Meltingly tender slow-cooked pork hocks with sauerkraut, a German classic recipe perfect for cooking in the slow cooker.
Last week I gave you the recipe for traditional Bavarian Crispy Pork Knuckles or Schweinshaxe. Their main characteristic is that wonderful crispy skin. Today, I present you with another traditional German way of cooking knuckles: slow-cooked pork hocks with sauerkraut or Eisbein mit Sauerkraut.
While the first dish mentioned is typical for the South of Germany, these pork hocks with sauerkraut are typical for the Northern part of the country. The dish is incredibly hearty, comforting, and satisfying. Not exactly healthy food, but soooo good! A real treat to be enjoyed maybe once or twice a year.
And if you would like to try more traditional German recipes, you could start with this delicious German Beef Soup or the Savoy Cabbage Rolls. And have some Black Forest Cake or Zwetschgenkuchen for dessert. Or learn How to Cook Sauerkraut or Bavarian Sauerkraut to serve as a side dish for many other main courses.
Why are pork hocks perfect for the slow cooker?
Pork hocks or knuckles always need a long cooking time, whether you make them on the stove or in the oven. So why not dump them in the slow cooker, add a few more ingredients and let the machine do its magic.
Some hours later, you will be rewarded with the most tender meat you can imagine; it will fall off the bone, and it will be infused with the sauerkraut flavor. The sauerkraut will also lose some of its pungency due to being cooked for so long together with such a flavorful piece of meat. The pungency will still be enough to cut through the extreme richness of the pork, making this dish a real pleasure.
What do you need?
Pork hocks or knuckles:
- They are the same thing, the end part of the shank above the foot and ankle of the pig. The connective tissues melt during the cooking process, making the meat sticky and tender and adding flavor.
- You will need 2 large pork hocks, a total weight of about 1.5 – 2 kg/ 3.3 – 4.4 oz. This amount should be enough to feed four people.
- Look for meatier pieces from the rear legs of the pigs. Otherwise, you will have more bones and fat than meat. The front knuckles are normally used to make soup.
- The knuckles should be fresh, uncured, and unsmoked. If the label says ham hocks, then they are probably NOT what you need, as ham hocks are brined.
Where to find them?
If you are in Germany, you will find them at the butchers and in most supermarkets. Otherwise, you might want to look in ethnic food shops (German, Italian, Eastern European) or try to get them from Asian butchers. It might help to ask regular butchers and order them in advance.
- Sold in a can, jar, bag, or fresh from a barrel at the butcher's.
- All sorts are delicious, the butcher’s sort might be the finest, but the canned variety is good as well, not to mention that it is more convenient, as it can be bought way in advance and can be stored for ages.
Where to buy it?
Look for German brands, like Mildessa/ Hengstenberg (Amazon affiliate link). Even if they might cost a little more, they are worth it if what you are looking for is genuine taste and texture. You might find these products in larger supermarkets, maybe those with an Ethnic food section, or in German/European/Eastern European food stores.
- Onions, apple, lard (or oil), sugar, beef or chicken stock, bay leaves, black peppercorns, juniper berries, cloves, and caraway seeds.
- Lard is traditionally used for this kind of hearty dish, but you can easily replace it with vegetable oil.
- Use homemade or low-sodium stock. If the stock is too salty, the whole dish might be oversalted; the sauerkraut is quite salty as well.
How to cook pork hocks in the slow cooker?
- Chop the onions and the apple. Keep them separated.
- Heat the lard in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Cook the onions on medium-low heat for about 3 minutes. (1)
- Add the apple and continue cooking for 2 minutes. (2)
- Sprinkle the sugar on top and let caramelize slightly for about 2 minutes.
- Add the sauerkraut, some salt, and all the other spices. Mix well. (3)
- Transfer the kraut to the slow cooker. Pour the stock into the pot as well.
- Rub the pork hocks generously with salt and pepper. Nestle them on top of the sauerkraut.
- Cook on low for 7-9 hours, turning the hocks halfway through.
- Regarding the cooking times, make sure you read the instructions for the slow cooker. Newer machines tend to be faster than the traditional ones, which still have a ceramic pot.
Cooking pork hocks in a pot
- You can still cook these delicious pork hocks even if you don’t have a slow cooker or if you want to cut on the cooking time.
- Prepare the sauerkraut as instructed above but do that in a large Dutch oven or heavy pot with a good-fitting lid. Add all the spices and the stock.
- Nestle the meat on top.
- Cover and cook for 1 ½ to 2 hours until the meat is really tender, turning halfway through. If you notice that there is too little liquid in the pot when turning the meat, you can add a little more stock or water.
How to serve pork hocks?
Serve with the sauerkraut and boiled potatoes. You can also serve them with German bread or potato dumplings (Semmelknödel or Kartoffelknödel). The dish can be served immediately, or it can be reheated.
What to do with leftovers?
The leftovers can be reheated without any problems. Removing the bones and shredding the meat makes reheating even easier.
Mix the shredded meat leftovers (after removing the fat) with cooked spätzle or pasta. If you also have leftover dumplings, cut them into cubes and reheat them with the meat and sauerkraut in a large pan.
You can also freeze the leftovers for 1-2 months. Defrost slowly and reheat properly before serving.
More pork and sauerkraut:
Slow Cooked Pork Hocks
- 2 pork hocks total weight of about 1.5 – 2 kg/ 3.3 – 4.4 oz
- 1 large onion about 150 g/ 5.3 oz
- 1 large apple about 200 g/ 7 oz
- 1 tablespoon lard or vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 can sauerkraut 800 g/ 28 oz (Note 1)
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 5 black peppercorns
- 3 cloves
- 2 cups beef or chicken stock Note 2
- fine sea salt and ground black pepper
- Chop the onions and the apple but keep them separated.
- Cook on stove: Heat the lard or oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan. Cook the onions on medium-low heat for about 3 minutes. Add the apple and continue cooking for 2 minutes.
- Caramelize: Sprinkle the sugar on top and let caramelize slightly for about 2 minutes.
- Combine: Add sauerkraut, salt, bay leaves, caraways seeds, peppercorns, and cloves. Mix well. Transfer everything to the slow cooker. Add stock and mix.
- Rub the pork hocks with salt and pepper. Nestle them on top of the sauerkraut.
- Cook on low for 7-9 hours, turning the hocks halfway through. (Note 3 and 4).
- Serve with boiled potatoes, German bread, or potato dumplings.
- Either fresh (homemade or from the butchers), from a can, jar, or bag. Search for a German product for genuine taste and texture. I recommend Mildessa/Hengstenberg. (Amazon affiliate link, but I am not getting paid for recommending the products).
- Use homemade or low-sodium stock, otherwise, the dish might turn too salty.
Read the instructions for the slow cooker. Newer machines tend to be faster than the traditional ones which still have a ceramic pot.
- If you want to cook the dish without the slow cooker, check the blog post for instructions.