Pork Shank (Pork Hock) with Sauerkraut

Serves 2.

Time requirement: here is the challenge. Ideally you want to brine the shanks for 24 hours. Then the shanks marinade in seasonings for 4-6 hours; then they cook for 2-3 hours. All in all, it is a project. Plus, you need to make the sauerkraut. You can make the sauerkraut while the shanks cook in the oven. A recipe for the Lapsang Souchong brine and sauerkraut are below.

What you will need

2 pork shanks, about 1 to 1¼ pound each or use 4 smaller shanks. There is not much meat on pork shank so while it seems like a lot for two persons. It is not.

3 tablespoons walnut oil.

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar.

½ teaspoon kosher salt.

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

½ teaspoon ground cumin.

¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg.

6 dried juniper berries crushed.

1 garlic clove put through a garlic press.

¼ cup lard, melted.

1 medium size onion, about 7-8 ounces, diced.

6 garlic gloves peeled.

3 bay leaves.

1 cup dry hard apple cider.

Preparation:

First make the Lapsang Souchong brine. The recipe follows this one. You also need to make the sauerkraut.

Wash and pat dry the pork shanks. With a sharp knife, cut a crisscross pattern on the two meaty sides of the shanks. Set the shanks in the cold brine and brine 12-24 hours in the refrigerator. About 4-6 hours before you pan to cook the shanks, remove them from the brine pat dry.

Place all these ingredients in a bowl that is large enough to hold the pork shanks to come: 3 tablespoons walnut oil, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, ½ teaspoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg, 6 dried juniper berries crushed, 1 garlic clove put through a garlic press. Use a whisk to thoroughly mix all these ingredients. Then place the pork shanks in the bowl and rub them vigorously with the marinade. Leave the shanks in the marinade, at room temperature, for 4-6 hours.

When you are ready to cook:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Spread the onion and garlic in the bottom of a Dutch oven, one that is large enough to hold the pork shanks to come and one that has a tight-fitting cover. Place the shanks atop the onions/garlic. Drizzle the melted lard over and around the shanks. (Retain the marinade. It will be added to the pan later.)

Place the pan, uncovered, in the oven for 20 minutes. During this time stay close to the oven and make sure that the onions and garlic do not burn, if the onions or garlic are at risk of burning, immediately remove the pan from the oven and proceed to the next step.

After the initial 20 minutes at 450 degrees F, remove the pan from the oven. Add the marinade, bay leaves, and cider to the pan. Reduce the oven to 350 degrees F, cover the pan, and roast for 2 more hours. If you are available, turn the hocks a few times while they cook. But honestly the ingredients and cooking method are very forgiving. You could walk out the door and let this cook unattended during this time.

After two hours, spread the sauerkraut around the shanks in the pan and continue to cook uncovered another 30 minutes. This last bit of cooking uncovered it to assure a nice crispy browning on the shanks. Again, when the pan is uncovered watch it to assure it does not dry out and burn.

Serve on warm plates.

Lapsang Souchong Brine

What you will need:

2 quarts water.

3 Tablespoon salt.

2 tablespoons Lapsang Souchong tea.

1-quart container filled with ice and then water.

Preparation:

Place 2 quarts water in a 5-6-quart sauce pan and add the salt. Bring to a boil and stir well for about a minute. Then add the Lapsang Souchong tea. Allow the brine to steep for 4 minutes. Then add the ice water, stir, and place in the refrigerator. When the brine is cold, add the pork hock.

Sauerkraut

Serves: makes enough for 4-6 servings.

Time requirement. About 12 minutes of your time, plus an hour to soak the sauerkraut before preparation and an hour to cook the sauerkraut.

What you will need:

1 pound of fresh sauerkraut.

2 tablespoons lard.

1 small onion chopped (4-5 ounces).

2 bay leaves.

¼ teaspoon McCormick Pumpkin Pie spice mix or a ¼ teaspoon French quatre-épices (see note below).

2 crushed juniper berries.

½ teaspoon dried thyme.

½ teaspoon kosher salt.

1 cup white wine.

1 cup water.

Preparation:

Soak the sauerkraut in 3-4 quarts of water for one hour. Then drain it and set in aside in a strainer to continue to drain while you sauté the chopped onions in the lard. After the onions have cooked 5-6 minutes (they should be soft and translucent), gently scatter half the sauerkraut to the pan. Stir the sauerkraut into to the onions and lard. Then scatter the remaining sauerkraut in the pan along with all the remaining ingredients. Simmer covered for 1 hour. Check the pan while the sauerkraut cooks. If it gets dry add a little water. If necessary, near the end of the cooking time, remove the cover to allow any excess moisture to evaporate. The sauerkraut should be moist but not swimming in liquid when it is done.

Quatre-épices: The name literally means "four spices"; the spice mix contains ground pepper (white, black, or both), cloves, nutmeg and ginger. Some variations of the mix use allspice instead of pepper or cinnamon in place of ginger. In a pinch, McCormick pumpkin pie spice mixture will do. It includes cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, allspice.)

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