GERMANY: Pork Knuckle & Potato Dumplings

When my son was about 3yrs old the time came for me to return to some kind of part-time work.  I had studied to be a counsellor, but work was hard to find for a girl with no experience.  So eventually I returned to what I knew – office work.  I started temp work, and my second assignment led me to an office full of engineers and geologists who look after dams throughout the state (hi guys!).

The work was dull – you know the kind of thing – photocopying, database work and general dogsbody type of work (it improved later with more interesting work, which is why I’m still there).  But the thing I found really different was hanging out with a heap of blokes who liked nothing but a steak and a beer.  This was pretty new to me, I’ve never had so much red meat before (I’ve since learnt how to cook a decent steak).  I enjoyed the company of these people as well as some new experiences.

This led me to a few outings to our local Bavarian Bier Cafe (I’m not  a drinker – so I went for the food).  My first encounter with Pork Knuckle was a few years ago now.  I’ve not seen so much excitement from a group of people over a piece of meat before – it was only when I tasted the tender morsels of pork and crunched down into the salty crackling that I knew, for the first time, I had found an all time favourite.

So of course I had to try my hand at making it myself.  My trusty Food Safari Cookbook showed me what to do.  However, let me say, I made a few adjustments along the way.

Going to my local butcher was fun.  No one seemed to know what I meant when I asked for Pork Knuckle.

I soon discovered it was also called pork hock (of course!).  After much discussion with the butcher, I made the purchase and very excitedly left the shop.  I felt like I was on a wild adventure.  I know it sounds a little sad that cooking such a dish should bring so much joy – but planning it was half the fun.  Lots of talk at home with my hubby was had – how would I cook it, when would I cook it, what would we have it with etc. etc.

The recipe on Food Safari talks about roasting the pork.  The gentleman in the clip makes it looks so easy, the crackling looks divine and the meat so moist.  So did I cook it that way?  No!  Earlier this year I had some pork knuckle in Queensland and it had been slowly boiled for a number of hours – beautifully slow cooked.  I wanted to replicate that dish.  So instead of roasting the meat,I put it in my slow cooker all day on low and bathed it in water, salt, chopped onions, carrots, celery, peppercorns and bay leaves (approximately 6-8hrs).  Well, the meat just fell off the bone, and I mean it really fell off!  So I had to serve it up in pieces rather than the hock standing to attention (on the bone) on the plate.  Oh well, that’s what slow cooking can do.

The stock was so rich and delightful – so instead of getting rid of it, I drained it into a saucepan, added a pinch of salt and lashings of red wine and boiled it away until it had reduced and slightly thickened.  This sauce was amazing and set the standard for the whole meal.

I also made potato dumplings and red cabbage.  The red cabbage was ok – not amazing.  Might try and different technique next time.  It was nothing like I imagined.  I’m not sure I took the care with it that I should have.  Just last Monday I had really good red cabbage at my Bavarian Bier Cafe – mine was embarrassing when compared to that.

The dumplings were fun to make and turned out quite well.  Here they are all ready for the boiling pot of water:

Note// Hubby and I discovered our camera had died only moments before I was ready to plate up my masterpiece.  So apologies for the poor quality of the shots.  We had to use our phone cameras.

And here is the dish all ready to eat:

All in all, it was a really fun dish to plan, cook and eat.  I really recommend you try it in the colder months.  It’s the kind of meal that makes you feel really connected with your kitchen and draws on many of your culinary skills.

I’ll be making it again – but might try the roasting next time.  Cracking can easily be amazing or a dismal failure.  I must face my fear of failure and push through the pain barrier of bad crackling!

Thanks for reading!

Delly

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. vivzilla
    Aug 13, 2010 @ 21:00:24

    Is this the place where I RSVP for the next time this dish gets made because pork knucles kind of rule my universe.

    Reply

  2. Bells
    Aug 13, 2010 @ 21:11:09

    Viv, we’d happily cook for you!

    Reply

  3. Bells
    Aug 13, 2010 @ 21:17:30

    i keep picturing something that looks kind of rounded – not a hock! I’ve cooked hocks before for pea and ham soup. to be honest I never imagined they were useful for much else.

    But the idea of pork and dumplings together is too good to pass up.

    Re the red cabbage, I find in almost all instances, cabbage dishes are improved by the cabbage being finely sliced – in a food processor if you can’t finely slice it yourself. It just makes it cook so much better.

    Reply

    • Delly
      Aug 13, 2010 @ 21:20:42

      You’re right Bells. I should have mentioned that the cabbaged needed to be finely sliced. I think a part of me knew I should get out the food processor but I just didn’t. Shame. I’ve learnt a valuable lesson – listen to my inner cook!

      Reply

  4. Bel Shepherd
    Aug 13, 2010 @ 21:32:19

    Looks great hon. I love me a bit o’ pork!

    Reply

  5. 2paw
    Aug 13, 2010 @ 22:24:59

    Wow, that sounds a fine adventure!! Sehr gut!!

    Reply

  6. David Hilyard
    Aug 13, 2010 @ 23:21:47

    Sounds, great, Adele. Good work with the dumplings!

    I do cabbage – white or red – shredded fine, cooked slow with a fried onion, butter/oil, Granny Smith apple, brown sugar, cider vinegar, braised slow. FAanastic with pork, or bratwurst, and recently A Tavola did something very similar to go with brasied ox cheek – fantasitic.

    This is very similar to food at Una’s.

    Good luck with crackling next time.

    Reply

  7. Rose Red
    Aug 14, 2010 @ 05:47:13

    mmmmm, pork! I do love crackling, it is probably my favourite thing about cooking pork!

    Reply

  8. drkknits
    Aug 14, 2010 @ 19:59:59

    my inner eastern european (you can take the family out of poland….) is crazy about this kind of food, and this looks terrific. another winner for sure. i would roast mine too tho, i love my fancy fan forced oven so i would be game to try for the crackling. is there anything better than pork crackling, really?!

    Reply

  9. Mum
    Aug 15, 2010 @ 08:56:04

    A great post Adele, looks fabulous. Suggestion, next time Keith visits cook cabbage, it is his favourite vegie, no matter what colour. Love Mum

    Reply

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