What Is Schweinshaxe?

Eugene P.

Schweinshaxe is a Bavarian dish that can be prepared in a variety of ways but is essentially a braised or roasted ham hock that has a crispy, mahogany skin when finished cooking. It can be braised on a stovetop, grilled or roasted in an oven with vegetables and spices. Some recipes call for it to be braised with stock or German beer while cooking. The final dish can be served with mashed potatoes, spatzle, sauerkraut or braised cabbage.

Schweinshaxe is sometimes served with sauerkraut.
Schweinshaxe is sometimes served with sauerkraut.

One way to make schweinshaxe starts with the ham hock being coated in dry spices such as sage, pepper and rosemary. In a Dutch oven, the meat is browned on all sides. It is removed from the pan and diced vegetables including onions, carrots, leeks and celery are added and fried in the fat until they have cooked down.

Schweinshaxe is often seasoned with black pepper.
Schweinshaxe is often seasoned with black pepper.

The meat is returned to the Dutch oven, a liquid — usually water, stock or beer — is added, and the entire dish is placed in an oven to roast for several hours. Every 15 to 30 minutes, schweinshaxe is basted with the liquid, although the liquid should be slowly reducing in the oven. Once the dish has cooked thoroughly, it is taken out of the oven and the ham hock is removed again. The remaining liquid is heated on a range top and mixed with more spices, such as cumin, and some butter and flour to form a thick gravy that can be poured over the ham hock when it is served.

Another preparation that is sometimes said to be closer to an authentic Bavarian recipe for schweinshaxe involves covering the meat in a spice rub made from juniper berries, cloves and black pepper. The ham hock is allowed to absorb the flavors of the rub for anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. After it has marinated in the dry rub, the ham hock is grilled over a fire or skewered and roasted very slowly on a rotisserie or spit until done.

One final preparation of schweinshaxe involves frying onions in oil until they are soft, after which a good amount of sauerkraut is added to the pan so it cooks just slightly. Stock is added to the sauerkraut along with juniper berries, garlic and black pepper, and the mixture is allowed to reduce a little. The ham hock is placed on top of the sauerkraut mixture and allowed to cook for a few hours until it is done. The completed schweinshaxe is served on a plate over the sauerkraut.

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