To me a fork tender and juicy roasted pork knuckle with crispy skin, aka Schweinshaxe is the quintessential dish of the Bavarian beer halls. It simply has everything to offer – from appetizing looks to an unforgettable flavor, not to mention that it is always served in the company of steins full of beer.
Both Chris and I have great respect for this magical dish, a true Bavarian specialty, a real gem made with a very unpopular cut of meat. When I write unpopular, I mean for anyone who has never tasted Schweinshaxe, because once you do, you might look down at even the best pork chop.
Bavarian people know what they are doing, for reals.
I have eaten my fair share of Schweinshaxe over the years. Maybe a little bit more than a fair share in my twenties and less so in the past few years, but on average, I have demolished many of a roasted pork knuckle. Loved it every single time!
My mom and her business partner used to travel around the South of Germany visiting customers and she brought me with several times when I was still in college. That is how I discovered the pleasures of beer halls and Schweinshaxe. Nothing better than entering one of those imposing great halls full of long wooden tables after walking in the rain. Warmth, good vibes, excellent beer and fragrant, tender, juicy roasted pork knuckle. With mustard. And spätzle. And gravy made with beer. And sauerkraut.
When I first met Chris, he worked as a chef at the restaurant of a huge German owned (by a prince, His Royal Highness Prince Luitpold) brewery in Vail, Colorado called Kaltenberg. It was just a US location of the real deal, König Ludwig Schlossbrauerei in Bavaria.
It was designed as a true beer hall, beautifully decorated and housed in a large building that was connected to the base station of the Lionshead gondola. You could ski right into it or download from the gondola and enter the beer hall. For whatever reason Kaltenberg was closed down, the building demolished and the area was redeveloped with what Chris and I call ‘monstrosities’ – huge hotels with hundreds and hundreds of rooms and sub-par restaurants. Chris is still friends with the brew master of that Vail Kaltenberg, he now lives in Switzerland and brews for a local brewery there.
Looking back at the good old Kaltenberg days… I would say that even then Chris knew how to cook a wicked Schweinshaxe. I sampled on numerous occasions. He taught me how to do it and even ordered us the very knuckles in these pictures and video. Like I said, not a popular cut of meat and takes talking to your butcher to get some ordered.
What is Schweinshaxe anyways?
Some people call it ham hock, others call it shank (when Chris just ordered it, the line item of his meat vendor was titled ‘shanks’). But it is just the lower part of the shank at it’s very end, essentially the joint where the foot of the pig is attached to the leg. Kind of the beginning of the hock. Confusing stuff without actually butchering a pig, so just think joint. It is typically sold with the bone sticking out and has plenty of fat (which sizzles away during roasting, OMG does it smell good!).
In fact, watch our video to get a better idea.
In our previous post we promised to acquaint you with the very special guests to our Oktoberfest party who are turning it into a feast. They have brought us a veritable cornucopia of amazing German food that looks great, tastes delicious and pairs very well with craft beer and Oktoberfest. We will do so in more detail in our next post, but for now, we want to welcome them and thank them for coming!
We are beyond grateful for the honor. Thank you fellow bloggers for making our craft beering blogging experience so rewarding – it would not be the same without you. You are always welcome at our table (even if you don’t bring food:).
Cheers and ‘Zum Wohl’ (To health!)!
Here is the line up for the first ever Craft Beering Oktoberfest Bash!
Pictures of the dishes are in the pretty gallery below, while the names of the recipes lead to the respective blogs of our guests. Do go around and mingle, you will love them!
Oktoberfest Bash 2017 Dishes
What Should I Make For… – Bavarian Soft Pretzels
Beer Girl Cooks – Beer Mustard Crusted Pork Loin
Tasty Ever After – Kartoffelsuppe (German Potato Soup)
Itsy-Bitsy Kitchen – Bee Sting Cake
The Home Cook’s Kitchen – Cheese and Cherry Strudel
Kelly Lynn’s Sweets & Treats – German Chocolate Cake Cookies
The Bearded Hiker – Sauerbraten
Leeks and High Heels – Beef with Beet Puree & Purple Cauliflower
Sugar Love Spices – Porchetta Panini
Craft Beering – Schweinshaxe (you are here:), scroll down for the recipe
Seasons & Suppers – German Beef Rouladen
Girl Heart Food – Traditional Pork Schnitzel
- 3 pork knuckles (sometimes referred to as shanks, knuckles are the lower part of the shank)
- 1 tbsp caraway seeds
- 3 bay leaves
- 4 cloves
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 tsp salt + 1 tsp pepper
- 1 12 oz Doppelbock (substitute with Dunkel, Schwarzbier or Marzen/Oktoberfest)
- 2 cups water
- 2 lbs small gold potatoes
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp salt + 1 tsp pepper
- 1 cup water
- Optional: 2 tbsp butter, 2 tbsp flour if you want to make a gravy
- Wrap the caraway seed, bay leaf and clove in cheese cloth and make a little sachet.
- In a dutch oven or a larger pot with a lid, place the pork knuckles.
- Add the onion, garlic, salt and pepper and sachet with aromatics.
- Add the beer and the water.
- Cover with the lid, bring to boil over medium high heat.
- Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat to medium, the knuckles will continue to boil. Leave for 60 minutes. Check on and move the shanks around once or twice during that time.
- After one hour, remove the shanks from the liquid and place in a roasting pan. Let cool off a little bit.
- Discard the aromatics sachet.
- Score the knuckles with a sharp knife, especially the fattiest parts.
- Optional: With a hand held blender blend the cooled off liquid from the boiled knuckles. Use part as basting liquid for the knuckles and the rest as the base for a gravy.
- Place the roasting pan in a 375°F oven and roast for 2 hrs. You may vary the time depending on the strength of your oven, but 2 hours is average.
- Optional: While roasting the knuckles, baste once or twice with the blended liquid. The skin will get caramelized and become even crispier.
- While the knuckles are roasting, prepare the gold potatoes.
- Start by placing them in a large pan, drizzle with the olive oil, add the garlic, salt and pepper and water and coat them well. Let them simmer with a lid on over medium high heat until they begin to feel tender (test with a fork).
- Once tender, remove the lid and put them in the oven until the skin begins to get slightly crispy. If you are lucky, potatoes and knuckles will be done at the same time. You will be lucky:)
- Optional: Assuming you made a basting liquid and basted the knuckles, you still have plenty of it left to make a gravy. Melt 2 tbsp butter in a sauce pan, add flour and stir until a smooth paste forms. Add the basting liquid slowly and stir as you add it until it is well incorporated. Taste and season with salt and pepper. You now have gravy.
- Serve the knuckles with the bone sticking up. Holding the bone with a napkin, use a fork to strip the meat of the bone.