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31.01.2017

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Smoked pork knuckle (ham hock) smothered in blueberry jam and slow cooked in good quality beer. A perfect meze to accompany your, er, beer.

Over on the Greek side I started this post by saying “you might be wondering what kind of a combination this is”. Beer with jam? Ok, maybe you’re thinking the same, but if I explain I think you’ll know where it came from. Have you ever ordered a lager and black? Or a Guinness and black? Aha, is it making more sense now? In British pubs these are things you might hear quite often, especially if there are students around. The “black” refers to blackcurrant cordial, and it’s added to beer or Guinness because it tastes yummy. The other day I was with some friends in an Irish pub here in Athens, gorging on fish and chips, and steak and ale pie, and you get the picture…, when a friend ordered her beer with some blackcurrant in it. I hadn’t thought of this combo for years and it stuck with me.

Slow Cooker Smoked Pork Knuckle (Ham Hock) with Beer and Jam www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: Top view of a cooked ham hock on a round wooden cutting board. To its left towards the top of the photo is a black bowl with cooked bulgur wheat inside. Above the board are also some beer bottles and a couple of glasses with beer in. An old rusty bottle opener lies among them. In the bottom right corner of the photo lays a black linen napkin.

The next day I finally decided to cook a smoked pork knuckle (ham hock) I had in the fridge. My original plan had been to cook it in beer after smothering it in honey. As I was prepping, it suddenly popped into my head that I had some blueberry jam. Ok it’s definitely not the same as blackcurrant, but why not try that instead of the honey? We know dark berry flavours go with beer, so maybe it would work. It did. The flavour is very intense, so it’s not something you will eat kilos of, but it’s a fab idea for something to serve with beer as a snack (or meze as we say here in Greece). It needs some picking with your fingers to tear up the meaty bits and discard the fatty bits, so it’s best to do that before serving.

Slow Cooker Smoked Pork Knuckle (Ham Hock) with Beer and Jam www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: A top view (landscape) of the bowl of bulgur wheat, with some torn pieces of ham hock laying on top. To the left a black linen napkin and to the right a glass of beer and the old rusty bottle opener.

Another very important thing is to use a good beer. I mean a beer that you love the flavour of. Definitely something you really enjoy drinking. They always say that you should cook with alcohol that you would drink, but when it comes to cooking in a slow cooker, that rule applies a hundredfold. This is because slow cooking retains so much flavour. So when you pour the beer in there, expect the meat to soak up the taste. You better like the taste. If you’re iffy about beer in general, move on and find another recipe. Or, if the jam sounds too strange an addition, go with honey.

At the end of cooking you will be left with lots of juice. Beer and smoked pork flavoured juice. It’s strong stuff. I couldn’t bear to chuck it, so I boiled some bulgur (cracked) wheat in it. Delish. Again, intense. You can get a small amount of cooked bulgur from the juice from one hock, or you can dilute with water and get a milder tasting result, but more of it. See step 3.

Slow Cooker Smoked Pork Knuckle (Ham Hock) with Beer and Jam www.thefoodiecorner.gr Photo description: A top view (portrait) of the bowl of bulgur wheat, with some torn pieces of ham hock laying on top, sitting in the bottom left corner. To its left a black linen napkin just visible, and to the right a glass of beer and the old rusty bottle opener. Towards the top of the photo on the left there is blank space showing the surface on which the items sit, which is dark and battered, with discoloured spots. To the right towards the top, some dark brown beer bottles.

Do you use beer in your slow cooker? What do you cook in it? Give me some ideas!

Ingredients

1 smoked pork knuckle (ham hock), about 1 kilogram

3 Tbs blueberry or blackcurrant jam

1 onion, cut in half

330ml beer, your favourite (I used an unpasteurised filtered Pilsner)

bulgur wheat, quantity will depend on juice left after cooking (optional)

sugar, for the juice (if necessary)

Step 1

Smother the knuckle with the jam and put it in the slow cooker. Place the onion halves next to it. Pour in the beer so as not to disturb the jam too much.

Step 2

Cook on high for 5-6 hours (I imagine about 8 on low) or until the meat falls off the bone.

Step 3

Measure your juice (mine was just over 1 cup so I used exactly 1 cup for ease of calculations). Taste it and add a teaspoon of sugar if it’s very bitter (this will depend on your beer and your taste buds). Bring it to the boil in a small pan and add 1/3 cup bulgur wheat. Turn heat down, cover and simmer till juices are absorbed and wheat is cooked. If you want more wheat, just add water to your juice, and use a 3:1 ratio for liquid to bulgur.

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