How Is Black Forest Ham Made?

Seasoning the Raw Ham

Black Forest Ham is a very particular variety of ham which is produced in the Black Forest region of Germany. Production of Black Forest Ham can take as long as three months. It begins with seasoning. Using the hind leg of the pig, the raw ham is salted and then seasoned with garlic, coriander, pepper, juniper berries and other seasonings.

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Dry Curing Takes Place

The ham is dry-cured for two weeks. Curing is a process in which meat is prepared for preservation by salting or smoking. After the initial curing, the salt is scraped off the ham and then dry cured for another two weeks.

Cold Smoked

The ham is cold smoked at 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius) for several weeks. The ham is generally smoked by burning fir or other pine brush and sawdust. It is during the smoking process that the ham acquires its deep red color and the black coloring of the skin. Traditionally, this black coloring was acquired by dipping the ham in beef blood, but this is no longer the case. Smoking is also how the ham gets its flavor.

Beware of Imitators

Much of the Black Forest Ham we purchase in grocery stores is not going to be the genuine article. In the European Union, anything that is sold as "Black Forest Ham" must be produced in Germany's Black Forest. This is not the case in U.S. or Canada where typically any ham product can be labeled as Black Forest Ham. Such hams bear little or no resemblance to the genuine product. True Black Forest Ham should have a black skin, a dark red coloring and a very pronounced flavor.

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