German Pork Knuckle (Schweinshaxe) - Slow Roasted with Crispy crackling!
Recipe video above. Realistically, one knuckle will serve 2. But for wow factor, serve one per person!!!While producing tender Pork Knuckle flesh is straightforward enough, very few recipes truly nail the crispy crackling. So here is a recipe that finally does! The skin is crispy all over and fabulously bubbly, shattering into a thousand porky shards when you bite instead of breaking your teeth on hard, leathery patches!Meanwhile, the flesh is seasoned with traditional flavourings and the Pork Knuckle is served with an authentic, dark and malty German beer gravy. It's every carnivore's dream come true!
Cuisine: Bavarian, German
Keyword: german pork knuckle, pig knuckle, pork hock, pork knuckle
1 x 1.25kg / 2.5lbpork knuckle(Note 1)
2tbspwhite vinegar(Note 2)
3garlic cloves, cut into 4 - 6 slivers (Note 3)
2tspsalt, kosher / cooking salt NOT table salt (Note 4)
1tspjuniper berries(Note 5)
2cupsdark German beer(Note 6)
2cupschicken stock / broth, low sodium
1carrot, unpeeled, sliced 2cm / 0.8" thick
1onion, unpeeled, halved, cut into 1.25cm / 1/2" thick slices
1head garlic, cut in two halves horizontally
5juniper berries(Note 5)
2bay leaves, preferably fresh otherwise dried
Gravy thickening and seasoning:
1/4 - 1/2tspsalt, kosher / cooking salt NOT table salt (Note 4)
Prick skin: Poke lots of small holes all over the pork knuckle’s skin, using a small sharp knife or even a pin (eg. safety pin, sewing pin). Take care not to pierce through the fat into the flesh (Note 7).
Vinegar: Brush (or rub) 1 tbsp of the vinegar on the pork flesh only, including inside cracks / crevices and meat under the skin where it meets the flesh (but do not peel skin back). Avoid getting vinegar on the skin.
Stud with garlic: Make shallow incisions in the pork flesh (only) with a small knife then stuff with the garlic slivers.
Seasoning rub: Pound the rub ingredients in a mortar and pestle until it's a coarse powder (or use a Nutribullet, spice grinder or similar).
Rub seasoning on pork: Rub pork skin with olive oil. Then rub the seasoning mix all over the pork – on the flesh, skin, and getting into all the cracks and crevices.
Skewer skin (secret for crispy skin! Note 8): Pull the skin down to stretch it tight so there's no creases. Then thread through 2 metal skewers in a "X" formation near the base of the knuckle. Pierce through skin 2cm / 0.8" from the base of the pork knuckle to hold the stretched skin in place.
"Marinate" overnight: Place pork standing on a plate, then leave uncovered in the fridge overnight (Note 9).
Preheat oven to 180°C / 350°F (160°C fan).
Beer gravy: Put all beer gravy ingredients in a roasting pan (deep enough to hold all liquids and vegetables).
Rack on pan: Place a rack over the pan. Place pork knuckle on rack, sitting upright. (Note 10)
Slow roast: Roast for 2 hours 10 minutes, rotating tray half way. (If the liquid in the pan is getting too low and in danger of drying out, top with 1/2 cup of water at a time.) Roast until the internal temperature in the thickest part of meat reaches 85°C / 185°F.
Make crispy Pork Knuckle crackling!
Remove knuckle from oven, transfer knuckle to a tray.
Brush skin with vinegar: Brush skin with 1/2 the remaining 1 tbsp of vinegar. Place in oven for 30 minutes, rotating tray halfway and brushing with remaining vinegar.
Skin should be crispy, dip golden and mostly bubbly.
Rest: Rest 15 minutes before serving with German Beer Gravy!
German beer gravy:
Strain liquid: Strain roasting pan juices into a saucepan. Ideally you should have around 1.5 - 2 cups.
Thicken: Bring liquid to a simmer. Mix cornflour and water, then pour into liquid while stirring. Add sugar and salt to taste.
Simmer: Simmer for 2 minutes or until it becomes a thin syrup consistency (German beer gravy should not be as thick as normal gravy, but quite runny). If it's too thick, add a touch of water. Too thin, simmer to reduce - it will thicken. Serve with pork knuckle!
1. Pork knuckle – Also known as Pig Knuckle, Pork Hock or Pork Shank. For German Pork Knuckle, you must use hindquarter (ie. rear legs) Pork Knuckles because they are meatier. Ask for this at butchers as they sometimes have it out back, or order. The easiest place to find it in Sydney is at Asian butchers! Even if not on display, they will probably have it out the back or frozen. Ensure they cut it so it has a flat bottom. This is a good value cut: ~$8/kg ($4/lb).Note that sometimes knuckles / hocks are sold brined (ie. salted) as pickled hocks or ham hocks. Lightly brined knuckles may be suitable for this recipe, however I have not tested this. I recommend you stick to un-brined, raw pork knuckles.2. Vinegar – Used to brush onto the flesh and skin of the pork to reduce strong pork odour that you can sometimes get with secondary pork cuts. It's not a step you see with all pork recipes, but it's a precautionary step that's advisable for this recipe.3. Garlic slivers – Cut them small enough so they will fit (and stay!) inside small incisions cut in the pork flesh. You want around 10 or so.4. Salt – Use kosher or cooking salt, not table salt (grains are too fine so will make this too salty). If you only have table salt, then reduce salt quantities by 1/3.5. Juniper berries – A traditional ingredient in German cuisine, it has a taste exactly like gin (because it's the main flavouring of gin!) Find these are Harris Farm (NSW, QLD), speciality stores, or spice stores. It's a distinct and authentic flavour in the pork knuckle and gravy, so really do try to find it! It's easy to find online.6. Dark German beer – I use Weihenstephaner Tradition Bayrisch Dunkel which is a dark German beer sold at Dan Murphys (Australia). Dark beer gives the gravy richness of flavour and also colour. If you can't find German beer, most dark beer, porter or stout will do (even Guinness!). Just avoid any dark beers that are too bitter, sweet or extremely rich.7. Pricking – Avoid penetrating the flesh while pricking. The meat juices will bubble through, preventing the skin going crisp.8. Skewering skin – This is a technique that solves much of the challenge of achieving sensational crispy crackling on Pork Knuckle. Most recipes you see have pretty underwhelming, patchy crackling on the knuckle, often with lots of rubbery bits. Rarely do you see that great bubbly crackling we so desire. This is because the skin bunches, sags and and creases as it bakes. These parts never crisp properly because the oven heat doesn't get evenly applied to the skin, and so we get poor crackling. The solution? Threading skewers to keep skin stretched out + pricking skin = exceptional crackling on pork knuckle that you rarely see!!No metal skewers? No problem. Use wooden or bamboo skewers instead, soaked in water for 1 hour. Photos in post show knuckles made with wooden skewers (black and burnt but they worked!). Video uses metal.9. Overnight fridge: This is to dry the skin for better crackling, plus "marinating" time with the seasonings.10. Pork standing upright – Ideally the pork can sit on its flat bottom with the leg bones vertical. If the pork is not stable in this position (depends how flat the butcher cut it) use folded pieces of foil stuffed underneath to help stabilise it (you don't want it to fall over in oven!).11. Hot oven is key for great crackling! If you can't go this high, just go as high as your oven can go.12. Serve with – You will want a nice, fresh, tangy salad to cut through all the richness of the meat. This German Cucumber Salad is just the ticket! Or our No-Mayo Coleslaw with Apple is inspired by the sort of cabbage salads seen in Germany. Potatoes also make an excellent side. I'm sharing German-style Potato Salad this week to go with the Pork Knuckle.13. Recipe references - Though the final recipe is a RecipeTin creation, it's one we created with reference and learnings from a handful of online resources. We have also feasted on our fair share of excellent Pork Knuckle here and in Germany!