A ham hock, also commonly known as pork knuckle is the joint connecting a swine’s foot to the rest of the leg. While this part of the animal is not something you would generally cook or bake for the meat, ham hock is a common ingredient in soups and other similar meals. Adding a ham hock to a soup will surely give your dish a recognizable flavor and will make it fatter and tastier.
Ham hocks are very often added to meals such as stews and beans with the bone, meat and skin all added together, to give the full scent and flavor to the meal. In some parts of the United States, ham hocks are basically a daily ingredient, added to the characteristic dishes that take long to cook in the pot, and draw the flavor out of the hock while cooking. So, what is its nutritional value? Nutritionally speaking, ham hock is a very fat food. A portion of 100 grams of this stuff will contain as much as 300 calories, and over 70% of those come from fat, a huge amount.
Ham Hock Nutrition
A portion will contain about 25 grams of fats, which is a significant part of the suggested 45 to 80 grams of fat per day, recommended in a standard 2000 calorie diet. About 7 of the 25 grams of the fat present in one such portion are the saturated fats, the bad kind, and eating too much ham hock will almost necessarily lead to health issues, so eat in moderation.
As most meats, ham hock contains a significant portion of protein. About 17 grams of protein per 100 grams of the food is a very reasonable amount for sure. Still, as a source of protein if you are someone who takes care of these things, ham hock, and pork, in general, are not a great idea, because of all the excess fat present in these types of meat. To finish off the blend, 5 grams of carbohydrates are present per 100 grams of ham hock, not a very significant amount.
The one advantage of ham hock nutritionally speaking is the fairly high amount of sodium present, but this can hardly justify all the negatives. Nutritionally, ham hock is not something you want to add to your diet, but speaking from a gastronomic standpoint, it certainly is, and I am not saying you should not just remember to remain moderate in your intake.
Cooking Ham Hock In A Slow Cooker
When it comes to cooking ham hock, this piece of pork is rarely cooked on its own. It is usually either added to soups, stews, beans and such or cooked with some vegetables. However, the dish can in theory also be cooked on its own in water. In either scenario, the dishes will take 3-6 hours to fully cook as the ham hock is extremely hard to cook and takes slow boiling for the muscles and the fats to loosen up enough to make it tasty and good to eat.
Ham Hock And Bean Soup
One of the most commons dishes in which ham hock can be found will be bean soups. A classic way of cooking this dish uses the ham hock meat, removed from the bone as a flavor enhancer. The first step is soaking the beans in hot water, after which the celery, garlic, onions, carrots and ham hock with bone are added for another hour of cooking. The bone is then removed and the meat left in the pot, to be stirred and cooked for another 30 minutes to one hour. The final product is a delicious versatile bean soup, containing a wide range of nutrients.
Ham Hock And Lentil Soup
Another similar dish with ham hock is lentil soup. Lentil soup is quite similar to bean soup in many ways. A very common recipe would have you fry some onions, celery and carrots in hot oil, then adding seasoning, stirring for a while, followed by ham hocks with bones. After about an hour of cooking, the final stroke is adding the lentils and cooking for another 30 minutes, after removing the hock bone, leaving only the meat inside the pot. Aditional seasoning and ingredients of your choosing can also be added, but the ham hock is guaranteed to add some distinct flavor to the dish.
Ham Hock Split Pea Soup
In a similar way as beans and lentils, peas can be used in combination with a ham hock to create yet another tasty dish. The preparation is much like the bean soup, with the first step being sauteeing of onions, celery and carrots on a sauce pan over low to medium heat. Once the ingredients are sauteed add the peas and the ham hock and shut the lid, cooking the soup for about one hour, until the peas have almost completely fallen apart. Add salt and pepper and remove the hock from the dish. If you wish you may return the ham meat into the dish or leave the whole thing out, as the dish already got the flavor we were going for.
Ham Hock Vegetable Soup
Finally, you do not necessarily need to add any beans or peas to your soup. Even a simple vegetable soup will benefit greatly from added ham hock flavor. A good recipe I came across suggests you go for melting some bacon on a skillet adding onion, carrot, celery and garlic to it, cooking it for about five minutes. Add the potatoes next and stir until the potatoes are golden, about 10 minutes.
Use a slow cooker to stir some chicken bouillon and add the ham hock and the above mix of vegetables to the cooker. You can also add corn, tomato, salt and pepper as you desire. Set the cooker to low and cook for four to six hours, finally removing the hock from the soup, and adding the meat back into it. The delicious soup will be ready to serve and should be a delight for the senses.
Images used via the creative commons license version 2 – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
Image One by Jessica Spengler – https://www.flickr.com/photos/wordridden/5673138499/
Image Two by Katherine Lim – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ultrakml/6947944283/
Image Three by Katherine Lim – https://www.flickr.com/photos/ultrakml/17348937161/