Ham hocks: from traditional German cuisine to American “soul-food”, they add some real smokey flavour to dishes and qualify as a definite comfort food. Hocks are cut from the ankle joint of a pig, and are sometimes referred to as knuckles. Smoked and cured versions are available from certain organic butchers, and you may find fresh ones as well. Used in soups and to season everything from kale to collard greens, they are fairly economical as a single hock will lend itself to several meals.
In creating a paleo version of hocks (they are often cooked with white or navy beans), I did bend one of the rules. I added a bit of potato to my stock, just to give it more body. I don’t eat them normally, but I was ‘gifted’ some beautiful spuds last week from a farm north of Toronto. I peeled them to remove the lectins and anti-nutrients common to most nightshades, so I was left with just the starch.
Ham Hocks and Greens
- 1 large ham hock
- 1 large carrot
- 1-2 stalks celery
- (1-2 large peeled and cubed potatoes, optional)
- 1 bunch kale or other greens, tough stems removed and roughly chopped
- whole peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- (1 leek, well cleaned and chopped, optional)
- bacon, cooked and chopped for garnish
Place the rinsed hock in a large Dutch oven or pot (skin and bones intact – they add much of the flavour), and cover with cold water. Add celery, carrot, bay leaves and a some whole peppercorns (up to 10). Slowly bring to a boil, cover and let simmer on low for about 1 1/2 hours. Let cool a bit and remove the celery, carrot and bay leaves (discard) and take out the hock, placing it on a cutting board to cool.
When the hock has cooled enough to handle, remove the skin and separate the meat from the bones. Cut the larger pieces of meat into smaller bits and place back in the pot. Add the potato pieces and leeks (optional) and kale. Return the pot to a boil and then reduce the heat and let simmer, covered, until the vegetables are cooked (will take only 15-20 minutes).
When serving, you can add some chopped bacon to the top of each bowl. Delicious! I also like to add a drop of two of habanero or other pepper sauce for some kick.