Black Forest ham, or Schwarzwälder Schinken in German, is a variety of dry-cured smoked ham that comes from the hind leg of a pig. It was originally produced in the Black Forest region in southwestern Germany. As of 1997, any ham labeled as Black Forest ham in the European Union (aka E.U.) has to come from the Black Forest region in Germany. However, this is not the case in other countries such as the United States where various types of hams are marketed as Black Forest ham.
In 1959, Hans Adler from Bonndorf, Germany pioneered the manufacturing and selling of Black Forest ham by mail order and retail. It takes about three months to produce from start to finish. The first step in producing the ham is to season the ham with salt, pepper, garlic, coriander, juniper berries, and other spices. The ham is then allowed to cure for two weeks. At that time the salt is removed, and it is given two more weeks to age.
After all of that, the ham is far from being ready. The ham is then taken to a smoking room for another month, accumulating its unique flavor. Authentic Black Forest ham is smoked over a fire from pine twigs and wood chips that come strictly from Black Forest trees. Another major part of the ham’s distinct flavor is from the sawdust from Black Forest trees that is thrown into the fire to enhance the flavor and color of the ham.
Finally, the ham is allowed to cure for an additional couple of weeks and then is ready to be consumed or packaged and sold.
Black Forest ham was traditionally coated with beef blood. This enhanced the hams’ distinct black exterior coating. However, this method has become less common to accommodate modern tastes and cultures. Often, producers will attempt to mimic the color with spices even though the colors aren’t very similar.
- Some hams are cured for up to 5 years.
- The modern word “ham” is derived from the Old English “ham” or “hom,” meaning the bend of the hollow of a knee.
- Most hams sold in the U.S. are considered “city ham,” meaning brine is injected in them to speed up the curing process.
- Authentic country ham is cured in salt and saltpeter for about a month, and then smoked using hickory or red oak wood and allowed to cure for months.
- Wikipedia.org – Black Forest Ham
- Bar-S.com – LEARN YOUR DELI MEATS! A BRIEF HISTORY OF BLACK FOREST HAM AND OTHER FAVORITES
- OurEveryDayLife.com – What Is a Black Forest Ham?
- ProfessorHouse.com – Ham Trivia and Interesting Facts