The Best of the Pork Hocks

The four best ways to use pork hocks are... (well, first, if "best" is considered "most delicious" and "easy to prepare")

  1. in a slow cooker with beans
  2. from there, add molasses, tomatoes and a few spices to make the absolute best "pork and beans"
  3. roasted, then simmered into broth
  4. roasted, then simmered into a stew with whatever vegetables are currently in season

This is not a multiple choice question - I would highly recommend all four of the above!

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Pork hocks are special cuts that have a good amount of meat, generous amounts of gelatin, great amounts of fat, and loads of flavour. They're not as well-known as they should be, simply because most people haven't had the privilege of eating them before!

The hocks are one cut that lend themselves well to smoking. It's not as if they needed any help in the flavour department, but smoking takes them to the next level.

How to Cook Them... Two Options

IN THE OVEN: Roast the hocks at 300F or 325F for about 45 - 60 minutes. (Add 1/2 inch of water to the pan first.) They're done when they're browned, starting to turn crispy on the edges, and very fragrant.

At this point, one of the best things you can do with them is put them in a soup pot (with all the juices from the roasting pan), add 1/2 - 1tsp salt, cover them with water by an inch, and simmer them to make a delectable broth. If this broth is allowed to chill, it will become very thick - a sure sign of the gelatin and other nourishing ingredients that have transferred into the broth.

If you'd like to serve this meal right away, add chunks of your favourite soup veggies and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, or until everything is done. For example: potatoes, carrots, chard, onion. Or, sweet potato, kale, garlic. Or, butternut squash, leeks, spinach {with the spinach added at the last minute).

Remove the hocks from the pot, dice the meat, and add it back to the pot before serving the meal.

(I dare you to add some of the fat to back to the pot too! When we understand how nourishing this type of fat really is, and the nutrients it contains that are critical to our health [when the animals are raised on pasture / in sunshine / with clean feed], we'll be scrambling to use every possible scrap of it.)

IN THE SLOW COOKER or PRESSURE COOKER

If you wish, the hocks can be roasted first, as above. Roasting deepens the flavour, but is not necessary.

The hocks pair very well with beans (particularly with white beans - or, maybe that's just our tradition). So, have some dry beans soaking while the hocks are roasting. Use about 1 cup dry beans per package of hocks.

Drain the beans and add them to the slow cooker, along with the hocks and pan juices. Add fresh water to cover everything by at least an inch, and let it all simmer for a few hours. (The exact timing depends on your machine.) Season to taste after it's finished cooking.

This combo of pork and beans is delectable. I bet you didn't know that beans could taste so good!

Serve with crusty bread and some vegetables or a salad for a memorable meal.

Alternately, the hocks and beans can be cooked in a pressure cooker. I do not have experience with a stove-top pressure cooker, but can highly recommend the electric pressure cooker. Instant Pot is the brand I have... there are others too. They are so easy to use, and very safe.

The advantage of the pressure cooker is that there is far less time involved. After the ingredients are brought up to pressure, it generally takes only 20 - 30 minutes of cooking time - and then you end up with tender, succulent meat and creamy beans. Season them to taste after they're cooked, and serve as above.

For "baked beans"... take the cooked beans and shredded pork, and add a few simple ingredients like molasses, tomatoes and spices. Bake in the oven for an hour or two, and you'll have a rich and satisfying meal. I realize this is not a proper recipe for baked beans - I'll try to post the details soon! This is just to give you another idea of what to do with your cooked pork hocks.

I'm sure there are other delicious ways to cook hocks too. What's your favourite dish made with them?