What is Nuss Schinken?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Nuss Schinken is an imported German ham that is typically dry cured and smoked. In German, Schinken means ham, so you’ll find a lot of different Schinken types. Nuss Schinken is similar in taste and texture to Westphalian ham, and it may be known as small Westphalian ham. The main differences are that the overall cut is a little bit smaller, and the ham itself is usually a little drier than the Westphalian type. Usually you can substitute one for the other in recipes calling for either.

The pigs used to make nuss schinken are fed a diet of acorns.
The pigs used to make nuss schinken are fed a diet of acorns.

Sometimes Nuss Schinken and Westphalian hams are called German prosciutto. They may be best served in paper-thin slices, because they are somewhat dry and salty. You can substitute Nuss Schinken for prosciutto in the popular recipe for melon wrapped in prosciutto. Gourmets often think Nuss Schinken and Westphalian are two of the most desirable hams, since preparing them takes considerable time and the results are considered delicious.

Both types of hams go through a double preparation process before being sold. Dry curing first occurs, which basically entails salting the exterior of the ham and allowing it to sit until the salt is absorbed into the meat. Once the dry curing process is completed, the hams are smoked very slowly over different types of wood. Westphalian and Nuss Schinken typically use juniper berries, and sometime sage for this smoking process which takes, at minimum, a month.

The pigs used to produce either type of ham are special. They are fed a diet of acorns and nuts, which many insist makes a huge difference in the final product. They tend to be less fatty then other pigs, and have a light delicate flavor. This flavor is then given special attention through the double preparation process.

In appearance, Nuss Schinken is dark pink or almost red in color, and its exterior color is dark brown to black. If you don’t have a professional slicer at home, you may want to have your local deli preslice this for you, since cutting it at home in the fine slices it requires can be challenging. You may also have a difficult time finding Nuss Schinken; it’s much easier to find Westphalian ham.

Look for it in specialty delis, especially German ones, or look for the ham at specialty butchers. Your butcher may be able to order this if you give them advanced notice. Though most of this ham is made in Germany, there are a few American companies which produce this ham. An Internet search can reveal several sausage companies and meat processors that specialize in creating authentic specialty hams.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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