Traditionally made with cured or smoked pork knuckle and served with fried potatoes and boiled sour cabbage, this unassuming dish was a culinary feature of the 20th century until winter-stored produce lost its appeal. Eisbein is quintessentially European – indigenous produce from the time when berries, fruit, meat and vegetables were prepared for long winters – and typically Germanic.
It no longer appears on the menus of restaurants that once served it as the dish-of-the-day, but it is gradually being reinvented by inventive cooks and innovative chefs. Cooks replace the potatoes with pureé made from peas or potatoes, and try to do something different with the flavourings, especally the primary stock.
Kevin Fehling, a three-star Michelen chef, reinvented eisbein during his time at La Belle Epoque at the Columbia Hotel in Lübeck. Using cured suckling pig knuckles, he presented dinners with a tender piece of the haunch meat accompanied by horseradish, Gillardeau oyster, parsley emulsion, potato geleé and the ubiquitous sour cabbage, decoratively arranged.
We are keeping with tradition.
- 2.5 litres vegetable stock, hot
- 1.8 kg pork knuckles
- 800 g sauerkraut, drained
- 300 g peas
- 300 g sour apples, cored, chopped small
- 200 g onions, sliced thinly
- 150 g celery, chopped small
- 75 ml white wine
- 6 garlic cloves, crushed, chopped small
- 30 g goose fat
- 10 juniper berries, crushed
- 10 g white pepper, ground
- 5 g black pepper, ground
- 5 g caraway seeds, whole
- 5 cloves, whole
- 2 bay leaves
Melt the fat over a low heat in a large pot, fry onions for 15 minutes, add sour cabbage and heat through.
Add apples, celery, garlic, juniper berries and spices.
Make a well in the vegetable mixture, push knuckles down toward the base, add sufficient stock to submerge them. Cover pot, simmer over low heat for three hours.
With 30 minutes before the end of cooking, add the wine.
Cook the peas with two tablespoons of the broth, strain, blend into a pureé, return to a low heat.
Take out knuckles, remove meat, cut into pieces.
Place meat on plates surrounded by the vegetable mixture.
Serve with fried potatoes or with potato dumplings and a pea pureé.
Garnish with parsley.