When I first time visited a German supermarket, I had difficulty to select German hams because there are too many types, cooked, smoked, and cured ones. German hams are made not only from pork but also from chicken, beef, or turkey. Some are suitable for starters, while others are suitable for cooking. It is common that Germans use them for many different recipes and eat almost daily.
Over the years, I have tried many German hams. Sometimes I eat them with bread, but quite often I eat them as a snack. However, most of the time I enjoy German hams with wine. In general, there are seven best German hams. And, they are all made from pork meat:
- Holsteiner Katenschinken
- Westfälischer Schinken
- Schwarzwälder Schinken
- Norderneyer Seeluftschinken
- Ammerländer Schinken
Holsteiner Katenschinken is made from the pigs raised in Schleswig Holstein. The first step is to rub the meat with hands using French sea salt and other herbs. Once a week, the old salt is brushed off. Then, the meat is a hand rubbed in the salt again. The meat stays in salt for seven weeks. During the time, the salt goes deep into the ham and absorbs moisture.
After this period, the meat will go through the smoking process. “Kate” is a type of small village house in northern Germany. In these houses, the smoking process will perform. The smoking process of Holsteiner Katenschinken is carried out in such special smokehouses, in which the smoking material was. In general, the smoking process lasts for 24 hours.
The ham is also called Westfälischer Knochenschinken (Westfalen bone Ham). During the production of Westphalian Schinken, the long bones remain in the meat to create a unique aroma of the ham. First, the staff has to salt the meat with hands and turn over the meat frequently. Such a process repeats again and again over several weeks. Then, the meat-drying process takes place in ripening rooms for at least six months. At the end of the ripening period, the meats are cold smoked over beechwood.
This production method creates a dark red color ham and a yellow rind around it. Afterward, the staff will remove the bones before the Schinken is ready for sale. The production sites must be in Westphalia to maintain PGI (protected geographical indication) status under EU law. However, meat can also come from other regions.
Schwarzwälder Schinken is probably one of the most famous German hams known by other nations. The pork is first seasoned finely using traditional recipes and salted by hand. Then, it remains in salt for a couple of weeks. Afterward, it is smoked with a mixture of green pine twigs, sawdust, and wood chips made of Black Forest fir trees.
The smoking period lasts three weeks so that the ham gains the typical smoky colour. After a 12-week maturation period, it is finally ready for consumption.
Norderneyer Seeluftschinken is a type of cured-ham. As an island in the North Sea, Norderneyer provides favorable conditions for the maturation of the ham. Producers use the best pork from contract farmers. The meat is hand-salted and spiced piece by piece. This process only uses sea salt and selected spices. In the last period, the meat is dried naturally in the sea breeze.
Ammerländer Schinken is from the Ammerland in Lower Saxony. It has PGI (protected geographical indication) status under EU law. The meat is first salted by hand with sea salt, brown sugar, and other spices such as cinnamon powder and pepper for three weeks. Then, it is cold-smoked over beechwood for several weeks.
The high humidity in the region prevents the meat from drying out. After the above process, the subsequent maturation period ranges from about three months to more than two years for the best qualities. This German ham has a typical smell of smoke. And its taste is mild and slightly spicy.
The word “Nuss” refers to the flesh part from the pig’s back leg. Nussschinken uses natural spices and high concentrated saltwater. After the maturation in salt, the meat will first go through a drying process. Then, the meat will get cold smoked over beech fire for many hours. Nussschinken has its particular mild taste with walnut flavor, which sets it apart from other types of German hams. You usually cut it into thin slices and eat with bread.
The German word ‘Lachs’ usually means Salmon fish. But as part of the ham name, it has nothing to do with fish. The pork loin in German is also called ‘Lachs’. In German, ‘Schinken’ also means the pig’s back leg.
The production only uses fat-free pieces of pork loin. First, the pork is soaked in brine for about four to six days. Then, it is washed and dried in the air. The last step is the cold smoking process. Lachsschinken has a pink color and a mild-tasting. It is also quite juicy compared to other German hams. Usually, German cut it into such a thin slice that you can almost see through it.