Ham Hock for Dinner

I’ve never made Ham Hock before and I think I’ve only eaten it once before and it was called a pork knuckle.

So knowing we had a homemade Wiltshire Cured Ham Hock in the freezer begging to be eaten sent me running to the internet for inspiration. I expect you could buy a hock from a good butcher, but I haven’t ever seen one in a supermarket and it isn’t a cut I am very familiar with.

Wiltshire Cured Ham Hock Perfection!

Wiltshire Cured Ham Hock Perfection!

It is a tough cut of meat with lots of tendons and ligaments but as you know these are perfect for long slow cooking.  I remember when cuts of meat like this use to be considered thrifty but I don’t think they are anymore.  For example lamb shanks (which is the same cut on a lamb) can be quite expensive.  At £10 a kg they are still cheaper than chops (about £15 a kg) but it isn’t like lambs’ liver at £2.22 a kg!

I believe in paying for good quality meat with the highest ethical welfare standards and that comes with a higher price tag I’m prepared to pay (and then eat lentils for the rest of the week).  But formerly thrifty cuts of meat have become very fashionable here in recent years and that seems to be driving some of these prices increases (not an increase in welfare – although lamb is much better than pork in that regard) which is a shame.

Finally these cuts of meat that require long, slow cooking aren’t as thrifty anymore because of rising energy prices.  A while ago a read a great article on A Girl Called Jack’s blog (I think) which pointed out that energy prices are now so high that many people can’t afford to have the oven on for 3 hours to cook a tougher cut. A very good point!

I do think there are two short cuts to the last problem.  Firstly slow cookers if you have one – they use a fraction of the energy.  Secondly a haybox – which continues slowly cooking the meal on residual energy.  I’ll be using a slow cooker for my meal here and I’d like to look into hayboxes as well. But I do accept that both these solutions might require resources/skills which many people wouldn’t find easy to come by – so cheaper cuts, still not as thifty for most people as they used to be.

Back to the cooking and away from the ranting.

This was the most useful starting point: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1341/ham-hock-and-lentils.

Partly because I already have a half box of Puy Lentils to use up.

After reading a number of recipes I decided to slow cook the hock in the slow cooker for 3 hours until it was falling off the bone and making lots of lovely stock, then use that stock to cook lentils and shred the ham on top.  I don’t cook a lot of whole meals in the slow cooker because it seems to make everything taste a sort of pallid pale brown.  But I do use it to help me cook bits of meals – dried beans, stock and pulled pork are where the slow cooker really comes into it’s own. This is one of those occasions when it will be vital, I need to cook the meat for a long time but I don’t want to constantly checking on it.

Slow cookers use considerably less energy than the oven or gas hob would for the same purpose. So this will save me money as well.

The lentils are cooked with onion, carrots and the dreaded celery* in the stock from the Ham and then served shredded on top.

*Dreaded because whilst I don’t like it, I don’t love it and sometimes it feels like there are painfully few ways of using it up.  Probably fodder for a future blog post.


8 thoughts on “Ham Hock for Dinner

  1. Sue

    I too lament the fact that so called cheaper cuts of meat are no longer cheap – in fact they are downright expensive. Lamb shanks here in Australia are ludicrous in their cost and certainly dont fit into my budget of an evening meal for under $10!
    Tonight we are having corned silverside cooked in the slowcooker with some carrots, onion and herbs. It will be served with plenty of creamy mashed potatoes and kale from the garden.
    We too are traversing the path to a more self-sufficent lifestyle. With small acreage that is less than ideal it is hard and often frustrating work at times but the benefits keep us moving forward.

    1. Becky A Post author

      Dear Sue

      Thank you for commenting!

      I know what you mean – when food gets fashionable it suddenly becomes less affordable. If I was paying more because it was really extra high in welfare that would be fine and a decision I could choose to make. But the welfare isn’t any different – just fashion 😦

      What is corned silverside? I’m not familiar with that?

      I’m not sure how much acreage you have but I’m constantly amazed at how productive even the smallest of spaces can be. Have you read the Urban Homestead blog here: http://urbanhomestead.org/ . They are amazingly productive on only 1/10th of an acre, producing enough food to sell to local businesses as well as almost feeding themselves entirely in the main growing season. I think the fact they are all vegetarian helps but they do keep animals for eggs on their plot.

      1. Sue

        Corned silverside is the same as corned beef – just the aussie name for it.
        I agree about the welfare side of things completely which is why we are looking into keeping some animals for meat but for now we just have some hens for eggs.
        I am a huge fan of The Urban Homestead! Its amazing what the have done and continue to do. Our problem is we are on a slope with a house that takes up most of the width of the property and then shades the remainder. there are pockets of sunny areas but much of the land is dotted with trees ( we live in a conservation area – despite almost falling victim to the bushfires last October we arent allowed to remove them ) so we need to work around it.
        There are ways around it, its just not the simple path 🙂

    1. Becky A Post author

      Hiya dayspringacres

      I think this was very similar – save I used puy lentils instead of split peas and I cooked the ham hock in the slow cooker for 5 hours to save energy and then transferred it and the stock it cooked in to the lentil pan (I may have added a splash of white wine – an excellent decision I believe!)

      It was delicious and I’m looking forward to making it again. Have to wait until our next lot of pigs are ready though – as this was the last of our hocks (we gave the other away to the Ladies we get the weaners from!)

  2. Becky A Post author

    Dear Sue

    I hope you see this but I don’t seem to be able to reply to your reply!

    I know what corned beef is – that makes more sense now 😉

    Sounds like you have a lovely but challenging property (you can always terrace on a slope but it is such hard word and the shade must make it difficult) – I’m so pleased you escaped the bush fires, they sound horrible.

    Do you blog about your smallholding anywhere – I’ve love to read about your progress!

    1. Sue

      I’ve tried a couple of times to be more diligent with a blog but as I write for a living it sometimes feels like I have run out of words if that makes sense!
      I am determined to rectify that over the coming weeks and start recording our journey to frugal and self-reliant living.
      Yes it is a lovely property and I know it must sound like I am being ungrateful complaining that it isnt perfect…
      There is always a risk of bushfires during summer where we live and while you dont become complacent you are prepared I guess. I have lived here through a number of close calls but this was the first one where we were forced to evacuate. I was told by the police officer evacuating us that I shouldnt expect to have a home to come back to, such was the seriousness of the situation. But through sheer good fortune and 200 incredibly brave and tenacious men and women the emergency was averted and the only evidence was a film of ash that covered our land.

      1. Becky A Post author

        I can understand not wanting to keep a blog if you write for a living, but I would love to read it if you did! I love ready about the small details of people’s simple lives or attempts at self- sufficiency etc. It is especially nice for me living in the UK to read about people in other climates as although the pests and plants are often different the struggles are similar. I’m so pleased that your house was saved. I’m sure it was a terrifying time for you!

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