty much
what you would use salt meat for, however, it has a smoked flavor
(body) that salt meat does not have.