Well, this is a first. We've been blogging for five years and we've never covered a meat as our subject matter. We did smoked fish once. We tried to do sausage a few times but you know what they say about sausage making -- The less you know, the better!
Anyway, Black Forest Ham turns out to be just the opposite. Schwarzwalder-schinken-verband.com is the trade group website and it's an informative "breath of fresh air", which is ironic considering we're talking about smoked meats here. The site really tells you all you need to know and more. And with pictures! What we'll do here is jot down some high points.
1. Black Forest Ham has a 200 year history.
2. It must be made in the Black Forest region of Germany.
3. It is a raw smoked boneless ham.
4. Pine needles and sawdust provide the smoke flavor.
5. Spices include salt, pepper, coriander, garlic, juniper berries, and perhaps others.
6. The process includes a prolonged immersion in brine followed by dry curing at 5 degrees centigrade. The smoking and aging steps round out the total three month process.
All butchers who work on Black Forest Hams must be licensed and the pigs' breed and age are mandated. The finished product must show the manufacturers trade association seal on the label for legitimacy. The entire process and guarantee of quality have been protected by the European Union since 1997. There is even a Black Forest Ham museum open to the public to lend historical credence to the product.
So why is this relevant for us? Because Subway markets a Black Forest Ham sandwich and the grocery stores stock Boars Head and Hillshire Farm Black Forest Hams in their deli cases and none of it is the real thing. Real Black Forest Hams have a low salt content and little fat while at the same time being rich in minerals and the B vitamin group. American hams used for this purpose are unregulated and use artificial smoke and color which is why Europe wants its place names off of American product labels.
The Black Forest Ham we have in the store would pair well with German or Alsatian Riesling or Gewurztraminer, Dry Rose, or a nice red Cotes du Rhone. And good beer too, of course!